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    Defense Public Health celebrates opening of new $248 million public health laboratory

    Defense Public Health celebrates opening of new $248 million public health laboratory

    Photo By Graham Snodgrass | Army Lt. Col. Scott Vial, Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen Public Health...... read more read more



    Story by Douglas Holl 

    Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – Dignitaries and distinguished guests gathered at Aberdeen Proving Ground South, formerly known as Edgewood, April 5 to celebrate the opening of the Department of Defense’s new Public Health Laboratory at Building E2850.

    The ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by more than 500 staff and guests, marks the official opening of the lab that will support all scientific and most logistic operations for Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen scientists and workers. These employees will enjoy many modern office amenities including 14 conference rooms, six huddle rooms, five breakrooms, and a wellness room. The building also contains a 50-person classroom for internal and external training courses.

    “Public health and military health cannot be thought of separately,” said Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, during the event. “Military public health is essential to achieving readiness – both that of our global military forces and their families. And critically important to public health is science – the kind of science that this facility will support.”

    Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director, Defense Health Agency, said the new lab represents the culmination of decades of incredible teamwork to support Combatant Commands with near real-time disease and bio-surveillance threat information to prevent disease and hazards for our service members.

    “For more than 80 years, the Army Public Health Center worked tirelessly in support of that mission on behalf of the Army,” said Crosland. “Now, as the Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen, they are part of a larger global network of joint public health professionals, working together to support the Department of Defense and protect the lives or our men and women in uniform.”

    The Army Corps of Engineers supervised construction of the 280,000-square-foot laboratory building, which took eight years to complete and cost around $248 million. It is comprised of 67 individual lab spaces that will serve most of the Center’s directorates including Environmental Health Sciences and Engineering, Occupational Health Sciences, Laboratory Sciences, and Toxicology. These lab spaces feature mobile casework and are tailorable to future public health missions, including another pandemic response. The building also includes several highly specialized lab spaces including an insectary for entomological studies and two anechoic chambers for radio frequency experiments.

    “Many of the systems we’re currently using will be replaced and upgraded as part of this move to E 2850, including new anechoic chambers, lasers, meters, and sensors,” said John DeFrank, Nonionizing Radiation Division chief. “These advanced capabilities will enable the subject matter experts in the Nonionizing Radiation Division under DCPH-A to maintain our leadership in supporting nonionizing radiation protection for DOD. These SMEs envisioned what we needed to meet the challenges of protecting everyone from the innate hazards of advanced electromagnetic technologies. We’re poised to see that vision realized and brought to life.”

    The new DCPH-A lab traces its lineage back more than 80 years to the Army Industrial Hygiene Laboratory, which was established at the beginning of World War II under the direct jurisdiction of the Army surgeon general. Originally located at the prestigious Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, this early laboratory had a staff of just three employees and an annual budget of only $3,000.

    “The majority of our scientists are currently housed in 13 buildings across APG South,” said Army Lt. Col. Scott Vial, Public Health Laboratory project manager. “Eleven of these buildings are obsolete, some more than a century old were built to support World War I and World War II. They’re no longer sustainable or viable to support current or future missions, which is why Congress and DOD invested heavily in this new lab.”

    Vial said the biggest upgrades are in terms of modernization.

    “We’ll be getting more than 2,000 new pieces of lab equipment,” said Vial. “The new equipment is largely state-of-the-art and on par with what you’d find in a civilian or university setting. Some of our specialty labs like entomology and non-ionizing radiation will benefit greatly from their physical spaces and the purpose-built infrastructure and equipment.”

    Vial said lab personnel began moving into the building in February starting with the Toxicology Directorate Health Effects Division.

    “They identified move processes that worked well and processes that need improvement before the moves begin in earnest,” said Vial. “The next group of folks who move will be our logistics personnel in June. They’re moving next so that they’re in place to support our scientists’ set-up and accreditation requirements when individual labs begin moving in.”

    Valerie Adams, a biologist with Health Effects Division, praised the transition team for their professionalism and flexibility.

    “The phrase ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ was likely used several times to express how plans versus the real world often don’t completely match up,” said Adams. “Lieutenant Colonel Vial provided excellent leadership and oversight and managed to maintain a sense of humor while dealing with a lot of moving parts and objectives.”

    Rear Adm. Brandon Taylor, Defense Health Agency Public Health director, shared what the new lab will mean to the DOD community.

    “As we wind down the public health emergency known as the COVID-19 pandemic, we know that a joint response to our global public health challenges is the best approach,” said Taylor. “Recently, experts here at Aberdeen received samples from across DOD and helped us target the areas that were in most need of COVID-19 mitigation strategies. The work here saves lives by stopping or preventing disease in our DOD community.”

    DCPH-A Director Army Col. Alisa Wilma also praised the breadth, depth and quality of work done every day by DCPH-A personnel.

    “I am honored to be a part of an organization that protects the health of our DOD family,” said Wilma. “I believe that one of the most important missions is our role in identifying and assessing those chemical, biological, radiological and physical hazards that threaten DOD personnel in deployed locations, on installations and in our workplaces worldwide.”

    The Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen advances Joint Force health protection with agile public health enterprise solutions in support of the National Defense Strategy.

    NOTE: The mention of any non-federal entity and/or its products is for informational purposes only, and not to be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as federal endorsement of that non-federal entity or its products.



    Date Taken: 04.06.2023
    Date Posted: 04.06.2023 13:09
    Story ID: 442166

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