Eric Elliott holds his namesake, Aiah Eric, who passed away earlier this year from an infection (not related to Ebola). Eric Elliott West Austin Lions Club, Texas Epidemiologist Eric Elliott, 30, has been in Sierra Leone since 2015 fighting the Ebola outbreak. Working for Partners in Health, he also is helping reduce maternal mortality as well as managing HIV and tuberculosis treatment. Degrees from Texas A&M University and the University of Michigan School of Public Health Chief statistician for the Half-Helen Foundation, a nonprofit run by his sister and fellow Lion Chelsea to expand vision and hearing screenings Founder and president of high school Leo club Honeymoon Period Two months after my wife and I married, she was offered work with an NGO to counter Ebola and strengthen health systems in Sierra Leone. Within two weeks, we had sold our cars and packed our bags! The Danger Zone Is Ebola dangerous? Yes, absolutely. But Ebola outbreaks do not need to result in a widespread epidemic. Observing basic infection protection and control protocols—washing hands with chlorinated water and minimizing physical contact with individuals displaying symptoms—greatly reduces the chances of getting Ebola. Good Days … You can’t help but feel electrified after listening to how a patient who was near death has been able to resume working in order to support themselves and their families. … And Bad Days One of the biggest emotional challenges is when we hear stories of patients forgoing medical care to pursue care through traditional healers. While traditional healers are culturally respected, their intervention often delays critical medical care—assuming the patient ever makes it to a health care facility. Daily, we work to dispel [these] medical misconceptions. Staying Motivated Many of my Sierra Leonean colleagues are Ebola survivors, as well as individuals living with HIV or tuberculosis. When I need a reminder of why we deal with the daily struggles, I talk with them about their hopes and dreams. The powerful part is how little time they spend talking about themselves and how quickly the conversation turns to the ideas they have for helping people in their community. Lion's Strength My father [a member of the West Austin club, like sister Chelsea] claims I’ve been a Lion since the ripe old age of 2 months. From a young age, I’ve been ingrained with the principles of selfless service to community. Lionism shaped me to be aware of the needs that extend beyond my own nose. This principle drives me day in and day out through all the challenges of working in Sierra Leone. The End Game Unlike nearly all of my expatriate colleagues, Sierra Leone is my first stint living abroad. There isn’t much in the United States that preps you for living in rural Sierra Leone! But my wife and I plan to stay for a while. —Stacia Hernstrom Extra Digital Content Read about Chelsea Elliott and her Half-Helen Foundation, featured in the February 2016 LION.
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