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Alicia Sands Lurry, 404/616-6389,
February 21 , 2002

New Toxicology Fellowships Focus on Poison Care and Environmental Disasters

A newly certified two-year program involving a collaboration between Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory University School of Medicine, the Georgia Poison Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will focus on teaching physicians how to prevent and prepare for environmental disasters, providing medical support for the Poison Center, and caring for poisoned patients at Grady, Emory and Crawford Long hospitals.

The Emory University School of Medicine's Medical Toxicology Fellowship program is one of 19 certified fellowships in the United States to provide this training, and is unique in emphasizing an epidemiological and public health approach to medical toxicology. The program will target research and CDC-related activities yielding investigations throughout the United States and the world where toxic outbreaks occur. Scott Whitlow, M.D., and Michael Schwartz, M.D., will begin the fellowship in July 2002.

"This program will expand the field of medical toxicology, and will help better serve the needs of the environment and the needs of people who are poisoned or exposed to harmful substances," said Brent W. Morgan, M.D., director of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship program, and assistant professor of emergency medicine for the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Hospital. "This includes anything from household poisons and drugs of abuse to environmental poisons and pharmaceutical, chemical and biological warfare agents."

The fellowship was created primarily because of Emory's medical expertiseand the other surrounding medical resources in Atlanta. There also was a growing area of concern related to the plethora of pharmaceuticals now available, as well as the potentials for environmental disasters and chemical terrorism attacks.

"We think teaching other physicians to be prepared for these events will be helpful," Dr. Morgan said.

Starting the fellowship in Atlanta seemed only natural, Dr. Morgan notes. Given the resources at Grady that include the Georgia Poison Center, hospital patient population, and the expertise of the CDC, "pulling all of those resources together will make it one of the top programs in the country," Dr. Morgan said.

The American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) certified the Medical Toxicology fellowship program in January 2002.

"The unique feature about this program among all other medical toxicology fellowships is its emphasis not just on individual patients, but its emphasis on an epidemiological view and a view of the environmental contributions to toxicology," said Robert Geller, M.D., director of the Georgia Poison Center and associate professor of pediatrics for the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Hospital. " It uniquely takes advantage of the CDC approach as well as the Poison Center approach and the clinical approach that we employ at Emory already."

The fellowship is also unique in that it will be treated as a public health discipline, and will train physicians with a combination of skills appropriate for a medical toxicology program.

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