eases by developing a zoonosis center as an element of its national public health institution, the Statens Serum Institut, uniting veterinary and human health professionals. The committee believes much could be gained if the United States were to create similar interdisciplinary infectious disease centers for research, education, training, and public service. Given the nation’s lack of infrastructure in this area, such centers would have to be established with bricks and mortar, not as completely virtual centers.
Interdisciplinary infectious disease centers should be developed to promote a multidisciplinary approach to addressing microbial threats to health. These centers should be based within academic institutions and link (both physically and virtually) the relevant disciplines necessary to support such an approach. They would collaborate with the larger network of public agencies addressing emerging infectious diseases (e.g., local and state health agencies, CDC, DOD, the U.S. Department of Energy, FDA, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, NIH, the National Science Foundation, USAID, USDA), interested foundations, private organizations, and industry. The training, education, and research that these centers would provide are a much-needed resource not only for the United States, but also for the entire world.
The proposed centers would provide space to bring people together so that their proximity would generate work across intellectual discipline– driven boundaries on a research agenda that requires a cross-disciplinary approach. This is exactly what comprehensive cancer centers have done so well, bringing together clinicians (pediatricians, internists, oncologists, radiologists, and surgeons), basic scientists, epidemiologists, pharmacologists, immunologists, virologists, cell biologists, structural biologists, radiation biologists, and radiation therapists. Interdisciplinary work requires that those involved have not only good will toward and awareness of each other, but also a means of actually talking to each other frequently, often casually—contacts that in time lead to new kinds of work that bridge multiple disciplines. Seminars on various arenas of work given regularly in a center help bring people and ideas together. Economists, sociologists, medical anthropologists, epidemiologists, medical geographers, and others might need to pool their talents with those of immunologists, vaccine developers, and infectious disease clinicians and health care workers to solve persistent problems of community- or regionally-based outbreaks of infection. A center would help unite faculty of schools of public health, medical school basic and clinical faculty, and local and state public health officials.
Nowhere is the opportunity for interdisciplinary work greater than in the global infectious diseases arena. To make such work a reality, we need to create space and support for people from multiple disciplines to work