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ORAU Hosts East Tennessee Government, Economic Leaders with the Goal of Strengthening Communities

Program Highlights Importance of Environmental Cleanup, Workforce Development, 2009 H1N1 Influenza Preparedness

Nov. 19, 2009

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) recently hosted area government and economic leaders to stress the company's desire to partner with them to have a significant, positive impact on those communities located within its own backyard.

The program was the first in a series of community programs and was focused on generating awareness around the importance of environmental cleanup, workforce development and 2009 H1N1 influenza preparedness.

"With many of us sensitive to our nation's economy, there has never been a better time to examine the ways in which we can make our communities economically stronger, physically safer and more conducive for maintaining a talented workforce," said ORAU President and CEO Andy Page. "In recognizing that many of ORAU's employees reside in the cities and counties surrounding Oak Ridge, we have a strong motivation for assisting in the advancement of the economic viability and safety of our region."

More than 13,000 people from counties all throughout East Tennessee are currently employed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) programs, facilities and contractors like ORAU. Because those figures help define Oak Ridge as a regional city, ORAU invited nearly 30 representatives from local county governments, federal agencies, and regional economic development groups to learn how partnerships with ORAU can promote stronger, better educated and environmentally safe communities.

ORAU Acting Vice President of Independent Environmental Assessment and Verification Sarah Roberts, spoke with program attendees about ORAU's environmental assessment and independent verification of cleanup work for both DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"The independent verification of environmental cleanups has been an integral aspect of the work performed by the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission," said Roberts. "However, beyond Oak Ridge, we also recognize that many other East Tennessee counties have similar questions about environmental cleanup activities in their own cities." 

In addition to environmental surveys and independent verification of cleanup, ORAU also provides a wide range of health physics services including laboratory-based courses that can help educate workers in other East Tennessee counties about radiation safety, environmental monitoring and air sampling for radioactive materials.

Expanding upon workforce training to include the advancement of science- and math-based education, ORAU Associate Director of Science Education Programs Dr. Timothy Forde highlighted ORAU's partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to give students, faculty and postdoctoral participants access to the lab's world-class user facilities. The ORAU Center for Science Education is home to a state-of-the-art classroom which includes video conferencing capabilities and the latest information and communication technologies that enable teachers and students to engage in authentic research with scientists from DOE laboratories and other federal research centers.

Forde also discussed ORAU's expanding mission to target K-12 education and inspire young students to pursue science and engineering careers. Participants learned about ORAU's Extreme Classroom Makeover, which highlights the need to for teachers to have access to current technologies to better teach a new generation of students. With intent-to-apply applications currently being accepted for the 2010 Extreme Classroom Makeover, attendees were asked to encourage educators from their respective counties to compete to be the next winner of the $25,000 technology makeover.

ORAU Hosts East Tennessee Government, Economic Leaders with the Goal of Strengthening Communities

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Associate Director of Science Education Programs Dr. Timothy Forde (pictured left) led a demonstration of a virtual frog dissection using the SMART Board technology located within the ORAU Center for Science Education classroom. Through the state-of-the-art classroom, ORAU enables teachers and students to engage in authentic research with scientists from DOE laboratories and other federal research centers. Workforce development, environmental assessments and H1N1 preparedness for communities were among the topics discussed at the program hosted at ORAU's Center for Science Education.

ORAU rounded out the program by providing basic information about two other projects with local and regional resonance. ORAU's Health Communication and Technical Training Programs is assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in message development for the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic. ORAU Health Education Specialist Linda Hodges provided basic information about the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine and answered questions about its availability, differences between the nasal mist and flu shot, as well as whether those who received the original swine flu vaccine in 1976 should have any immunity for this latest outbreak.

In the final presentation, ORAU Director of Occupational Exposure and Worker Health Programs Dr. Donna Cragle spoke about how ORAU is partnering with medical toxicologists from Vanderbilt University Medical Center to administer free medical screenings for those residents affected by the December 2008 TVA fly ash spill. Cragle reported that 260 individuals have signed up for the screening and preliminary results of the first phase should be available in February.

At the end of the program, all attendees participated in a discussion and were given the chance to ask questions and explore partnering opportunities with ORAU.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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