Excerpt of Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle
(Page 4 of 6)
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Madison spoke quickly. "Thank you, but I think we can handle this here."
Gary Hammil said, "Jean--"
"We have access to the state labs," she interrupted. "We don't need to
call in the federal government."
A word about CDC's relationship with everybody else in medicine and
public health: our jurisdiction is everywhere and nowhere. Really. We
intervene only at the request of individual counties and states. If
there's no request, CDC stays out of it. And though there are a million
reasons why someone would want to ask for help from Atlanta, there are a
million reasons why they wouldn't, most of them having to do with
During my training in Atlanta, they drummed into us, over and over
again, the finer points of dealing with the locals. In general, we try
to tread very softly. It's not something I'm particularly good at. In my
evaluations over the previous year, "professional relations" was an area
that consistently contained the phrase needs improvement.
Hammil looked at me. "Dr. McCormick, we appreciate your offer of
I nodded. I nod when I'm not exactly sure what to say.
Madison sighed. "Well, it looks like we have the lab situation worked
out, for the time being, anyway. We'll use state." She turned to Verlach.
"Baltimore City will head the outbreak investigation?"
"Yes," Verlach said. "I already spoke to the commissioner. We'll call
state for more hands if we need to. Since Dr. McCormick is already here
and familiar with the city, I'm going to ask that he stay on for the
"I'd be happy to help," I said finally.
"I thought we agreed to rely on state," Dr. Madison said.
"For the labs, Jean, not for the investigation itself. Dr. McCormick is
more familiar with this situation than--"
"Having CDC involved is going to signal the press--"
"He's already here, so we can downplay the request. Besides, not having
him on board would seem like an oversight."
"I want to emphasize," I said, "CDC is here to help at your request.
Just as it was with setting up the surveillance program, we can be as
much or as little a presence as you want. The investigation and outbreak
control will all be locally led, as well as contacts with the press.
We'd also be happy to provide you with clinical expertise."
There was a long silence, and I knew I had just stepped into it somehow.
Jean Madison--the Consistently Aggrieved--finally blew. "Oh, come off
it. Clinical expertise?"
I stammered, "I'm merely offering assistance if you should need--"
"--if we should need clinical expertise. I know. Thank God you're there
I looked at my shoes, covered in light blue paper booties. I sighed.
Jean Madison let out a sharp little laugh. "What do you think we do
here, Dr. McCormick?"
"We have some of the finest staff in the city to--"
"Jean--" Dr. Hammil said.
from Isolation Ward by Joshua Spanogle Copyright © 2006 by
Joshua Spanogle. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Press, a
division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this
excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing
from the publisher.