CDC Expert Dr. Ali Khan speaks about health security

Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, visited Mercyhurst University and gave a speech on the public health challenges facing the US.

The speech was entitled “Health Security: Our Nation’s Defense in the Battle Between Man and Nature.”

A large crowd filled the Taylor Little Theatre to hear his speech.

“Dr. Khan is obviously well known in his field,” Matt Vendeville, junior in Intelligence Studies and Public Health, said. “[He’s been with] Center for Disease Control, he’s an expert in infectious diseases, so him coming to this school with a growing Public Health program and an Intel program really sparks people’s interest.”

“I hope that one of the things people get from [Dr. Khan’s visit] is an understanding of what health security is and the importance of public health to our security,” David Dausey, Ph.D., chair of the Public Health Department, said.

He mentioned the threats of bioterrorism and infectious diseases spreading in societies and how these issues affect the nation’s health security.

He hoped that Khan’s visit would leave people with a “greater awareness of that.”

One of the big draws to this lecture is that it deals with the crossover with public health and intelligence.

“Specifically with the preparedness and response aspect of it,” said Emily Francis, a junior majoring in Intelligence Studies and Public Health.

“Because it ties together national security and public health…He also looks at bioterrorism…from the biological spread of disease and the implications for society that [it] has.”

To cement the effects of this speech, Dausey plans to offer a course in Health Security in the fall of 2014, which is “already full,” but will be offered in the spring as well.

He also spoke of developing a certificate in Health Security and a possible graduate program in Public Health.

There are also opportunities for students which arise from the fusion of Intelligence Studies and Public Health, particularly with jobs.

“If you’re just Intel, and you’re looking for a job with a federal agency, it’s hard post-Snowden,” Vendeville said, also referring to the need to cut costs within the federal government.

“[Public Health] opens up a whole other arena to look for jobs. World Health Organization is doubling their hiring by 2015, which is opening up a ton of jobs.”

Speaking of other advantages of the Intelligence-Public Health fusion, Francis said “It’s the same advantage that any double major has, which is being able to look at the problem from both perspectives,” speaking about understanding the implications for society from Public Health and the analytic outlook of Intelligence Studies.

“There’s a growing recognition that my healthcare is your healthcare; my health is your health…[Our globalized world] means that a disease can go from rural China to New York City in half of a day,” Dausey said.

Listing issues ranging from problems with the global food supply to bioterrorism to antibacterial resistant diseases, Dausey said that these “threats are mounting, and it affects not just public health, but all areas of the economy.We really need the next generation of students to take up these challenges and put us in a better place than we are today.”