Infectious Diseases Preparedness Working Group

The Columbia University Pandemic Preparedness Working Group (PPWG) was initially formed in 2006 to develop a Pandemic Response Plan for the entire University.

Since establishing the Pandemic Preparedness guidelines, the group has expanded its focus, and is now known as the Infectious Diseases Preparedness Working Group.

Recognizing that various campuses may have different risks, the comprehensive plan incorporates specific responses for each campus as appropriate. This plan, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pays specific attention to planning and coordination, continuity of operations, infection control policies and procedures, and communications planning.

In 2014, the group re-convened as the Infectious Diseases Preparedness Working Group. As situations evolve, the working group, with the support of the University's Institutional Biosafety Committee, monitors global, national and local conditions, provides technical and medical support, and modifies the existing pandemic plan as needed.

The initial pandemic response draft plan was presented to, and approved, in Fall 2006, by the Institutional Biosafety Committee, the Institutional Health and Safety Council, the Council of Deans (chaired by the Provost), and both the Emergency Management Plan Team (at CUMC) and the Emergency Management Operations Team (at Morningside). The working group also has requested and received input from local experts such as Dr. Jacqueline Vorenkamp (representing the New York Presbyterian Hospital) and Dr. Kristine Gebbie, R.N., Professor at the School of Nursing. We thank all who have contributed to this plan.

General Principles

  • Protect the community and reduce the number of illness cases and deaths
  • Provide essential care for ill students
  • House and support students who cannot leave campus
  • Maintain critical operations and support services
  • Support continuity of critical research functions and the laboratory research enterprise
  • Communicate with faculty, staff and students on a regular basis, and provide the best information sources

The Infectious Diseases Preparedness Working Group (IDPWG) 

  • Stephen S. Morse, Ph.D., FAAM, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology; Founding Director, Center for Public Health Preparedness; Chairperson, Institutional Biosafety Committee
  • Kathleen Crowley, PA-C, MPH, DrPH, Associate Vice President, Environmental Health and Safety
  • Melanie Bernitz, MD, MPH, Associate Vice President and Medical Director, Columbia Health

The working group recognizes that in order to develop a comprehensive plan and respond to specific public health threats, it is necessary to have input from and to coordinate services with numerous departments throughout the University. Thus, close working relationships have been established with operational units such as the Office of the Provost, Public Safety, Housing, Facilities, Columbia Health, Communications and others.