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Hauer Power

By Brian W. Simpson

Since last fall’s terrorist attacks, the nation hasn’t had the luxury of taking a leisurely approach to public health preparedness.

Deadlines are now set in terms of weeks, not years, according to Jerry Hauer, MHS ’78, who in June was named acting assistant secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “We don’t have time to use calendars. We measure things with a watch,” says Hauer. “We have to be ready now. We cannot look at things five, ten years out. We have to look at things five, ten weeks out.”

The accelerated program for a national smallpox vaccine stockpile is an example of the government’s new time-tables, according to Hauer. An original goal to have 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine by 2005 was bumped up so that the nation will have 286 million doses—enough for all Americans—by the end of this year. “That’s the type of change you’re seeing in this department,” says Hauer.

In May, Hauer took over leadership of the new Office of Public Health Preparedness from another School alum,

former Dean D.A. Henderson, MD, MPH ’60. Henderson is now principal science advisor to Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

National public health preparedness essentially needs to be established by yesterday—not a timetable normally associated with the government. “The challenges are difficult… but we’re working on it. We’re making some incredible progress in things,” says Hauer, who was director of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management in the late 1990s under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Plans established by Hauer brought in ambulances from four states to the city on Sept. 11. 

In his new position, Hauer draws on the experience of Henderson, who signed Hauer’s diploma, and other colleagues with School connections. They include Philip Russell, MD, a professor emeritus in the Department of International Health; William Lyerly, MPH ’83; Karen Becker, MPH ’95; and Rebecca Rabin, MHS ’02.

 “We’ve got the Hopkins mafia here,” Hauer jokes. In addition to the help from School alumni, Hauer says he can rely on the constant encouragement from Henderson: “D.A. keeps telling me, ‘Don’t screw up or I’ll revoke your degree.’”