20: 9/11 Preparedness Lessons

Lisa Peterson, ASTHO’s Director of Health and Homeland Security, reviews plans for Thursday’s event to examine preparedness twenty years after 9/11; and Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and...

Spotify podcast player badge
Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Amazon Music podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge

Lisa Peterson, ASTHO’s Director of Health and Homeland Security, reviews plans for Thursday’s event to examine preparedness twenty years after 9/11; and Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, Chief Medical Officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and Dr. Erica Pan, the State Epidemiologist for the State of California and deputy director for its Center for Infectious Diseases, discuss the importance of strong relationships among agencies responding to a crisis.

Event: Two decades after 9/11

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Tuesday, September 7th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


The nation marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11 this weekend.

ASTHO plans to consider lessons from the day on Thursday, September 9th. The virtual afternoon event is focused on preparedness lessons and is free to attend.

Lisa Peterson is ASTHO's director of health and homeland security. She has more in today's morning conversation.

Give listeners a quick summary of the panels that you've scheduled for the event this Thursday.


Sure, yeah.

We've got a great day of panels prepared for our session this week. We've got three panels that are really scheduled to highlight some various leaders at different levels and perspective about 9/11 and the events since then.

We've got opening remarks from our CEO, our ASTHO president, and even a keynote speaker who is a professor of history at the University of Virginia, so we're excited about that.

And we're also really excited to have a panel that features three former assistant secretaries for preparedness and response. And so, they'll be providing their perspectives on how they led public health preparedness throughout the public health enterprise.

And we'll close then with a panel that has some public health professionals who were working in the field at the time of 9/11, and they'll be giving their perspectives on the work that we all continue to do.

So, it'll be a really great event


Who should attend this event this week?


I really think anyone working in public health should attend this event: you know, specifically our current public health workforce at all levels—local, state, territorial; elected officials also; and even also public health students—I think this will give them a really good perspective of what the discipline entails.

And I also would encourage the workforces of other disciplines who public health closely works with to join and listen in as well. So that's, you know, folks from emergency management, homeland security, you know, healthcare, and more. I think, because, you know, our response to 9/11 was really a whole of community approach and response, so I think we just need to continue that and learn as a whole community. So, I really would welcome everyone joining.


Speaking of learning, what do you hope people who attend the event will take away from it?


I hope that they'll take away the understanding that a lot has happened in the last two decades, and, you know, this is the 20th anniversary of this event. And so, when you think about it, we really have now been at the bookends of preparedness. So, you know, we had 9/11 and now, unfortunately, you know, we're dealing with COVID.

And so, there's a lot that has happened in the 20 years; and so, I hope that folks can just hear some reflections and think about the different perspectives of the advancement of public health preparedness and how our response capabilities have improved over the last two decades.

And then, more importantly, I also hope that folks can reflect on the ways to define their leadership in a crisis, and really think that how would they use their vision and their leadership to lead their teams and communities during a crisis and do some internal reflection as they move forward.



Also this morning, the migrant crisis at the southwest border is testing the limits of agency relationships as officials work to keep people healthy while policy issues play out.

Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is the chief medical officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He says strong relationships across jurisdictional lines are vital to an effective response.


If we don't have strong, enduring relationships with local partners that we can lean on in times of crisis and—when in steady state—we can use to improve our own processes, all of this work goes nowhere.

And so, we have really endeavored to maintain those lines of communication and, in fact, try hard to build out transparency in a process that is typically fairly opaque.


Dr. Erica Pan is California's state epidemiologist and directs the state's team responding to the crisis.


We all know that you can never communicate too much or too often, right. And trying to, in these complex settings with so many entities involved, really clarifying roles and authorities—and not only who might have the resources, but who will actually authorize utilizing the resources in those settings—has been challenging.

But I think considering all that, it's gone relatively well, based on a lot of the foundational partnerships that have evolved over the years.


Hear more of these conversations in a new episode of the Public Health Review podcast, available tomorrow everywhere you stream audio.


Be sure to visit the show notes for a link to the 9/11 event registration page.


Also, remember to follow us on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or listen on Alexa or Google Assistant.

And if you have a minute, please take time to leave us a rating and a review.


Join us tomorrow morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition.

Erica Pan MD MPH

State Epidemiologist, CA Department of Public Health

Pritesh Gandhi MD MPH

Chief Medical Officer, U.S. Department of Homeland Security

Lisa Peterson MPH

Director, Health and Homeland Security, ASTHO