GUMC Helps Spearhead Campus-wide Symposium On Ebola Crisis

Posted in GUMC Stories

SEPTEMBER 25, 2014—Georgetown hosted an interdisciplinary symposium on the rapidly growing Ebola epidemic in West Africa, underscoring its ability to address multiple dimensions of the crisis, including medical, legal, ethical, political and security issues.

The Sept. 23 event included remarks via Skype from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, which is being ravaged by the Ebola virus.

Georgetown University Medical Center (new window) (GUMC) and the School of Foreign Service (new window) partnered with the Law Center, the McCourt School, Georgetown College’s biology department, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research and the Office of the President to create yesterday’s symposium.

“Georgetown has the privilege to convene public leaders, great thinkers and seasoned practitioners to explore and examine critical global health issues that lie at the intersection of medical science and global policy,” says John Monahan (new window), an advisor to Georgetown President John J. DeGioia (new window) on global health and senior fellow at the university’s McCourt School of Public Policy. “The Ebola epidemic is more than a deadly virus, and combating it will require understanding the social, economic and security dimensions of this crisis.”

Global Implications

Daniel Lucey, MD (new window), adjunct professor of microbiology at GUMC, and Emily Mendenhall, PhD, MPH (new window), an SFS assistant professor, served as symposium co-chairs.

The professors recruited faculty members from across Georgetown and other universities to talk about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and its implications on a global scale. Jesse Bump, PhD, MPH (new window), assistant professor in the department of international health at the School of Nursing & Health Studies (new window), offered his perspective on the political, cultural and moral considerations of the epidemic.

Also featured at the symposium were Luciana Borio, MD, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s acting deputy chief scientist, and Elizabeth Cameron, PhD, White House National Security Staff.

Lucey, an infectious disease and public health physician, has traveled overseas since 2003 to work with colleagues and patients during and/or after outbreaks such as SARS in China and the bird flu in Indonesia and Egypt, MERS in Qatar and Jordan.

He now works with patients and doctors on the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Lucey noted that yesterday was one of several Georgetown symposia this year on international infectious disease outbreaks.

“[This] highlights the synergy of strengths that such cross-campus Georgetown events bring together to inform both students and policymakers,” explains Lucey, who has played an integral role in each of the symposia.

Good Case Study

President Johnson Sirleaf urged students to think academically when asked what the Georgetown community can do to help end the crisis.

“This would be a good case study,” she said. “See where we are today, look at the measures we are taking, study, conduct data analysis and two years from now present a paper and tell us, were the projections correct?”

SFS Interim Dean James Reardon-Anderson (new window) emphasized the importance of such symposia as an opportunity to look at the state of international affairs.

“The conduct and study of international affairs is changing,” he said, “from a preoccupation with states, nations and the relations among people and institutions, to a greater appreciation for the challenges posed by the forces of nature to all of humankind.”

“This change can be seen in the mounting shortages of water, food and other natural resources, in climate change, and now tragically in the threat of infectious disease,” he added.

Addressing the Issues

Georgetown experts, including Lucey, Kevin Donovan, MD (new window), Jesse Goodman, MD, MPH (new window), and John Kraemer (L’08), JD, MPH (new window), have been very active participants in the national and international discussion around the Ebola crisis.

A media teleconference (new window) in late August, for example, featured Georgetown experts on a wide variety of issues related to the Ebola virus, including Lucey, Donovan, Goodman and Larry Gostin (new window), faculty director of Georgetown’s O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law (new window) on legal implications.

In early September, the Law Center and the O’Neill Institute hosted a panel (new window) moderated by Monahan to examine the Ebola crisis with panelists Lucey, Gostin and Donovan, as well as outside experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

CSPAN (new window) covered the panel, which addressed the epidemiology of the outbreaks, legal and ethical issues relating to quarantine and new therapies and the emerging security and political issues of the crisis.