Anthrax: What Every Clinician Should Know, Part 2
(November 1, 2001)
(View the webcast on the University of North Carolina School of Public Health site.)
Dr. Virginia Caine:
We are now honored to have the president of the National Medical Association, Dr. Lucille Norville Perez, who will open our program. Dr. Perez.
Dr. Lucille Norville Perez:
Thank you, Dr. Caine. The National Medical Association is the oldest and largest association of African-American physicians. We are pleased to be one of the co-sponsors of this broadcast focused on the diagnosis and treatment of anthrax.
More than ever before, those of us who are charged with the responsibility of assuring parity in healthcare need to be mindful that the same medical intervention deemed appropriate to counter the terrorism dissemination of anthrax we are available and should be available to all those at risk. All physicians and other health professionals must step up to the challenge of becoming knowledgeable about how to be appropriately diagnosed and to treat their patients and how to advise them regarding prophylaxis. The National Medical Association’s Environmental Health Task Force, chaired by Dr. Albert Morris, has become the educational—has become—has given education of physicians its priority. We know that information is power, but these are times when misinformation, selected information, or incomplete information can render us powerless. Each and every healthcare person needs to have some awareness of how to identify those who may be at risk, what early symptoms are, when to refer a patient, and how to reduce the fears and concerns of those who seek their advice. The panel of experts that we have convened for you will provide the most up-to-date information in this emerging public health crisis. I know that you will ask questions. I hope that you will be proactive. I hope that you will hold us accountable—the Office of the Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Medical Association. Utilize us as resources for providing you with the information you need. Every healthcare person should know who his or her local public health officer is and what public resources are available. We also need to know what public health infrastructure exists in our various communities. For example, there should be an emergency preparedness plan available that will help you to identify unusual outbreaks, as well as a communication plan to get appropriate information out quickly.
Whenever there is a crisis, we as a people have stepped up to the challenge and together have persevered. While “at risk” has been defined as being exposed to contaminated mailrooms or post offices, the woman who died October 31 in New York from inhalation anthrax has not been connected to any mail or mail distribution location. Therefore, I urge each and every one of us to utilize flexible lenses of concern, making sure that we disregard no one’s symptoms simply because they are not currently being defined as being at risk. We have the most technologically sophisticated medical system in the world, yet we are now in the position of having to revisit basic physical diagnosis in infectious diseases in a milieu of bioterrorism. We have to be able to think quickly and act immediately. We will have to augment our technology, our practice parameters and computerized triage, and get back to basics, all the while remembering medicine is an art and not an exact science. As King Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun. Our challenge now is to get back to basics. To paraphrase one of the leading teachers of physical medicine at Howard University School of Medicine, the late Dr. Riley Thomas: listen to your patients, be respectful of what they say, examine them, and let that determine what, when, and how you treat.
- Page last updated November 20, 2002
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