Academic medical centers partnering to provide health care, training and infrastructure in Liberia
By Sandra Gray and Bryan Goodchild
UMass Medical School Communications
With a $7.5 million grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, UMass Medical School will lead a team of academic partners to provide comprehensive relief efforts in Liberia, bringing doctors, nurses, and training and medical supplies to the Ebola-stricken country.
“We at the University of Massachusetts Medical School are grateful for the support of the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which will allow us to specifically work with our strategic partners on this grant and our Liberian colleagues to help stem the Ebola epidemic and strengthen Liberia’s fragile health care system,” said Chancellor Michael F. Collins. “Our academic collaborative has worked productively in the past with the Liberian leadership and health care workforce, and we look forward to continuing that partnership by engaging directly with our Liberian collaborators and providing on-the-ground relief, training and supplies.”
Built on a years-long relationship between UMMS and Liberia, the UMass Medical School Ebola Relief efforts funded by the grant are a new component of philanthropist Paul G. Allen’s increased commitment of at least $100 million to the Tackle Ebola campaign he has launched.
“UMMS will provide immediate relief on the ground through the provision of emergency medicine physicians, infectious disease specialists and disaster management teams to work with NGOs and provide expanded capacity for care at Ebola treatment facilities,” said Dune Ives, senior director of philanthropic initiatives for Vulcan Inc., which is Allen’s and his sister and business partner Jody Allen’s umbrella corporation comprising the Foundation and other entities.
“This collaboration capitalizes on the strong partnerships and relationships that UMMS and its academic partners have developed in Liberia to provide a multifaceted, cohesive response to the Ebola virus outbreak, and to provide critically needed routine health care to the people of Liberia,” said Katherine Luzuriaga, MD, professor of molecular medicine, pediatrics and medicine, director of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science, and vice provost for clinical and translational research.
Dr. Luzuriaga has led past UMMS efforts in Liberia, and worked with faculty to submit the grant proposal on behalf of the Academic Collaborative to Support Health Care Education in Liberia. Established in 2006, the collaborative comprises UMass Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, Mt. Sinai Medical School, the University of Florida Medical School, the University of Maryland Medical School and Vanderbilt University, and its newest member, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Transportation and Logistics.
Led by Patricia McQuilkin, MD, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at UMMS and a pediatrician at UMass Memorial Medical Center, and Michelle Niescierenko, MD, pediatric emergency physician and director of the Global Health Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, the UMass Medical School Ebola Relief initiative will:
- rapidly deploy emergency medicine, infectious disease and disaster management physicians; nurse practitioners; nurses; and other health care workers to provide direct medical care;
- provide training, mentoring, support and supplies to help district hospitals reopen;
- teach appropriate and safe techniques for patient care and lab work; and
- provide personal protective equipment and decontamination and laboratory supplies.
Earlier efforts by UMMS to help rebuild health care in Liberia include nurse and physician education and training in collaboration with the HEARTT (Health Education and Research through Training) Foundation; developing a pediatrics curriculum for a country with only two native-born pediatricians; and working with the Liberian Post-Graduate Council to develop a post-graduate training program.
UMMS has also worked with the University of Liberia and Indiana University to create the UL Center for Excellence in Health and Life Sciences, which, with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funding, has developed health science and public health academic programs; trained doctors, nurses and public health workers; installed a computer lab at Liberia’s medical school; and increased access to print and digital medical libraries.
Most recently, UMMS and clinical partner UMass Memorial Health Care have collected and delivered two shipments of personal protective equipment to West Africa since the current Ebola outbreak began.
All efforts under the new grant will adhere to extensive guidelines and training information issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect health care workers going to countries in West Africa in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, including guidelines for health care workers on their return to the US.
Visit umassmed.edu/ebola/ to learn how to contribute to the UMass Medical School Ebola Relief effort.