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October 25, 2019

“Woke!”: Global and Local Biosafety/Biosecurity Missions in Light of Cura Personalis

Event Series: Global Health Security Seminars

Researcher in a white coat pipetting in a lab

Biosafety and biosecurity are essential elements to be addressed in worldwide infectious disease threats in the face of heightened world travel and in yet-to-be met international health regulations in many countries worldwide. In March 2018, the Elizbeth R. Griffin Foundation became the Elizabeth R. Griffin Program (ERGP) at Georgetown University Medical Center, joining Georgetown's Center for Global Health Science and Security, a world leader in creating biosafe/biosecure world health. ERGP draws from its legacy of advocating for biosafe/biosecure cultures in laboratories and beyond through a single, seemingly insignificant incident that led to the laboratory acquired “Monkey Virus” (Macacine Hepesvirus 1) and subsequent death of Elizabeth R. Griffin. Learning from at least 10 “non-woke” factors in a prestigious university, ERGF grew over 20 years into development of worldwide leadership in biosafety/biosecurity as part of the global health security agenda. 


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At this seminar Caryl Griffin Russell, ERGP founder and Griffin's mother, described how the legacy of ERGP supports the Georgetown principle of cura personalis (care of the whole person). The ERGP perspective brings essential elements in developing a model program at home as well as our work abroad. In short, addressing the whole enlightens our work through being mindful — "woke" — to seemingly insignificant factors that can blind us to risks and consequences that may be overlooked in our own institutions as well as in our pursuit of a larger, more global mission.

This event was part of the Global Health Security Seminar Series, co-sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for Global Health Science and Security and the Global Health Initiative.

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Caryl Griffin, MSN, M.Div., is the former president of the Elizabeth R. Griffin Foundation, which was established in 1999 in response to the death of her daughter, Beth, in 1997, due to a laboratory acquired infection. Rev. Griffin is an ordained elder in the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church appointed to the Elizabeth R. Griffin Research Foundation, working in the field of global health security. In this role she seeks to bring experts from multiple disciplines and multilateral perspectives together to forge partnerships and innovative solutions, addressing some of the world’s most pressing infectious disease dilemmas, as well as biological safety and security issues. Prior to ordination, Rev. Griffin practiced nursing for 35 years.