Many scientists, clinicians, staff and learners at the CoM make enormous contributions to our worldwide community every day. Community service is an incredibly important thing that defines what universities do and certainly that is so here at the CoM.
I had done an earlier blog on the contributions to our community by our students. However this fall one particular contribution stands out in my mind as quite remarkable and deserving of our acknowledgement and collective thanks and admiration.
Dr. Bruce Reeder from our Department of Community Health and Epidemiology spent this fall in Liberia working with Medecins Sans Frontieres helping control the outbreak of Ebola in that country.
Below is Bruce’s brief and modest account of his courageous and significant contribution to the health of our global community.
This fall, from Sept 23 – Nov 4, I worked as a medical epidemiologist with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the rural northern region of Liberia on the effort to control the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease.
I joined a team of 25 international and 250 national staff delivering a comprehensive control program in the county in conjunction with personnel from the Ministry of Health. We provided clinical care in a 100 bed Ebola treatment centre; an outreach team focused on case detection and transportation, the provision of safe burials, the reinforcement of existing health structures; others of us detected the contacts of confirmed cases and ensured they were monitored for the 21 day incubation period of the disease; a community engagement team worked closely with community leaders to provide accurate, culturally sensitive information on the disease, its treatment and prevention.
The work was intense: 7 days a week from 7 am to 9 pm most days, but the team was of excellent caliber and everyone’s motivation was high to get on top of the outbreak. In this region of the country, in fact the incidence of the disease has steadily declined since September. Smiles are returning to the faces of local residents and you again hear music in the streets.
I was pleased to play a small part in this international effort. Canada is playing a prominent role through the development and testing of potential vaccines, the provision of BSL 4 laboratory support, and supply of volunteers like myself. The spread of the epidemic is now decreasing throughout Liberia, but continues to grow at an alarming rate in Sierra Leone and is not yet under control in Guinea. Intense efforts will almost certainly be required for at least another 6-12 months, and in the long term, solid support is needed from the international community to reinforce health systems and infrastructure throughout the region.