GCHS urges ‘never again’ at pandemic summit

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, recognizes former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Senator Chuck Hagel.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Senator Chuck Hagel, speaking at the UNMC Global Center for Health Security’s inaugural pandemic summit, praised the work of the center while warning of challenges of future public health emergencies that lay ahead.

The summit, entitled “Never Again,” was held Oct. 19 at the Truhlsen Events Center and drew participation from national and international experts in academic, corporate, philanthropic and government sectors.

The summit’s goal, encapsulated in its name, was mitigating the catastrophic consequences of future pandemics by using public-private partnerships to prevent disruptions to economic, social and health care systems.

James Lawler, MD, executive director of international programs and Innovation at the Global Center for Health Security, said “never again” would require that communities have dramatically improved capabilities to recognize and characterize threats early, flex health systems to accurately diagnose and treat large-scale influxes of new patients and implement actions to prevent disease transmission.

“It’s a global challenge,” Dr. Lawler said.

Attendees took part in several panel discussions on the benefits and need for new and expanded partnerships, as well as current perspectives on global health security. Breakout sessions were held to brainstorm and define necessary steps to create successful partnerships to combat current and future pandemic challenges. Panelist Chandresh Harjivan, PharmD, president of SaponiQx, said the measure to success was a simple one: “Deaths averted.”

John Lowe, PhD, executive director of education at the Global Center for Health Security, said the event emphasized the need for a coalition to address ongoing challenges.

“Volunteerism is no longer an option,” Dr. Lowe said. “We need to build coalitions with infrastructure, specifically cross-sector coalitions. We need to build local capacity to meet the needs on the ground, then scale solutions that work. We cannot let perfect be the enemy of progress.” 

The on-campus event concluded at the Davis Global Center — with tours of the National Quarantine Unit and Training, Simulation and Quarantine Center — before participants gathered at the Cottonwood Hotel’s Schimmel Ballroom to listen Secretary Hagel. 

“We learned many lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this meeting was an important step in deciding the best ways to apply them,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, who spoke at the opening session and introduced Secretary Hagel’s keynote address. “There is much still to do, but we are uniquely positioned to help decide how best to prepare to address future challenges.

“There is no question that public-private partnerships will form the foundation of future preparation.”