On Thursday, January 29, a group of 62 Cushing students traveled to Boston to attend the Global Response to Emerging Infections Symposium at Harvard Medical School. This unique opportunity was made possible by Gregory Ciottone, MD, FACEP, Director of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Fellowship in Disaster Medicine and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School; and Amalia Voskanyan, RN, Co-Director BIDMC Fellowship in Disaster Medicine; parents of Vigen ’16 and Robert ’17.
The Cushing delegation, comprised of Cushing Scholars and students in ethics and select biology classes, joined top scholars and boots-on-the-ground practitioners in the fields of crisis leadership, epidemiology, humanitarian, and disaster medicine. Guest speakers discussed such topics technology and community engagement in the Ebola response, the ethical dilemmas in the Ebola crisis, and the challenges to global threats from an NGO perspective.
“It’s terrifying working with the Ebola virus,” said Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner, Assistant Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, Penn State University, on his experiences with response teams in Nigeria. “Ebola is the one that scares me.” Through first-hand experiences, he chronicled what it was like donning the personal protective equipment, how his team worked to establish communication response teams, and the major role that video conferencing has played in connecting health workers to one another and accessing data.
Following the lunch break, students were greeted by the Honorable Mr. Jeremiah C. Sulunteh, Liberia Ambassador to the United States. He shared with students his personal story as a child in Liberia with no running water, no electricity, and no roads. Through perseverance and discipline, he attended school and university, and then raised the money to build a school for children in his village. “I share this story with you to say this: everywhere you go in life and in the world, there are different challenges. Listen. Be disciplined. Always remember the opportunities you have.”
When asked to share their thoughts on the day’s experience, students were quick to respond. “This conference was an amazing opportunity to hear from people who have experienced the tragedy of Ebola firsthand and are making a difference,” said Caroline Fital ’17.” For Breton Lorway ’17: “The biggest takeaway was to never take anything for granted.”