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  Vol. 24, No. 21  Previous Table of Contents Home  Next November 15, 2002 

Terrorism Response Project Receives Start-Up Funding


By DAVID R. BATES
The University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston

The Department of Defense’s recently approved 2003 fiscal budget includes $11 million in federal funds for terrorism response research at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The new “Texas Training and Technology for Trauma and Terrorism,” or “T5,” program is the successor to the Disaster Relief and Emergency Medical Services, or DREAMS, collaboration with the U.S. Army.

“The goal of T5 is to identify the best ways of protecting Houston, or any other city, from the morbidity, mortality, and costs of terrorism and other disasters,” said S. Ward Casscells, M.D., vice president for biotechnology at UT-Houston. “By integrating a variety of critical technologies that will improve readiness and care, T5 will take us to the next level of preparedness.”

Legislation to fund the T5 program was championed by Appropriations Committee members Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, and by Rep. Ken Bentsen, whose 25th Congressional District includes the Texas Medical Center.

The $11 million budget allocation represents the first federal support for T5.

“We must be ready to act quickly and forcefully if there is a biological or chemical attack on our nation.

The T5 program will help provide us with this critical capability,” said Hutchison.

The T5 program will explore and evaluate a variety of critical telemedicine and telecommunication technologies that will feature real-time remote monitoring of trauma victims, so physicians at hospitals can work with paramedics while the patient is on the way. It will build on work begun in 1996 with the DREAMS project to deploy advanced digital systems that allow decentralized wireless communication with hospitals, helicopters and highway systems that map out the best route to a disaster scene and back to a hospital.

“DREAMS gave Houston a head start in its counter-terrorism efforts,” said Casscells, who will serve as the program’s principal investigator.

UT-Houston’s School of Public Health also has established the new Center for Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness, which will be led by bioterrorism expert Scott R. Lillibridge, M.D. The T5 program will develop training programs at the center for public health workers, emergency medical technicians, physicians and nurses, as well as Master of Public Health degree programs in bioterrorism and disaster preparedness.

In conjunction with T5, the center will begin research programs in security, preparedness, public policy, and disaster response. It will also coordinate readiness and response drills (table top, virtual, and field) and integration with counterterrorism programs in Texas and nationwide.

“I’m pleased to help support this critical program,” said DeLay, shortly after President Bush signed the funding bill. “I’m thrilled that our area continues to set a national standard with our vision, innovation, and preparedness. As our region’s advocate on both the Appropriations Committee and the Homeland Security Select Committee, I’ll continue to work to protect our people.”

Working with Casscells to lead the T5 program are James T. Willerson, M.D., UT-Houston president, and trauma surgeon James H. “Red” Duke, M.D., the John B. Holmes Professor in Clinical Sciences at the UT-Houston Medical School.

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