The Forum on Microbial Threats (previously named the Forum on Emerging Infections) was created in 1996 in response to a request from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of the Forum is to provide structured opportunities for representatives from academia, industry, professional and interest groups, and government to examine and discuss scientific and policy issues that are of shared interest and that are specifically related to research and prevention, detection, and management of emerging infectious diseases. In accomplishing this task, the Forum provides the opportunity to foster the exchange of information and ideas, identify areas in need of greater attention, clarify policy issues by enhancing knowledge and identifying points of agreement, and inform decision makers about science and policy issues. The Forum seeks to illuminate issues rather than resolve them directly; hence, it does not provide advice or recommendations on any specific policy initiative pending before any agency or organization. Its strengths are the diversity of its membership and the contributions of individual members expressed throughout the activities of the Forum.
Recent increased attention to both United States and international public health systems as well as the medical research and treatment infrastructure has revealed significant deficiencies in their capacity to respond to infectious diseases. Medical and public health professionals may be poorly equipped to detect, diagnose, and treat common infectious diseases as well as those diseases that pose an unexpected threat. The need for the development of domestic and international training programs in the expanding field of emerging and reemerging infectious diseases is well recognized. Well-trained infectious disease professionals form the basis of a strong national healthcare system.
The Forum on Emerging Infections (now renamed the Forum on Microbial Threats) convened a 2-day workshop discussion—the subject of this summary—to examine the education and training needs to ensure an adequate infectious diseases workforce. The workshop reviewed trends in research training programs and discussed the requirements for establishing successful educational initiatives and training programs to ensure a competent and prepared workforce for current and future challenges in infectious diseases. Some key disciplines explored as case-study examinations included infectious disease epidemiology, vaccinology, vector biology, and public health laboratorians.