The Foreign Service Journal, April 2022

AFSA NEWS 60 APRIL 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA President Speaks at Havana Syndrome Conference In the first symposium of its kind, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s department of psychiatry and the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute invited AFSA President Eric Rubin to speak on Feb. 10 about the impact of Havana syndrome on the Foreign Ser- vice and American diplomacy. The virtual conference, “Havana Syndrome: Medical, Scientific and Policy Per- spectives,” brought together speakers from health policy, media and victim advo- cacy. Speaking on behalf of AFSA, Amb. Rubin said in his keynote address that career public servants affected by this syndrome have struggled against “the constant drum- beat of skepticism.” “Several hundred of our colleagues reported very serious symptoms,” he said. “I don’t claim to know anything about causation. But it’s clear to me that people have suffered real trauma and real injury. It has dramatically hurt morale, our readiness, our ability to recruit new members and our retention. Failure to solve a mystery illness is not proof it doesn’t exist or that it is psychogenic in nature.” He explained that AFSA has been working hard for its members to ensure they receive the help and support they need while advocating measures to protect others who may be at risk. AFSA is also pushing the govern- ment to make the process of reporting anomalous health incidents simpler and more standardized. “We’re pleased by recent developments at State, including the appointments of [Ambassadors] Jonathan Moore and Margaret Uyehara to lead the response task force and coordinate care,” Rubin said. “But we still find that our bureaucracy is not transpar- ent, and that State is not willing to share information, even when the employees involved have asked them to. There needs to be a stronger interagency effort, not just in establishing causation but also in providing care.” AFSA was consulted by senior congressional staff and members of both chambers to develop the Havana Act, Rubin said, but in application, the legisla- tion needs to be broader and more inclusive. “This is a critical moment. It’s never easy to serve our country overseas, and it’s gotten harder,” Rubin stated. “Were adequate steps taken to respond and protect our people? That’s our agenda, and we’ll be pursuing it: tak- ing care of our people and ensuring that people want to join and stay in public service through the Foreign Service.” The event was billed as the most comprehensive discus- sion about the unexplained medical condition presented from a scientific perspective, highlighting the critical role of clinical research in under- standing and treating victims of Havana syndrome. It also emphasized the importance of public-private partnerships between U.S. government entities and academic medical centers in addressing complex 21st-cen- tury biomedical challenges. Also speaking were Marc Polymeropoulos, retired CIA officer and advocate for Havana syndrome victims; Greg Myre, national security correspondent for NPR; Daniel Hoffman, national security analyst for Fox News; Jeffrey Staab, chair of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic; and Dr. Kenneth Dekleva, a former State Department medical officer and psychiatrist who is leading an effort at UT Southwestern to coordinate research on Havana syn- drome. n UTSOUTHWESTERNMEDICALCENTER/ADRIÀFRUITÓS Daily Chatter Offers AFSA Discount The largest email newsletter devoted exclusively to world news is offering a special discount for AFSA members. Smart, succinct and nonpartisan, Daily Chatter delivers global news directly to your inbox every weekday at 6 a.m. ET. The first year of your subscription provides 260 issues for $19.56, which includes a 30 percent discount. Sign up for a free four-week trial and the subscription at n NEWS BRIEF