Johan von Schreeb, Professor of global disaster medicine and Head of the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters at Karolinska Institutet, has been named Director of KI’s newly established Health Emergency and Pandemic Science Center. The aim is to create a center based on KI’s knowledge and capability, that finds connections between groups and people, with the aim of increasing preparedness for a new pandemic or health crisis.
How will the Health Emergency and Pandemic Science Center operate?
“We gather skills and knowledge, we are a bit of a ’match marker’, we are a catalyst in processes”, says Johan von Schreeb, Professor of global disaster medicine at the Department of Global Public Health at KI.
The idea is that the center shall act as a link between research groups, individual researchers and groupings at KI, and the rest of the world.
Working in such a way as to be able to give support on both a regional, national, and global level, that is how Johan von Schreeb describes the idea behind how the center will operate:
”During the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen that KI has a huge amount of competency and capabilities; with laboratories that have readjusted their work, with our education and so on. So, to be able to get KI working quickly when something happens, and that internally there is such a mechanism, that is important”.
”A clear example of how our knowledge and skills can be quickly mobilised and used internationally is the mass casualty exercises we have developed and implemented in Iraq, Yemen and Eastern Ukraine. At the moment we have an urgent request from the WHO to conduct mass casualty exercise in hospitals around Ukraine. The current situation there makes these exercises extremely relevant, and we are now awaiting information from our partners in Ukraine”, says Johan von Schreeb.
He further emphasises the importance of forming alliances with other universities and actors to ensure interdisciplinary competence and a multidisciplinary way of working.
Why is the creation of this center important?
“KI has role in upholding and supporting central aspects of society and I think it is more important than ever to highlight that. To be able to step in and share a part of that communal responsibility to handle crisis and difficult situations, that is an important function. In a fragmented time, when many think of ’I’, it is important to think of fellowship and of connecting knowledge and competence. The idea of ’we, we, we’ is more important, in my mind. And thus, KI can step in as a ’we’, with research and education.”
Moreover, this will become a resource for many functions in society to get access to research and researchers, whilst at the same time giving KI’s researchers an opportunity to develop our competency in working closer with, and supporting, societal functions and political decision-makers.
How do you view your role?
“I am honoured and excited to be given this responsibility. I hope to contribute with my extensive experience of working with these issues, and with a large network both nationally and internationally”.
Johan von Schreeb is also Head of the Centre for Research on Health Care in Disasters at KI, which for the past twenty years has worked with issues concerning crisis and disasters, and has accumulated routines and practice, which he thinks the Health Emergency and Pandemic Science Center will benefit from.
”My experience of being a ’doer’, of being out there in the real world, that is what I take with me into this role”, says Johan von Schreeb.
This article was first published on 24 February by Karolinska Institutet.