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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Dean Serves as Adviser in U.S. State Department Health Inquiry

Dean and Distinguished Professor Ron Brookmeyer served on the federal panel that reported this month on possible causes of illnesses among U.S. government personnel and their families in overseas postings

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Date: 
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Dean and Distinguished Professor Ron Brookmeyer served on the federal panel that reported this month on possible causes of illnesses among U.S. government personnel and their families in overseas postings.

The 76-page report - An Assessment of Illness in U.S. Government Employees and Their Families at Overseas Embassies – was published Dec. 5 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). Brookmeyer, a distinguished professor of biostatistics at the Fielding School, was one of 19 experts, ranging from physicians to electrical engineers, who served on the report committee.

“Government personnel and their families at the U.S. embassy in Havana, Cuba, in late 2016, and later at the U.S. consulate in Guangzhou, China, began suffering from a range of unusual — and in some cases suddenly occurring — symptoms such as a perceived loud noise, ear pain, intense head pressure or vibration, dizziness, visual problems, and cognitive difficulties, and many still continue to experience these or other health problems,” NASEM said in a statement. “… among the mechanisms the committee considered, directed, pulsed radio frequency energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases, especially in individuals with the distinct early symptoms.”

Brookmeyer provided his expertise in on the biostatistical and epidemiological aspects of the inquiry. This included reviewing the available epidemiological data, and helping assess whether the cases could have occurred by chance.

“We made recommendations about the importance of improving public health surveillance for personnel in the Department of State who are serving overseas,” Brookmeyer said. “Going forward, the United States needs to improve data collection and analysis to understand if and when there is a cluster of cases of a new disease, and to respond more quickly to public health emergencies.”


The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 631 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.