Students Intern at the CDC During the Ebola Response

by Ian Speers '17, Allessandra LeDoux '17, and Kristina Mani '16

March 16, 2015

During our ten-week internship, we were welcomed into the dynamic and fast-paced environment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the agency's largest emergency response in history: the fight against Ebola in West Africa. While the number of Ebola cases has been declining globally, the amount of effort directed to controlling the disease has been astounding to watch.

For the Ebola response, DGMQ consolidated a group of experts and frontline responders to form the Global Migration Task Force (GMTF). This task force is responsible for all travel-related aspects of the Ebola response. Enhanced entry screening not only identifies travelers who may be sick with Ebola or may have had an exposure to Ebola when they arrive in the United States, but also ensures that these travelers are directed to appropriate care and monitoring, if needed, and equips travelers to help them monitor themselves for symptoms and report to their health department for active monitoring.

As interns we worked toward a similar goal in our respective work, but we each fulfilled different roles. Allessandra LeDoux worked on the GMTF Check and Report Ebola Plus (CARE+) Program Evaluation Team in the CDC's Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The CARE+ Program educates travelers arriving in the U.S. from countries with Ebola outbreaks as they go through the entry screening process about how to monitor their health for 21 days and connect with their state or local health department. Allessandra transcribed and coded interviews of travelers arriving in the U.S. from countries with Ebola outbreaks, performed qualitative data analysis, and prepared a comprehensive report, which will be published.

Ian Speers worked as a Liaison Officer for the GMTF Domestic Assistance Team in the EOC and as the CARE+ Program State Coordinator. As Liaison Officer, he provided support to CDC's quarantine stations and Domestic Assistance Team. He worked to ensure that any travelers arriving in the U.S. from countries with Ebola outbreaks, who were not identified during entry screening, received the proper information and support and were connected with the appropriate state health department to complete their 21-day monitoring period.

Kristina Mani worked as a member of the GMTF Domestic Training Team in the EOC supporting ongoing entry screening training efforts. Prior to being deployed to the quarantine stations at the five U.S. entry screening airports, staff must be trained to screen travelers arriving from countries with Ebola outbreaks or to serve as part of the CARE+ Program. Kristina assisted in the facilitation of these weekly trainings. In addition, she was able to apply what she learned in training to the design and development of an infographic, created to alert travelers about what to expect during Ebola Entry Screening.

While our experiences were diverse, we came away with several shared lessons learned. First, we developed an appreciation for the importance of constant internal communication. This is especially true as the expansive network of the Ebola response bridges countless agencies, organizations, and partners. There is a constant effort to keep everyone on the same page, with an efficient centralized leadership structure in place, daily team meetings, and regular division- and agency-wide meetings.

Second, the importance of communication extends outside of the individuals immediately involved in the response, as the CDC works to educate the public, providers, volunteers, and countless others. Furthermore, a willingness to adapt to whatever situation comes your way is paramount, as you can never truly be prepared for what may arise in an emergency situation.

Every day at the CDC we were inspired by the passion of everyone involved in the response and impressed by the impact they are having on this outbreak—protecting those within and beyond our borders. We are proud to have contributed to CDC's mission in our own ways, and we thank everyone whose guidance and support truly made us feel like part of the team. We are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked in CDC's Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, and for the support of Dartmouth's John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding in providing this opportunity.