GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Her title is Director of Business Assurance for Corewell, formerly Spectrum Health.

In reality, Julie Bulson is in charge of predicting and dealing with outbreaks and disasters that land at the hospital’s doorstep.

“That could be anything from Ebola, that’s highly contagious, to COVID or SARS or any other emerging special pathogen that we don’t have a good cure for yet,” explained Bulson.  

Emergency preparedness is nothing new. The emphasis increased after 9/11 but was limited to the realm of possibilities.

COVID-19 changed that.

“Nobody could have envisioned something as large as what Covid ended up being,” said Bulson. “Some of the lessons we learned from that is to think big, and to almost over-prepare for what we might anticipate and really think through all of those possibilities.”

Now, a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will help Bulson and her team get ready for the next big health issue.

HHS has named Corewell a Regional Emerging Pathogen Treatment Center.

One of only 13 centers in the U.S., with the next closest in Minneapolis, the designation and grant will help Corewell staff up their game when it comes to the treatment of particles that get into the air and make people sick.

That may look like anything from purchasing additional personal protection equipment for health care workers, to creating more negative pressure treatment rooms that help control the spread of pathogens.

“Really looking at, strategically, what is the best case scenarios that we could have from construction or equipment perspectives,” said Bulson.

Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital will also benefit from the designation. 

Of the 13 regional centers, only DeVos and two other centers will be able to better handle pediatric cases. 

“That was a big plus from the grant perspective,” said Bulson.

The grant is making Grand Rapids part of the national strategy to dealing with the unexpected.

“This is just one added benefit to the community to ensure safety should there be another special pathogen that comes through,” said Bulson.