They say you are supposed to face your fears.
A Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania doctor is taking that phrase to the next level — traveling to Liberia this fall to join thousands of international health workers in their quest to contain the Ebola epidemic and provide those already inflected with supportive care.
Trish Henwood, the newly appointed Director of Global Health Initiatives in Emergency Medicine at HUP , splits her days between riding in ambulances, where she helps identify patients with Ebola symptoms, and providing supportive care to Ebola patients. This mostly involves helping patients keep their fluid levels up, inserting IVs and providing drugs to support blood pressure.
“She’s a doer, she can’t wait and watch things happen without getting involved — that’s just not her nature,” said Jill Baren, chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at HUP.
Henwood was planning for make trips to Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia on top of her regular shifts as an emergency-room clinician, but she rescheduled them to go to Liberia instead.
When Henwood approached Anthony Dean , the director of HUP’s Division of Emergency Ultrasonography , with a request to leave for Liberia, Anthony was concerned about missing her ER shifts. But despite understaffing, other doctors agreed to trade shifts with Henwood, and she will make up for them when she returns.
Anthony has worked with Henwood is the past, serving as a mentor and board member at Point-of-care Ultrasound in Resource-poor Environments . PURE educates African doctors in ultrasound treatment and has earned Henwood respect in the emergency medicine community. He says that Henwood’s Ebola work is characteristic of her mission to bring “sustainable improvement ... to people’s lives in resource-poor areas.”
Baren communicates with Henwood on an almost daily basis. Despite the risks associated with treating Ebola patients, Baren says that Henwood is properly trained in safety precautions and has maintained a positive attitude throughout. She cannot touch anyone, use public bathrooms or eat meals outside of her compound, where she uses her own utensils.
According to Baren, Henwood is “totally upbeat ... she’s not a complainer. She’s not talking about any personal discomfort.” Even before she left for Liberia, Henwood was “very organized and straightforward. I didn’t get the sense that she was nervous. She was very focused and businesslike.”
Henwood will return to Penn in mid-November. When she returns, she’ll have to follow a strict set of reporting procedures and be continually monitored for Ebola symptoms.
Henwood is not the only person from the Penn community helping treat Ebola in Liberia. Philip Kerkula Bemah, a native Liberian who received a Master in Environmental Studies in 2014 , is assisting the National Ebola Case Management Team.
Bemah’s friend and candidate for a master’s in environmental studies Edita Stuckey describes him as “one of the most humble people I have ever met. He is incredibly modest, doesn’t take credit for anything and downplays his role and achievements.” Bemah and Stuckey are working together to coordinate a relief effort including a shipment of desperately needed supplies.
Ebola has infected 10,141 people and killed at least 4,922, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO says there could be between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases each week by December.
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