West Virginia University Surgeon Appointed as a Special Advisor to the Federal Government

Jeremiah Hayanga, associate professor of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery and program director of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) at the Heart and Vascular Institute at West Virginia University, has been appointed as a special advisor by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dr. Hayanga will bring his proficiency in both ECMO and public health policy to an expert panel with the RAND Corporation, a non-profit research organization that advises the government on matters of healthcare and defense. The panel will address healthcare outcomes, preparedness, and the development of a coherent list of priorities in the event of outbreaks. Dr. Hayanga was selected because of his background in healthcare policy and his current research on the use of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, such as mitigation strategies in the prevention of an outbreak. These strategies address supply interruptions, changing local attitudes and legislation toward vaccination, and vaccine efficacy and aim at reducing the impact of outbreaks.

“COVID-19 has been a wakeup call because perhaps not enough attention had been paid to the possibility of a viral outbreak,” Dr. Hayanga said. “The federal government is engaging people in the field to gather intelligence to better understand what we need in terms of capacity and equipment.”

“We should maintain the seriousness we are taking with COVID-19 when dealing with influenza, which is also a high mortality rate illness,” Dr. Hayanga added. “Vaccines are important, and access to that vaccine can be the link in preventing a pandemic. We should encourage people to view a COVID-19 vaccine as seriously as we are viewing the virus itself. I worry that as the virus begins to fade, so, too, does the seriousness with which people take it, and some may opt out of the vaccine when it is available, which will be a mistake.”

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