Saturday, March 3, 2018

An Amazing Lecture: “A Day in the Life of an Ebola Treatment Center,” by a Medical Professional Extraordinaire

Ten days ago, we had the true honor of having a consummate medical professional, Ms. Deborah "Debbie" Wilson, speak to my Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare class at the Isenberg School of Management. On February 22, 2018, we were educated and deeply inspired when she delivered the outstanding lecture: “A Day in the Life of an Ebola Treatment Center.” Ms. Wilson is a nurse and recently received additional MSN/MPH degrees from Johns Hopkins University.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Wilson a few years ago, and reached out to her after I read her very honest and provocative Letter to the Editor in The New York Times.

She also contributed a refereed chapter published in our Springer 2016 Dynamics of Disasters book, entitled: "Ode to the Humanitarian Logistician: Humanistic Logistics Through a Nurse’s Eye," which the students had read, as part of the course, and they were very excited to meet her in person! Ms. Wilson spent 6 weeks battling Ebola in Liberia in the Fall of 2014 and has also returned to the country to meet with nurses. You can read another writeup on her experiences here.
Her incredible work with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders,  in extremely challenging healthcare environments brought out the critical importance of nursing as well as logistical support in patients' treatment and recovery from Ebola, along with the importance of understanding and being sensitive to the culture that one is working in.

She worked 12 hours a day, sweating profusely, while wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), to tend to her patients, one hour at a time. In fact, she inspired some of my recent research in game theory, freight service provision, and disaster relief with a case study on PPEs and Ebola.
During her time there, she subsisted primarily on white bread and french fries, and was involved in expanding the ETU (Ebola Treatment Unit) from 30 to 120 beds. The extremely challenging logistical issues included transport of needed supplies by air and boat, and over decrepit roads; the setting up of a water treatment facility and waste burning mechanisms, obtaining clean clothing for those who had recovered; the testing of the blood samples (initially it took 5 days); the preparation of body bags for burial (cremation is against the culture), to highlight just a few.

The impact that she made and her dedication to medical service around the world are extraordinary and she shared with us the photo of the smiling child below with a certificate of being cured of Ebola.
Interestingly, just three days before Ms. Wilson spoke in my class, BBC ran an article: "Life After Ebola,"which included many photos. We got to hear from someone who not only was there, but who saved lives, and has been back to focus on lessons learned.

Ms. Wilson answered numerous questions from the students.

Her courage, dedication, professionalism, and integrity are awe-inspiring and we are so grateful that she was able to give a lecture that we will never forget.

And a special thank you to my doctoral student, Mojtaba Salarpour, for taking the above photos since I had left my cellphone charging at home that day.