It takes a team to fight Ebola

Rob Fowler

Dr. Rob Fowler is the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award, given by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

While volunteering with the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2014, Dr. Fowler, internist and critical care physician at Sunnybrook, was one of the first international physicians to arrive in West Africa on the threshold of the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak. Watch the Royal College’s short tribute video to Dr. Fowler.

 Below, he shares his thoughts on the award, and on his time in West Africa.

It is wonderful that the Royal College celebrates humanitarian work performed by physicians and surgeons at home and around the world.

As Drs. Lucille Teasdale-Corti and her husband Piero Corti championed in their own life’s work at Lacor Hospital in Uganda, it is a great team that makes the greatest impact.

During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, I was fortunate to work alongside selfless Guinean, Sierra Leonean, Liberian and Pan-African clinicians. They risked their lives on a daily basis, and some unfortunately died as a result.

The work that Canadians did with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Red Cross, Save the Children, the Canadian Armed Forces and other organizations was an inspiration.

So many of my Sunnybrook colleagues give their time each year to work with MSF, Dignitas and other humanitarian organizations. Colleagues like Drs. Adrienne Chan, Neill Adhikari and Andy Simor, who went to West Africa to help care for patients with Ebola. They each spend part of every year in various East African countries helping to provide medical care and to teach.

At Sunnybrook, we also had one of the best functioning Ebola response teams for the care of returning travelers suspected of illness that I’ve seen anywhere – the hospital, infection prevention control, the team and team leaders (Robert Burgess and Trevor Hall) deserve enormous credit.

Individual Canadian colleagues deserve the thanks for all they have done and the examples they have set, including Drs. Neill Adhikari, Adrienne Chan, Paul Charlebois, Mike Christian, Paul Gully, Jan Hajek, Tim Jagatic, Ray Kao, Gary Kobinger, François Lamontagne, Bruce Lampard, James Lee, Lynn Johnston, Aleksandra Leligdowicz, Keren Mandelzweig, Denis Marion, Allison McGeer, Sharmistha Mishra, Srinivas Murthy, Andy Simor, Jim Strong, Ross Upshur, Abel Vanderschuren and so many others with whom I didn’t have the pleasure to meet directly.

Pictured above: Dr. Rob Fowler with members of the WHO Clinical Management Training and Mentorship Team in Freetown, Sierra Leone, December 2014

About the author

Dr. Rob Fowler

Dr. Rob Fowler