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Unlike natural disasters, whose destruction is concentrated in a limited area over a period of days, and illnesses, which have devastating effects but are limited to individuals and their families, infectious disease has the terrifying power to disrupt everyday life on a global scale, overwhelming public and private resources and bringing trade and transportation to a grinding halt. In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to move people, animals, and materials around the planet, but the same advances that make modern infrastructure so efficient have made epidemics and even pandemics nearly inevitable. And as outbreaks of Ebola, MERS, yellow fever, and Zika have demonstrated, we are woefully underprepared to deal with the fallout. So what can — and must — we do in order to protect ourselves from mankind’s deadliest enemy? Drawing on the latest medical science, case studies, policy research, and hard-earned epidemiological lessons, Dr. Osterholm explores in detail the resources and programs we need to develop if we are to keep ourselves safer from infectious disease. As he has done in his recently published book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, he shows us how we could wake up to a reality in which many antibiotics no longer cure, bioterror is a certainty, and the threat of a disastrous influenza pandemic looms ever larger. He also lays out a realistic “Crisis Agenda” for response that specifically addresses these challenges. Only by understanding the challenges we face can we prevent the unthinkable from becoming the inevitable.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, Regents Professor & Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota

Dr. Osterholm is Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, a professor in the Technological Leadership Institute, College of Science and Engineering, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, all at the University of Minnesota.  In addition, Dr. Osterholm is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the Council of Foreign Relations. In June 2005 Dr. Osterholm was appointed to the newly established National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity. He served in that role until 2014. From 2001 through early 2004, Dr. Osterholm, in addition to his role at CIDRAP, served as a Special Advisor to then–HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson on issues related to bioterrorism and public health preparedness. Dr. Osterholm is the author of “Deadliest Enemies: Our War Against Killer Germs (Little, Brown and Company),” which was published March 14, 2017. Return to Conference Schedule