We live in remarkable and challenging times. In prior months, you have heard me discuss issues associated with quality patient care, the prevention of medical errors, length of stay and budget-related areas in this column. But, clearly, as we move forward in a rapidly evolving environment, many new issues have taken precedent.
Bioterrorism thrives at the core of our fears. As caregivers, researchers, students and teachers, we are not immune from such concerns. In fact, we most likely feel their impact more acutely given our roles in an academic medical center. An anxious public looks to us for answers. How do we treat anthrax? Are small pox vaccinations still able to combat a nefarious reintroduction to this disease? How do we diagnose symptoms associated with exposure to biological or chemical hazards as we enter flu season?
These are the questions that we hear not only from our patients, but also from our friends and colleagues. Many of you have undoubtedly been asked for advice on these matters by concerned family members. As doctors, our access to information may be enhanced, but the burden of our responsibility increases greatly.
There are a number of resources available to each of us as we move forward. The Centers for Disease Control, the American Hospital Association and many academic journals have produced a flood of information on these topics. At BWH, we are fortunate to have our own noted researchers and caregivers in these areas.
In the midst of uncertainty, our best weapon is knowledge. At the hospital we have sponsored a number of educational forums on issues related to biological terrorism. Richard Zane, MD, the head of our disaster team, has authored a number of fact sheets on anthrax that have been widely distributed throughout the Partners system and on the web at the Harvard Medical School-Intelihealth site.
I understand that these are difficult times for each of us as caregivers. We are not and should not be immune from the same emotions that drive our patients, families and friends. Our role, however, is to provide considered guidance on the risks and realities of this new frontier. To the degree we are successful, we will have contributed greatly to our cause.
Chief Medical Officer