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First Person Alumnus
Jeffrey Kuhlman, U.S. Navy, Physician and Resident, Occupational and Environmental Medicine

It used to be easy for Navy officers assigned to the White House to think they were out of harm’s way. Jeffrey Kuhlman found out otherwise on September 11, 2001.

I didn’t apply to be the Navy’s White House physician. Actually, I didn’t seek the job. But the Navy doesn’t want someone who wants the job, because that person might not have the right motives.

I started in January of 2001. On September 11th, the president was down in Florida. I was on duty at the White House. My job was just to get down to the secure area right away. I actually got there before the vice president did.

Right after that there were the anthrax attacks on the Senate office building. Then at the Brentwood mail facility, where the mail for the White House goes through. My job was to take care of some of the clinical aspects, treating people with cipro and with shots.

We created a crisis response network. As time went on there was a lot of thinking about different biological agents—plague, viral hemorrhagic fever, smallpox. From my vantage point I got some insights into how the experts were dealing with the practical aspects of the threats. I must say, I was underwhelmed. So that’s one reason I wanted to do an MPH: I wanted to get the tools. I thought that instead of being critical of everyone else, the thing to do was to join them and help the fight.

I’m also here at Hopkins to do a residency in occupational medicine. Occupational physicians are going to be in a great position to recognize hazards and implement prevention strategies—to secure your building, to protect your indoor air and your food supplies. You know, the government is not going to solve all of our problems. It’s going to be a matter of education. It’s going to be a matter of getting rid of complacency.