Public Release: 

Fellowships will provide specialized training in medical microbiology

Programs will help address emerging infectious diseases, public health threats

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

BOSTON -- Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) recently received approval for two new medical microbiology fellowship programs to train the next generation of leaders in clinical and public-health microbiology.

With only a dozen of each type of training program nationwide, the two new fellowships at BIDMC are the only such programs in Massachusetts, and with one exception, in all of the Northeast.

"A quick glance at the news of recent months confirms that there is an urgent need for leaders in the field of medical microbiology," says BIDMC Chief of Pathology Jeffrey Saffitz, MD, PhD. "Hospital-borne infections, the risk of drug-resistant tuberculosis, and emerging infectious diseases, such as bird flu, are all posing potentially serious risks right now. From a public health standpoint, it is critically important that we have doctors who are specially trained in medical microbiology."

The first of the two fellowships is accredited by the American College of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and will be available starting July 1, 2008. One year in length, the program is designed to train fellows to assume leadership roles in academic, tertiary care or public health laboratories, according to James Kirby, MD, director of the fellowship programs and Medical Director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at BIDMC. The second fellowship is accredited by the American College of Microbiology and is the only such training program in New England.

"Both of these programs will provide doctors with broad, in-depth training, including high-level understanding of bacterial agents, parasites, and viruses," explains Kirby. "We aim to train fellows not only to be expert microbiologists and to direct laboratories, but also to make use of some of today's amazing new technologies, including very powerful molecular methods to enable faster, more accurate diagnoses."

Each of the programs will include hands-on instruction of microbiological testing, as well as direct participation in the consultative and administrative activities of the microbiology laboratory.

"The goal," says Kirby, "is to build an comprehensive training program. Therefore, fellows will also participate in activities of the medical center's infectious diseases, pharmacy, and hospital epidemiology and infection control departments." In order to become expert in childhood infections and emerging public health menaces such as Eastern Equine Encephalitis and West Nile Virus, the fellowship participants will also train in microbiology at Children's Hospital Boston and at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

"We anticipate that many of the participants will combine their clinical training with further training in basic research, and will develop scientific careers that will contribute to our understanding of infectious agents and ways to detect them," says Kirby.

"We're now a global society," adds Saffitz. "As we recently saw with the case of the individual suspected of harboring extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, we need to have medical leadership available throughout the world to help to manage the rapidly changing landscape of medical microbiology."

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a patient care, teaching and research affiliate of Harvard Medical School. It ranks third in National Institutes of Health funding among independent hospitals nationwide. BIDMC is clinically affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center and is a research partner of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. BIDMC is the official hospital of the Boston Red Sox. For more information, visit www.bidmc.harvard.edu.

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