Community Engagement
Leadership Tool for Catastrophic Health Events

Monica Schoch-Spana, Ph.D.
Senior Associate, Center for Biosecurity
Assistant Professor, School of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)

August 8, 2007

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Related Websites:

UPMC Center for Biosecurity
UPMC Focus Area, Community Engagement
4/3/07 Press Release, "Community Participation is Key to Handling Health Emergencies"
Major Findings of the Working Group on Community Engagement
Steps for Government and Civic Leaders to Act on Working Group Findings
Full Report

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Dr. Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist, is Senior Associate with the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Schoch-Spana has led research, education and advocacy efforts to encourage greater consideration by authorities of the general public’s capacity to confront bioattacks and epidemics constructively—a realm she has termed “the people’s role in biodefense.” She currently chairs the Working Group on Citizen Engagement in Health Emergency Planning, and she was the principal organizer for the 2006 U.S.–Canada summit on Disease, Disaster & Democracy – The Public’s Stake in Health Emergency Planning. In 2003, she organized the national summit, Leadership during Bioterrorism: The Public as an Asset, Not a Problem, and she chaired the Working Group on “Governance Dilemmas” in Bioterrorism Response that issued consensus recommendations to mayors, governors, and top health officials nationwide in 2004.

Over the last 9 years, Dr. Schoch-Spana has briefed numerous federal, state, and local officials, as well as medical, public health, and public safety professionals on critical issues in biosecurity. National advisory roles include serving on the Steering Committee of the Disaster Roundtable of the National Research Council (NRC) and with the NRC Committees on “Educational Paradigms for Homeland Security” and “Standards and Policies for Decontaminating Public Facilities Affected by Exposure to Harmful Biological Agents: How Clean is Safe?” She serves on the faculty for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a university-based center of excellence supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Archival and ethnographic case studies inform Dr. Schoch-Spana’s perspective on community reactions to public health and terrorist crises including the Anthrax Attacks 2001, World Trade Center attack 2001, and Pandemic Influenza 1918. Select publications include “Community Engagement: Leadership Tool for Catastrophic Health Events,” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, 2007; “Leading during Bioattacks and Epidemics with the Public’s Trust and Help,” Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, 2004; “Educating, Informing and Mobilizing the Public,” in Terrorism and Public Health, B. Levy and V. Sidel, eds., Oxford University Press, 2003; and “Bioterrorism and the Public: How to Vaccinate a City against Panic?” Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2002.

In 2003, Dr. Schoch-Spana helped establish the Biosecurity Center of UPMC; prior to that she worked at the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies starting in 1998. She received her PhD in cultural anthropology from Johns Hopkins University (1998) and BA from Bryn Mawr College (1986).