When my book club decided to read “The Premonition” and I found out it was about the pandemic, I discovered that I was TIRED OF READING ABOUT THE PANDEMIC.
But, I underestimated Michael Lewis’s skill as a storyteller. I guarantee that you have not heard these stories. Not about Dr. Charity Dean, Santa Barbara County’s Public Health Officer. Not about the Wolverines, a shadow organization comprised of current and former federal government employees connecting resources and brainstorming ideas. Not about the fundamental structural problems and failures with the CDC since 1976.
I was entranced and raced through this book. It was complementary to the things I thought knew about the pandemic, having just lived through it.
The CDC does not come out smelling like roses. Neither do most federal agencies with political appointments. And Lewis dives into it incisively, following these personal tales where they lead.
He ends with a hopeful note, that Dr. Dean has left public service to found a private sector company called “The Public Health Company.” Maybe if the feds, our public health infrastructure, and the CDC cannot act effectively, those who DID act effectively in 2020 can become a consulting firm to private industry (there is immediate demand among large international companies for such services, advice and protection) and eventually support the federal government if we do not fix our pandemic responsiveness, when the next pandemic (and yes, it is coming) arrives.
CMIO’s take? I have new respect for public health officers. I have new respect for the CDC prior to 1976 and hope that this book points us to lessons on how to re-invigorate our federal institutions, and make them effective again. This is very readable, and worth your read.