Published November 26, 2014
“We have no reason to fear Ebola here in the United States, but the situation in West Africa is a grave humanitarian crisis,” Myron L. Glick, MD, told a standing room-only crowd of University at Buffalo medical students and residents shortly after returning from Sierra Leone.
Glick is helping to establish a new primary care clinic in the hard-hit Kono district near the Liberian border.
Glick encouraged audience members to put science —“the facts”— before their fear.
“Because of our strong health care infrastructure and our resources, Ebola will never be an epidemic here; it will only ever be an episodic illness,” he said.
In contrast, “there is so much suffering” where the outbreak is spreading, Glick noted.
Glick is the founder and chief medical officer of Buffalo’s Jericho Road Community Health Center, which serves low-income patients, including resettled refugees from more than 60 countries.
Working with local and global partners, Jericho Road is sponsoring the clinic in Kono, set to open in January. The clinic was planned before the Ebola outbreak to provide critically needed services in an area with one hospital, three doctors and 540,000 people.
Ebola has not only devastated a woefully inadequate health care system, it has created a dismal living environment for West Africans. Glick witnessed a community where touching is taboo, all schools are closed, public gatherings are discouraged, food prices are skyrocketing and only one airline is still in service.
People are living under martial law, with myriad restrictions: a strict curfew, no soccer and a minimum two-day wait for funerals after a death. Many are afraid to see a doctor.
To contain and eradicate Ebola, “the world needs to focus all available resources toward West Africa, where health care volunteers are desperately needed,” Glick said.
“Those who do volunteer should be supported, recognized and encouraged, and when they come home, they should be treated based on science — not ignorance and fear,” he added.
Throughout his two-week stay in Africa, Glick never treated patients, yet he monitored and reported his health status upon returning home. Despite these precautions, he encountered those who feared he might contaminate them due to their own lack of knowledge.
At the Jericho Road center, UB medical students receive clinical training and engage in service learning, and family medicine residents complete a rotation in underserved and refugee care. UB medical trainees at all levels participate in various service trips abroad to assist patients in underdeveloped nations.
“It’s wonderful that UB has excellent role models like Dr. Glick,” noted David M. Holmes, MD, clinical associate professor of family medicine and director of global health education.
“Many UB students and residents are interested in global health and have a strong desire to care for those with significant needs. Many of our graduates are actively caring for underserved people all around the world.”
“I hope students and residents learn about both challenges and rewards in global health,” added Holmes, a board member at Jericho Road.
“The challenges, which can be frustrating and discouraging, take dedication, perseverance and creativity to overcome.”
Yet, “serving in medically underserved communities is worthwhile and very rewarding,” he said. “When I work where I’m needed, it helps both the patients and me.”