Gore named to committee on worker health overseas

John Gore, director of the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science, has been appointed to a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine standing committee to advise the Department of State on unexplained health effects on U.S. government employees and their families at overseas embassies.

John Gore

The committee was assembled following concerns surrounding a 2018 report of 21 U.S. government employees working in Havana, Cuba, who developed unexplained neurological symptoms which may have been caused by acoustic trauma, though variability of reported symptoms and individual assessments have made it challenging to draw conclusions.

Comprised of a pool of national experts in medicine, engineering and science, the committee will discuss best practices with the Department of State Bureau of Medical Services on pre- and post-assignment health screening, medical interventions, risk assessment and exposure mitigation for overseas locations that may present a higher risk of adverse health effects.

The group also will discuss the current cases of potential acoustic trauma to better understand possible causes.

“I am pleased to be asked to provide expertise on the reliability and interpretation of the imaging studies that have been conducted so far,” said Gore, Hertha Ramsey Cress Professor of Medicine and University Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Physics and Astronomy and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at Vanderbilt University.

“The study is important because it may reveal either some new type of weapon has been realized or that some other type of exposure to a toxic agent can cause neurological effects that are visible in images. It seems urgent to assess the magnitude of the potential risk to those serving our interests overseas and to identify screening methods that can identify subtle effects early.”

The committee will keep the Department of State up-to-date on emerging concerns, interventions and protective measures and assist with optimization of screening protocols, including a review of appropriate baseline testing that may be helpful when common symptoms are reported among multiple personnel.

Gore has served formerly as a member of the National Advisory Council for Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering at the National Institutes of Health.

His research interests include the development and application of imaging methods for understanding tissue physiology and structure, molecular imaging and functional brain imaging.

by Kelsey Herbers