UAB Travel Medicine Expert Joins Global Health Panel

By Troy Goodman

David Freedman is a new member of the Roster of Experts for the World Health Organization International Health Regulations.

Disease knows no boundaries, and neither does David O. Freedman, M.D. At any time, the director of UAB’s Travelers’ Health Clinic could get a phone call summoning him to Europe to help stop a global epidemic.

Freedman isn’t a superhero. He’s an expert in travel medicine—and a new member of the Roster of Experts for the World Health Organization (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR). A comprehensive set of rules and procedures endorsed by the 193 WHO member states, the IHR is designed to limit the worldwide spread of diseases and other public-health threats while minimizing disruption to travel, trade, and economies. “The emergence of H1N1 influenza in 2009 and SARS in 2003 demonstrates how interconnected the world has become and how rapidly a new disease can spread,” Freedman says.

Freedman was appointed to the Roster of Experts in January, and he is on call during his four-year term to travel to Geneva, Switzerland, if a crisis arises. There he would serve on an emergency committee—reporting directly to the WHO director-general—that would establish policies and rules to respond to the international incident. A WHO emergency committee that was convened last year addressed the spread of H1N1, Freedman explains.


Click on the picture above to see a video of David Freedman sharing his tips on preparing for foreign travel.

“The Roster of Experts includes people with different areas of expertise who are nominated by their countries,” Freedman says. “I would consult on matters relating to travelers and restrictions on travel” to fight the spread of disease.

Freedman brings a world of experience to his post. In addition to leading the Travelers’ Clinic, he co-directs GeoSentinel, a global online network of 48 travel- and tropical-medicine clinics spread across several continents. The network is a partnership of UAB, the International Society of Travel Medicine (ISTM), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other groups. Freedman, a professor in UAB’s departments of Medicine and Epidemiology, also serves on the ISTM board and coauthored the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s clinical practice guidelines for travel medicine.

“The threat of a pandemic is always there,” Freedman says. “Implementation rules and procedures that draw upon the expertise of physicians, policy makers, and international agencies help keep us better prepared.”

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