CDC official visits campus, quells Ebola concerns

By Mary Dillard, Staff Writer

As a part of the “Talks by Professionals” series, the Career Services department recently welcomed Lieutenant Commander Neelam D. Ghiya, a public health officer at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to the Ogeechee Theatre to talk about what her agency does to prevent illness worldwide.

Upwards of 100 students and professors were there to hear Lieutenant Commander Ghiya speak. Most were involved in Armstrong’s public health degree program, and were interested in learning more about the CDC, their job description, possible career opportunities in the public health and medical fields, and of course, what the Center is doing to combat the current Ebola epidemic.

The proceedings took a slight turn towards controversy during the question and answer session, when Lieutenant Commander Ghiya was pressed by a student who made clear her concerns regarding the lack of travel restrictions on passengers returning from regions affected by Ebola by asking: “ When dealing with a disease that has such an extended incubation period, why aren’t there more restrictions on air travel?”

Lieutenant Commander Ghiya explained that those matters weren’t exactly up to her saying, “ It is very hard to tell other countries what to do…this is what epidemics are about. There are going to be slip-ups and mistakes, but we are trying our best”.

The Lieutenant Commander made sure to assuage the audience’s fear of illness. Throughout the talk she emphasized that ebola was not very contagious, and only contractible through direct contact with bodily fluids. She commented,“People hear Ebola, and they freak out. Influenza more commonly results in death, so it would be wiser to get a flu shot”.

However, Ebola induced hysteria did not overrun the talk. This was perhaps most evident when a biology instructor inquiring as to the prerequisites needed for careers at the CDC remarked: “I’m much less worried about catching Ebola than I am helping my students get entry level jobs,” which received thunderous applause.

Many students studying in the public health degree program were interested in where the CDC might take their careers. “I’m in the public health degree program, and I want to find out about internships and summer job opportunities,” another attendee commented. The Lieutenant Commander commented that everyone from journalists to lab technicians worked for the CDC, and mentor programs were readily available.

While it is unlikely that campus talks like this one will solve the Ebola crisis, there remains a far greater chance that they will encourage more people to make a difference, lead fulfilling lives, and to enter a profession where saving lives is principle among the objectives. Not everyone can complete the tasks that jobs like the Lieutenant Commander’s demands of them. But for those who can, she made it paramount to reassure them, “This job is not for everyone, but you’ll be proud of the work you do.”