Dr. Ribner, as a physician and epidemiologist, has had a unique task in his work with these patients. He has orchestrated not only patient care in Emory’s biocontainment unit, but also the behind-the-scenes work that contributes to patient care. The presence of these Ebola patients created some new and unique circumstances for the hospital: no freight companies wanted to deliver specimen samples to or from EUH in spite of state-of-the-art packaging; the hospital lab staff was uncomfortable testing samples; the company responsible for disposing of patient linens would not pick up these patients’ used items; and the Atlanta sanitation department was uncomfortable with patient waste being disposed of in a normal manner, to list only a few of many examples. In spite of Emory’s incredible biocontainment unit and stringent infectious disease protocols, the fear resulting from the media seemed to be the overriding factor in decision-making. In fact, Dr. Ribner has seen so much media over-hype that he showed us an entire PowerPoint slide covered with Ebola-related news articles, where each title was more ridiculous than the last.
In the hours following Dr. Ribner’s presentation, Emory received its fourth Ebola patient. Students in our class walked out of the lecture and immediately saw a blockade of police cars, ambulances, and news trucks surrounding the hospital as the patient was transferred into the biocontainment unit. We have since heard countless news stories about this patient and Emory’s three other Ebola patients and Dr. Ribner’s name has been mentioned endlessly. Everyone in the Emory community seems to feel a great deal of pride that it was our university that has accomplished these feats, but Dr. Ribner has stayed humble and is using every experience to learn and better prepare for his next patient. He and the entire Emory Healthcare team are exemplary.
Alison Ohringer is a senior at Emory University majoring in Human Health and minoring in Spanish. Her passions converged this year in the form of my Senior Honors Thesis: Infectious Disease in Argentina. After Emory, she looks forward to getting her MPH and then her MD and utilizing her Spanish and public health backgrounds to practice medicine abroad.