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UTHealth establishes biosafety and infectious disease training initiative

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

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IMAGE: This image depicts Robert Emery, Dr. P.H., and Janelle Rios, Ph.D. view more

Credit: UTHealth School of Public Health

HOUSTON - (May 18, 2015) - Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health have received a $100,000 supplemental grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to establish a Biosafety and Infectious Disease Training Initiative.

"We learned firsthand from the recent Ebola experience in Texas that concerns about infectious disease exposures extend far beyond the health care community," said Robert Emery, Dr. P.H., professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health and vice president of safety, health, environment and risk management at UTHealth.

"This award will allow us to develop and deliver meaningful training to a wide variety of audiences, including workers who we don't usually consider at risk for exposure to the Ebola virus, such as public service employees, waste handlers, funeral directors and others," Emery added.

UTHealth will partner with the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, one of only three biocontainment units in the country, to establish this new training program. The program will include an intensive hands-on operations-level course, an awareness-level course and a community-level course to be delivered online.

"Personnel will deliver this training using a train-the-trainer model to amplify the impact of the award," said Janelle Rios, Ph.D., deputy director of the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at the School of Public Health. "In the future, we intend to develop refresher training as well."

This grant is a supplement of a larger project called the Hazardous Materials Worker Health and Safety Training, funded by NIEHS Award Number U45ES019360. The original five-year grant was for $4 million and began in 2010.

UTHealth safety team members Scott Patlovich, Dr. P.H.; Brett Haltiwanger, Ph.D.; and Shalaka Kotkar, Ph.D., are part of the project. Nancy Crider, Dr. P.H., from UTHealth School of Nursing and Pamela Philips from the School of Public Health are also involved in the project.. Other personnel include Shawn Gibbs, Ph.D.; John Lowe, Ph.D.; and Katelyn Jelden from the University of Nebraska.

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