In case you missed it, the Washington Post recently did a story on Fellow for Life Dr. William Fischer II (Lambaréné, 2003) and his work fighting the Ebola outbreak that has already claimed the lives of more than 700 people, including many health care workers. Meanwhile, Fellow for Life Dr. Nahid Bhadelia (Boston, 2001-2002) will be heading to western Africa in mid-August to help fight Ebola, as WBUR recently reported, and there is a note on the CDC website about Fellow for Life Dr. Meredith Dixon’s (Pittsburgh, 2006-2007; Lambaréné, 2008) deployment to Guinea in her role as a CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer.
When we talk about building a “corps of leaders in service,” through the Schweitzer Fellowship program, this is exactly what we mean.
In taking on this work, Fischer and Bhadelia put themselves at considerable risk. The Washington Post detailed the precautions Fischer takes daily to work with those stricken with Ebola:
By the time Billy Fischer left the Ebola treatment center in Gueckedou, Guinea, early last month, he could complete the meticulous preparation routine in his sleep.
First, he donned the scrubs. Then, he pulled on a pair of thick rubber boots that came up to his knees. Then, he put on a body suit made of an impermeable material, two pairs of gloves, a face mask, an impermeable hood that covered his neck and―finally―goggles.
In the tropical Guinea heat and humidity, it was suffocating. But it also kept him alive.
“You lose about three to five liters of sweat, then you spend the next two hours hydrating before you go back in,” Fischer, a doctor, said in an interview. “It limits the care you can provide, but it saves your life.”
Fischer has been working in an isolation area in Gueckedou, Guinea, since May as part of a team from Doctors without Borders to try to reduce mortality from the Ebola virus in rural communities. His dispatches from Africa are available from the online newsroom of UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine, where Fischer is a pulmonologist and critical care physician.
Bhadelia, the director of infection control at Boston’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory and a hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center, has expertise in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Though she is not without concern for her safety, her desire to help stem the Ebola outbreak clearly outweighs her fears.
“I think it’d be cavalier not to have a healthy amount of fear, but it’s that fear that drives us to be careful and to follow the protocols,” she told WBUR. “I have extensive training and I have a background in infectious disease and particularly with these pathogens.
“I’m reminded of the Hillel quotation, ‘If not me, then who, and if not now, then when?’” Bhadelia added. “The need is great. The health care workers are overwhelmed, and more help can make it safer for everyone involved.”
We wish Fischer and Bhadelia much luck, and thank them for their service!