Today I spent my first day orienting at Partners In Health, in Boston.  In three days, I and my 1/2 dozen new colleagues, and fellow adventurers, will be travelling to Sierra Leone, to assist with eradicating the remaining Ebola outbreak that was so much in the news last summer and fall (and has so remarkably disappeared from the media radar in recent months).

I have been preparing for this journey for several months, but, until I boarded the plane on Tuesday, I didn’t quite think it was really happening. It’s involved a lot of coordinating with my work at University of Maryland, with my family, and with my community, to make this happen, and, frankly, I have frequently questioned why I’m doing this.  I have frequently been challenged on why I am doing this.  It’s a great question.  It was one of the first questions asked of us this morning by one of the staff members who guided us through most of this first day.  She asked us “What motivated each of you to come here and volunteer?”

We each had variations on the theme of “There is a need, and we know someone needs to respond.  We are clinicians, and we may have skills to help.”  For me, personally, I had been receiving emails from the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), requesting clinicians to help with USAID‘s response to the crisis.  I had been deleting them until one morning, in late September, when I happened to open an email after hearing the WHO updates on the frightening numbers of cases that were predicted based on the latest epidemiological models at that time.

IDSA emailI checked with my boss.  I checked with my husband.  They both said “If you feel moved to act, then do it.”

So I did.  And here I am.  With a little trepidation, and a little (more than a little) guilt at the burden I’m placing on my family and coworkers to cover my roles at home while I’m gone.  I am deeply grateful to everyone who is supporting me and my family.

One thing that is clear to me from this first day of orienting at PIH – the organization that I am joining in this effort embodies my values and sense of obligation that has moved me to take this step.  Health is human right, as it says boldly on their website.  I have always believed that, and I believe that our obligation as a community – a global community – is to do all we can to ensure that the benefit of health and life are not restricted to those with money, but are available to all.  If you feel moved to help, I encourage you to visit www.pih.org, check out their work, and donate to help their good work.

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I don’t know how much I will be able to update here while I’m overseas, but will try to update as often as I can.