Thursday, September 03, 2009

To D.C. & Back



# 3693



As I mentioned on Tuesday morning, I’ve been `out of pocket’ for the past couple of days while I attended an HHS/CDC media exercise in Washington D.C. 


This was a much larger meeting than the last one I attended in March 2008, where we had 25 people participating in the exercise.  This time, we had about 40 people directly involved. 


Once again, the meeting was moderated by the always terrific  Forrest Sawyer.   


Among those from the media were correspondents from the 3 broadcast TV Networks, CNN, NPR, USA Today, AP, and Reuters . . .  along with Lisa Schnirring of CIDRAPSharon Sanders of FluTrackers , Dr. Greg Dworkin of Flu Wiki, and myself.

Also participating were federal officials from the HHS, the CDC, FEMA , and the FDA along with local emergency operations and public health officials from D.C, Maryland, Virginia and some who flew in from as far away as California.


This was a `closed-door, off-the-record’ meeting in order to promote a frank and open exchange of ideas.  While we used a fictitious `tabletop scenario’ to drive the discussion these meetings tend to take on a life of their own.  


Since this was an `off-the-record’ meeting, I can’t go into any greater detail other than to say that this was a substantive, illuminating, and frank day-long discussion. 


Just as important, I believe, is what happens during the breaks, and lunch, where those of us in the media had an opportunity to meet one-on-one with a number of well-known public health officials. 


The level of access is, quite frankly, remarkable.  It is a pity the time speeds along so rapidly.


It was great, of course, to revisit old friendships - like Sharon and from Flutrackers, and  Lisa from CIDRAP.  Fate once again had me seated next to the always delightful Maggie Fox of Reuters, and I was very happy to get a chance to see Stephanie Marshall (HHS) at the meeting.


And it was great to see Forrest Sawyer again.  He really is the best at what he does.  He and I shared the same high school growing up, albeit a few years apart, and so we have a bit of a common history.


I’m not going to name drop, but I did want to mention that I got to meet Andrew Wilson (@AndrewPWilson on Twitter) who is the HHS’s point guy on social media.   We’ve tweeted, and messaged back and forth a number of times, but this was our first face-to-face meeting.


My thanks to Mary Carlson at the HHS for the invite, and to the HHS for putting on this remarkable exercise.   I hope it was as good for them as it was for me.


Anonymous said...

You would tell us but then you would have to kill us. I know, I know.

I'm just so glad you attended this media exercise and will be able to keep posting relevant info along with your insightful commentary. The more you know, the better off we, your readers, are. You are the sentinal.

And, you know Forrest Sawyer!!

phytosleuth said...

Wish they had more meetings like this. We the public don't have to know everything. And if it helps to brainstorm more ideas and share information, that's a good thing. Am glad you could be there. It will reflect in your posts, I'm sure.

Roy said...

This is bull mike. "closed door"? Crap.

There is too much "closed door" stuff floating around as is.

Its going to cause loss of life. Why cant you all just come clean and say it the way it is?


FLA_MEDIC said...


This was a TABLE TOP EXERCISE, a FICTION SCENARIO, which was used to promote discussion and exploration of the issues.

No secrets were revealed and nothing classified was discussed.

It is `off the record' so that participants will feel free to speak openly (and maybe even make mistakes) without fear of it ending up in my blog, or on Facebook, or on the NBC evening news.

If you've ever seen any of the `Fred Friendly Seminars' on PBS, you have an idea of what this was like.

It was a learning experience, and an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with others in the media and in public health.

You are making far too much out of it.

Roy said...

I guess we have to agree to disagree ;)

Anonymous said...

There are many of us who don't like being reminded just how right Mr. Orwell was when he said that some animals are more equal than others.

If it's not secret, and not classified, then it doesn't need to be behind closed doors.
We're adults - we know people make mistakes. If those mistakes are so serious that they must be made behind closed doors, then all the more reason that they should be made in public.

Elitism is alive and well in America - I wish I could say I thought all Americans - and other citizens of the world - would be equally as alive and well when all this is said and done.