Dentists are equal partners in war on terrorism: Surgeon General

U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., sees dentists as equal partners in war on terrorism, he told dental leaders March 27 at a conference on “Dentistry’s Role in Responding to Bioterrorism and Other Catastrophic Events.” The conference was co-sponsored by the American Dental Association and the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Carmona, a high school dropout and Army enlistee who later retrieved his education, is the 17th Surgeon General of the USPHS, sworn into office last Aug. 5. He opened the two-day conference with an overview of current threat that invited dentist participation in war on terror.From the American Dental Association:Dentists are equal partners in war on terrorism: Surgeon General

By Craig Palmer

Washington — U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona, M.D., sees dentists as equal partners in war on terrorism, he told dental leaders March 27 at a conference on “Dentistry’s Role in Responding to Bioterrorism and Other Catastrophic Events.”

The conference was co-sponsored by the American Dental Association and the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Carmona, a high school dropout and Army enlistee who later retrieved his education, is the 17th Surgeon General of the USPHS, sworn into office last Aug. 5. He opened the two-day conference with an overview of current threat that invited dentist participation in war on terror.

“I will consider dentistry an equal partner with all the other health professions at the table as we approach these challenges before us,” he said. “I will probably ask for your assistance and guidance. Let us know how you think you can best serve your country.” More than 300 registrants, almost all of them dentists, welcomed the Surgeon General to a dialogue aimed at shaping a strategy for professional service in war on terrorism. Summaries of conference presentations will be prepared and distributed to attendees.

“We have a reason to be here,” ADA President T. Howard Jones said in opening the conference. “We want you to leave with some clarity about your role for something we hope we will never need.”

A partnership theme quickly emerged, initiated by Surgeon General Carmona’s vision of a war “still very alien to most people” and enlisting health professionals, including dentists, in new and ongoing roles.

“Who would have ever thought there’d be such a huge demand for forensic dentistry?” he said referring to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the lead role of forensic dentists in identification. “It’s really terrible but that’s the world we live in. Who would have ever thought we’d be dealing with germs as weapons, planes as weapons?

“What if we have to immunize a lot of people because of an impending threat,” said Surgeon General Carmona. “Could not dentists be involved? Could not dentists be involved in taking histories, screening patients, dealing with out-patient issues? Absolutely. I think we’re only on the very brink of how much dentistry can be involved as a response force as part of our partnership and team as we prepare our country for these inevitable threats.”

Other speakers also cited a potential role for dentists in administering vaccines if necessary. Dr. Michael C. Alfano, dean of the New York University College of Dentistry, announced a “handshake agreement” reached earlier in the week with the New York City health commissioner under which dentists would join mass inoculation teams formed in the event of a smallpox attack.

The dental school is preparing training modules for courses to be offered online at the school’s Web site, he said. The first of four modules is finished and a second is nearly ready. As many as 2,000 dentists and dental students could be trained and available to administer vaccines if necessary, Dr. Alfano said. “We want to get dentists trained now.”

Rep. John Linder (R-Ga.), one of three dentists in the U.S. House of Representatives, said the three dentist lawmakers serve with the House physician as a voluntary group available for triage for any tragedy occurring in the U.S. Capitol complex.

“The most important thing you have as a profession is a longtime personal commitment to your communities,” he said. “This is a different world than it was when I came to Congress, and it will never be the same again. There are roles in this effort to secure our homeland for every one of us, and there are unique roles for dentistry.”

Reps. Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) are the other dentists in Congress.

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