A new Emory University Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) is expected to further improve the University's ability to deliver a coordinated and effective response to catastrophic events. Alexander P. Isakov, MD, MPH, associate professor of emergency medicine in Emory University School of Medicine, was named CEPAR director on April 12, with an official start date of May 1.
The new office, which will report to Emory President James Wagner and other senior leadership, will integrate all relevant components of the University in an interdisciplinary approach to the challenges of a catastrophe. The office also will partner with the broader community, including local, regional, and federal resources to improve outcomes during and after an event. The new center has a broad scope, addressing all hazards, including natural disasters, human-caused catastrophic events and public health emergencies.
The formation of this new office was a major recommendation last year of Emory's Avian Influenza Task Force, which beginning a year and a half ago examined the capacity of Emory University and Emory Healthcare to respond to pandemic flu or other threats that would severely tax student services and Emory Hospitals' patient capacity at the same time. However, the scope of the new office will go well beyond pandemic flu to include a wide spectrum of possible crises.
Dr. Isakov, in a half-time position, will oversee three full-time staff members and two part-time support staff. University funding for the center will begin with the new budget year, starting September 1, 2007. The center will be located in the building recently purchased by Emory from the American Cancer Society on Clifton Rd.
CEPAR also will coordinate and improve Emory's existing activities related to emergency planning, working with Emory's experts to craft novel, multi-disciplinary solutions to help mitigate the harmful effects of an event. The new office will allow the University to communicate with one voice to the community and to local, state and federal agencies. As the state's largest health care system, Emory Healthcare has had detailed crisis response plans in place for many years and regularly practices them. So-called "table-tops" and realistic simulation exercises pull in representatives from many offices both within and outside of Emory, requiring decision-makers to respond to fictional but all-too-plausible mass-casualty scenarios.
"Although this announcement is the result of over 18 months of planning, it is increasingly apparent following the tragedy at Virginia Tech that we must be vigilant and remain prepared for a widespread catastrophic event," says President Wagner. "In a large and complex institution such as ours, preparedness and response efforts require a unified strategy that bridges the activities of all components of the University. Emory has always had a number of departments and individuals working to address preparedness and response issues. CEPAR will now serve as the center for coordination and integration of the University's many resources."
"The creation of the Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response reflects the University's commitment to the safety and welfare of individuals at Emory and in the broader community," says Dr. Isakov. "The resulting multi-disciplinary collaboration and capacity to engage our local, state and federal partners with one voice affords a new opportunity for Emory to have regional and global impact in this discipline."
Along with the formation of the new Office, the University will make an accelerated investment in a variety of new communications technologies that will provide Emory with new ways of reaching out to students, faculty and staff in a campus crisis, said Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl. The new tools will include a network of loudspeakers for public announcements, as well as an automated system fo r rapidly pushing out voice, email and text messages to registered cell phones and PDAs.
"These recommendations and more were brought forward last semester by an emergency response task force headed by Chief of Police Craig Watson," said Mandl. "We believe we have done our due diligence about the robustness and cost-effectiveness of these systems, which are being installed by a growing number of colleges and universities around the country."
In addition to bridging the preparedness activities of all the University's divisions and enhancing capabilities and opportunities for collaboration, CEPAR will serve as Emory's integrated command and control center, orchestrating a unified and effective response to catastrophic events. It also will enhance Emory's collaborations with its community partners, including Grady Health System, the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the Carter Center, and Clifton Community Partnership.
Dr. Isakov brings broad and extensive experience in emergency medicine and pre-hospital and disaster medicine to his role as CEPAR director. He is a practicing emergency medicine physician at Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta's only Level 1 trauma center. He is co-founder and co-director of the Emory Department of Emergency Medicine's Section of Pre-hospital and Disaster Medicine, which provides medical oversight and medical command for the 911 emergency ambulance responders in the City of Atlanta and Fulton County.
Dr. Isakov is the founding medical director of Emory Flight, Emory Healthcare's emergency and critical care air ambulance service and associate medical director for Grady EMS, the largest 911 ambulance responder in the State of Georgia. In that role he developed the Bio-Safety Transport Program, which supports Emory University's clinical unit for serious communicable disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
He is co-founder and co-director of Emory University's post-graduate Fellowship in Emergency Medical Services, which provides training in emergency response systems and disaster preparedness for emergency medicine specialists. The program is nationally recognized by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Isakov has served as an officer in the United States Navy, as a consultant for the CDC on the World Trade Center and Anthrax Investigation Emergency Response Team, as a physician deployed with the National Disaster Medical System, and as an Atlanta community leader in emergency and disaster response. He has provided international emergency medical services consultation in Central Asia, Africa and the Pacific in conjunction with USAID, CDC and WHO. He still serves as a Commander in the United States Navy Reserve.
A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Isakov completed his specialty training in emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and a two-year pre-hospital and disaster/emergency medical services fellowship at Boston EMS. He received his Master of Public Health degree in international health from Boston University. He is board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.