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.