Panel of student researchers tackles the issue of H1N1

Should I get the H1N1 vaccine? How great is the threat of H1N1? How can we, as organizations and individuals, best prepare for a pandemic?

These are the types of questions – questions that have been on many minds lately – that a panel of students from York’s Master of Arts in Disaster & Emergency Management (MADEM) program explored on Friday, Oct. 30, as part of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Associate Dean Research Speakers’ Series. Titled Research Matters, the speakers’ series is hosted once a month to showcase research excellence and demonstrate how research is being used to respond to community and industry challenges.  

Right: Members of the panel consider a question. From left, Professor David Etkin, Dr. Khondoker Hassan, Dr. Lilia Malkin-Dubins and Patricia Yang.

The panel event was timely considering the intense media coverage of H1N1, the struggle nationally to meet the demand for the H1N1 vaccine, and the death of a 13-year-old Etobicoke boy due to H1N1 (and other complications) just a few days before. Too much information, not enough information and misinformation brought students, professors, staff and the local community out to hear what the panel had to say.

Every angle of H1N1 was explored, from the history of the virus to its intersections with poverty in the developing world. Professor David Etkin, graduate program director of MADEM, introduced the panel of students – all of whom have encountered pandemics or pandemic planning in their professional roles.

Left: David Etkin

The first panellist, emergency physician Dr. Lilia Malkin-Dubins, traced the history of H1N1 and explored the symptoms to look out for. She also provided some statistics on annual deaths from infectious diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis. Her presentation left many wondering if all of the media hype about the virus has been warranted.

The second panellist, Dr. Khondoker Hassan, a physician and program adviser for the Ministry of the Attorney General in the area of business continuity and emergency management, stressed the seriousness of H1N1 and the need for organizations and individuals to engage in effective pandemic planning. He provided a detailed presentation on issues to consider when creating an effective pandemic plan. Hassan concentrated on the foundations of preparedness, which included having plans for employee health and safety, business continuity, human resources, asset protection and community relations.

Right: Dr. Khondoker Hassan

The final panellist, Patricia Yang from Emergency Management Ontario, explored the challenges of trying to develop and implement a pandemic plan for a large organization. She discussed her experience of helping to write a business continuity pandemic plan for a Fortune 500 company that produces medical devices. One of the key lessons she says she took away from the experience “was recognizing the value of pandemic planning regardless of the size of an organization.”

Following the panel discussions was a question-and-answer period that focused on the burning question of whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccine. The panel presented strong arguments on both sides but left the decision-making up to the individuals. They reiterated, instead, the importance of being prepared and putting a pandemic plan in place at work, at home and in the community.

Left: Patricia Yang

For more information, listen to parts of the panel discussions via podcast or click through the PowerPoint presentations online.  

The next Research Matters event will take place Monday, Nov. 30, from 10 to 11:30am in S137 Ross Building. Professor Pat O’Riley from York’s Department of Equity Studies and Peter Cole, member of the Douglas First Nation and associate professor at University College of the North, will engage trickster discourse and narrative shape-shifting as they share research protocols, findings and community conversations based on their research with the four Lower Stl’atl’imx communities of British Columbia. For details, visit the RSVP page or call 416-736-2100 ext. 22464.