Gerald Parker

Gerald Parker, D.V.M., Ph.D., vice president for public health preparedness and response at Texas A&M Health Science Center

Gerald Parker, D.V.M., Ph.D., vice president for public health preparedness and response at Texas A&M Health Science Center, was recently appointed to serve as an ex officio member of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense. Formed in 2014, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense will evaluate the nation’s preparedness against bioterrorism and potentially catastrophic emerging infectious disease outbreaks, marking the first major assessment of America’s biodefense capabilities in the last decade.

The panel is co-chaired by former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and former Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. Panelists include former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, former Representative from Pennsylvania Jim Greenwood, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala, and former U.S. Homeland Security Advisor, the Honorable Kenneth Wainstein.

Through a series of meetings and workshops across the country, with plans for a regional workshop in Bryan/College Station, the panel will thoroughly evaluate the biodefense policies and programs in place to prevent, deter and detect potential biological threats – and to prepare for, respond to, recover from and mitigate these threats. The panel will identify and recommend changes to U.S. policy and law aimed at strengthening national resilience while optimizing resource investments. Official findings are set to publish in Spring 2015.

The study is preceded by reports produced by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9/11 Commission) and assessments made by the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism (also known as the WMD Commission). The Blue Ribbon Panel is co-sponsored by the Hudson Institute and the Inter-University Center for Terrorism Studies.

Parker is a 35-year veteran of federal public service, including nine years as a senior executive with the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and 26 years active duty in the Army Medical Department.  Prior to joining Texas A&M Health Science Center, Parker was the DOD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Chemical and Biological Defense from 2010 to 2013, where he was responsible for developing national strategies and capabilities to protect United States service members from emerging infectious disease and biological and chemical threats.  Prior to that, he was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS from 2005 to 2010.  During his tenure at HHS, Parker helped lead and coordinate new federal medical and public health preparedness initiatives, as well as emergency responses to natural disasters ranging from hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma to Gustov and Ike, as well as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the Haiti earthquake.  His military leadership includes command of the Unities States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Assistant Deputy for all Army medical research and development programs and laboratories at the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

In addition to his role as vice president for public health preparedness and response at Texas A&M Health Science Center, Parker also serves as principal investigator for the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, one of three national centers established in June 2012 by HHS to enhance the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

Parker holds a doctorate of veterinary medicine from Texas A&M University, a doctorate in physiology from Baylor College of Medicine and a master’s degree in resourcing the national strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.  He is a recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award and the Secretary of Defense Medal for Civilian Meritorious Service.

— Elizabeth Grimm

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