Lao PDR celebrates eight field epidemiology training graduates

VIENTIANE, LAO PDR — The U.S. Embassy to the Lao PDR Chargé d’Affaires, Ms. Joy Sakurai, joined Dr. Snong Thongsna, chairman of the Vice Minister of Health, at a commencement ceremony for eight graduates of the Field Epidemiology Training (FET) program cohort 13. The graduation was held at the Crowne Plaza hotel, in presence of Dr. Ying-Ru Lo, WHO Representative to Lao PDR, and Dr. Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, Director of Lao FET/Director General of Department of Communicable Disease Control.

The Field Epidemiology Training (FET) program is supported by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USCDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2009 under management by the Lao Ministry of Health, Department of Communicable Disease Control (DCDC) and National Center for Laboratory and Epidemiology (NCLE).

“We are proud to see these graduates finish their training, and they are now prepared to help Lao PDR identify infectious diseases and prevent further outbreaks,” said U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Sakurai.

This FET program aims to strengthen infectious disease surveillance and response capacity in Laos. To date, 102 field epidemiologists have successfully completed this one-year training course, with 34 alumni from the national level, 51 from provincial level, and 17 from district level. The program enables Lao health officials to detect and respond to disease outbreak, especially COVID-19 and other emerging diseases. The FET trainees play an important role in the health sector contributing to communicable disease prevention and control. They undertake studies on current health situations and provide recommendations to policy makers to address and improve disease prevention and control measures. The FET trainees are also frontline workers or members of rapid response teams who take part in surveillance, investigating cases, tracing close contacts, and collecting samples.

“I am grateful to say that the FET program has played an important role in developing surveillance and response capacity in Lao PDR. The applied nature of the training has equipped graduates with practical skills to response to surveillance and disease outbreak investigation,” said Dr. Snong, the Vice Minister of Health.

“This memorable graduation day marks the years of investment by the Ministry of Health and partners in improving health security and advancing the core capacities of Internal Health Regulations. These efforts are well-evidenced by the success Lao PDR has shown in responding to COVID-19 and other health emergencies,” stated Dr. Ying-Ru Lo, WHO Representative to Lao PDR.

In 2019, as a part of the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Lao Ministry of National Defense created a shared goal of protecting Public Health and increasing Military Medical partnerships. The U.S. government has worked with UNICEF and the WHO to train Lao PDR’s doctors, nurses, immigration officers, and scientists to meet the challenge of COVID-19. The addition of these graduates’ expertise into Laos’ health sector is just the latest example of the tangible results of that commitment to build public health capacity and strengthen health emergency response in Lao PDR.