Global, Political and Scientific Leaders Confront Epidemic Threats

May 11, 2015

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa, and the role China and the U.S. are playing in dealing with emerging global infectious diseases, epidemic threats and bioterrorism, formed the backdrop for the 6th George H.W. Bush China-U.S. Relations Conference, which was held Monday, May 11, through Wednesday, May 13, 2015, at Hotel ZaZa in Houston, Texas.

An elite group of 350 physicians, scientists, policymakers, government officials and business leaders attended the unprecedented gathering, themed “Global Infectious Diseases: Prevention, Preparedness, and Response.” Plenary sessions and scientific and policy roundtables brought together participant “think tanks” aimed at addressing how China and the U.S. can work together to develop a global strategy that deploys tangible new actions – including state-of-the-art technology and educational programs – to avert widespread human suffering and economic and social disruption that could result from epidemics involving the Ebola virus, MERS, influenza and other diseases.

A highlight was Tuesday’s keynote address from Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH, Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on the topic of the global health security agenda and the critical role the U.S. and China are playing in responding to Ebola and preventing future health threats.

Hosts for the conference were the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; co-hosts were Peking University Health Science Center, Texas A&M University and the Texas Medical Center.

“Microbes respect no national boundaries, political affiliations or ethnicities,” said Brett P. Giroir, M.D., CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, who in 2014 directed the Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. “Given today’s global connectivity, an epidemic anywhere will rapidly become a threat everywhere. We hope the Conference leads to tangible new actions that will substantially improve health and biosecurity around the world.”

In addition to Frieden, several of the world’s most acclaimed scientists and policy makers delivered keynote addresses or led plenary panels, including: Cui Tiankai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States of America; Rear Admiral Kenneth Bernard (USPHS, Ret.), Former Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense Policy; Julie Gerberding, M.D., MPH, Executive Vice President for Strategic Communications, Global Public Policy and Population Health, Merck, and the former director of the CDC; Robert P. Kadlec, M.D., former Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Biodefense Policy, Homeland Security Council; Xu Kuangdi, President, China-U.S. People’s Friendship Association; Madame Li Xiaolin, President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries; Liu Qian, Vice Minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission of the People’s Republic of China; Xu Chen, President, Bank of China USA; Rajeev Venkayya, M.D., President, Global Vaccine Business Unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Former Director for Global Health Delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense Policy; and Conference Co-Chair Neil Bush, whose father, U.S. President George H.W. Bush, was instrumental in establishing this recurring international event.

— Debbie Field

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