Dr. Inger Damon has served as the Ebola incident manager for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Emergency Operations Center since July 30.
In this role, Damon headed up the CDC's response to the Ebola outbreak that has plagued West Africa for a year.
Although Damon had experience leading the CDC's poxvirus and rabies branch, the scope of the Ebola outbreak needed a different type of leadership than her position held.
“I’ve had to learn how to step back and take a higher level view, to get more skilled at delegating and learning from others,” Damon said. “My job as incident manager is to gather information on all the many different aspects of the Ebola epidemic, identify gaps and needs, and provide continuity and leadership from this seat.”
One of the major challenges that the relief efforts faced was a bottlenecking of qualified health care personnel who had been trained to handle Ebola.
The solution to this shortage of health workers was the augmentation of Doctors Without Boarders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) training efforts by opening treatment training facilities in Anniston, Alabama. The training center will have sent 333 volunteers to West Africa by the end of 2014.
In addition, there are educational efforts in the affected countries to help communities manage and curb infections.
The discussion is now how to bring about the elimination of the disease once the number of new infections begins to taper off.
“We’re beginning to see the impact of some of these interventions,” Damon said. “I think it’s most evident now in Liberia; I think it’s been evident for a while in Guinea. And we really are thinking about the next stage – where we've plateaued in terms of new cases, we can now think about how to begin to eliminate this disease.”