National public health official to stress disaster preparedness for research communities at Maury Strauss public lecture in Roanoke

ric_adminFralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC

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Hurricanes, floods, forest fires, cyberattacks — countless disaster scenarios can disrupt business operations and threaten an organization’s financial stability.

Biomedical research communities are not immune to these threats, said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), who will speak at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC in Roanoke, Virginia, on Thursday, March 28.

“Disasters that damage research laboratories and the institutions that house them can have enormous impacts on the safety and well-being of humans and research animals, on career trajectories, and on scientific progress,” Benjamin said in a statement. “Continuing scientific advancement and the promise of future discoveries will require a commitment to resilience — and an unparalleled partnership across the emergency management academic research sectors.”

Benjamin, a member of the National Academy of Medicine, will discuss ways to plan for disasters and mitigate risks during the research institute’s Maury Strauss Distinguished Public Lecture at 5:30 p.m. His free public presentation, “Strengthening the Disaster Resilience of Academic Research Communities,” will take place at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke, Virginia.

The consequences of recent disasters, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, have shown that the investments of the U.S. federal government and other research sponsors — which total about $27 billion annually — are not uniformly secure.

In addition, biomedical research communities contribute billions of dollars to the national economy each year.

In 2017 alone, National Institutes of Health extramural funding generated an estimated $68.8 billion in economic output in the United States. Locally, a recent economic analysis by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service estimated that the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute will generate $450 million annually to Roanoke’s economy by 2027.

Proactive disaster resiliency planning helps secure future growth in jobs, infrastructure, and scientific discovery.

“Dr. Benjamin has been recognized as one of the most influential physician leaders in our nation. Drawing from firsthand experience as a physician, he understands what happens when preventive care is not easily accessible,” said Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “We look forward to welcoming him to Roanoke and hearing him share advice about resiliency planning with our local community, researchers, physicians, and students.”

Voted among the top 100 most influential people in health for a decade, Benjamin was appointed to the National Infrastructure Advisory Council in 2016. In this capacity, he advises the president on how to secure and protect critical infrastructure nationwide.

Prior to becoming the APHA’s executive director in 2002, Benjamin oversaw the expansion of Maryland’s Medicaid program while he served as secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Board-certified in internal medicine, he has written more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters.

Starting out as an emergency medicine attending physician while working as chief of acute illness at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington, Benjamin has worked in medicine for nearly 40 years.

A native of Gaithersburg, Maryland, Benjamin is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the National Academy of Public Administration, a fellow emeritus of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health.

The lecture will also be webcast on the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute website.

By: Whitney Slightham