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Date: 2016-05-14
Title: Division Senior Advisor Works to Eradicate Ebola in Liberia

Dr. Mardia Stone is a Senior Advisor at the MGH Division of Global Psychiatry and a public health and medical expert with extensive national and international experience. Here she shares her experiences as the Senior Advisor to the Incident Manager/Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health Emergencies, working to contain and end the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Dr. Stone is a native of Liberia and has been working on the Ebola response since August 2014. Featured on left: Dr. Mardia Stone (L) and Dr. Mosoka Fallah at an Ebola survivors' meeting in Liberia.

Being a part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Ebola Response Team since August 2015 has been one of the highlights of my experience as a public health specialist. I am currently on assignment in Liberia, as the Senior Advisor to the Incident Manager/Deputy Minister of Health for Public Health Emergencies, the Honorable Tolbert G. Nyenswah. Prior to this, beginning in August 2014, I worked under the umbrella of the Liberian Incident Management System (IMS) as an advisor to the Incident Manager, when the case escalation and fatality rate were at their peak. People were getting infected and dying at rapid speed and Liberia felt like it was headed for doomsday. At least, that was the global perspective.

What is interesting, though, is that, realizing that they could indeed all die from Ebola, Liberians themselves initially took charge to save their own lives. Later, with the assistance of international agencies and much good will, they learned how to contain Ebola and were declared free of transmission in the human population by the WHO in May 2015. Since then, there have been three smaller outbreaks, with the most recent case confirmed on March 31, 2016. I was there again for the last two outbreaks. The response toward containment was rapid and all contacts were traced in record time and at record speed, with Dr. Mosoka Fallah (a former staff member at the MGH Division of Global Psychiatry) leading the Contact Tracing and Case Investigation team. For contacts running away and hiding due to fear of stigma, Fallah was a force to reckon with. I truly have enjoyed working with him.

Needless to say, the mental health situation in Liberia following two decades of civil war (which lasted from 1989-2003) was grim. Now, post Ebola, it is even worse, with many having experienced Ebola personally, either by being infected and surviving or having lost their entire families to the virus. It will be an uphill battle from here. Dr. Benjamin Harris, a longtime collaborator of the Global Division, is still the only practicing psychiatrist in Liberia. Clearly, the psychosocial burden of the disease has been tremendous, especially for Ebola survivors. With WHO support, we have drafted an Ebola Survivors’ Care and Support Policy (soon to be finalized) and have just published Ebola Clinical Care Guidance.

From Obstetrics and Gynecology to Public Health, professionally, this is my niche, where I really feel I belong.

More about Dr. Stone:

Dr. Stone received her MD from the Boston University School of Medicine and her MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. She completed her residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Stone was a member of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Presidential Transition Team in Liberia, chairing the Transition Team on Health and Social Welfare. Dr. Stone is the author of Konkai: Living Between Two Worlds.