Behind Virus: Social Factors that Makes Ebola Treating More Challenging

November 20, 2014 by

I remember at the first class of Introduction to Public Health class, Dr. Scott invited Dr. Gilsdorf from medical school to give us a lecture about current spot topic: Ebola. Before attending the lecture, I prepared several questions to ask Dr. Gilsdorf and one of them is since American government can take infectious American doctors back to States and successfully cure him at Emory University, why can’t we share success tips with African people or take some badly ill patients to Emory? Due to limited lecture time, I didn’t get the chance to ask those question and that bothers me a lot. I even feel disappointed and a little bit of anger because this is one typical health care disparity and inequality. However, after went to the “Ebola and Public Health” panel discussion last Thursday, I have to admit that my original views are too naïve to consider all possible of other factors that limit Ebola treating.

One of the most essential factor is based on the economic status of most Ebola affected countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Dr. Snow from population studies center presented us the average health care cost per capital before Ebola break in these countries, which ranges from $67 to $171, compared to $ 8233 in the United States. They have way higher maternal death and premature death also. Both data indicates these three countries do not have advanced health system; the health of women and children cannot be well protected especially. Unfortunately, as we all know, women and children are the most risky population to get Ebola since they have weaker immunity system and children are easily get infected by their mothers.

Then the other speaker guide us to do a math about the amount of money cost to treat a single Ebola patient. Ebola patient must be isolated so he/she will need his/her own area and one single lab to run possible infectious sample for him/her. The patient will need 2 to 3 24/7 health care providers to monitor and record data, at least 2 lab analysts, and more doctors and research team members. Hospital might have to vacate the floor for this Ebola patients since normal people are too afraid to share the same floor with him/her, which decrease hospital’s income. Adding all possible costs, it is estimated that treating a single Ebola patient with Ebola costs roughly $500,000 in total and around $14,000 per day for two weeks. For now, only 50% hospitals in the States have the equipment and personal to admit no more than 1 Ebola patient, in worst case scenario.

Based on these two points I just mentioned, it is not hard to understand why it is almost impossible to cure Ebola in those three countries currently due to their economic status.

Moreover, urbanization of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia highly increase the interpersonal contact rate, which is another reason why this Ebola break have impacted huge amount of people. Unfortunately, this social change cannot be modified in very short amount of time and it becomes another obstacle of Ebola treating. Other factors including trust issues to health care providers sent from the States, their beliefs to Voodoo curing (normally needs to draw blood from sick people), their limited epidemiology knowledge and cultural habits of inhumation as well as high adaptation of Ebola virus all make Ebola treating more challenging.

Introduction: where I’m from, where I am, and where I’m going

November 12, 2014 by

amy Hello! My name is Amy and I’m a second-year biostatistics M.S. student here at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. I’m going to be blogging about my shenanigans as a student and relatively new resident in the Mitten State.

As I thought about ways to introduce myself to prospective students, prospective Ann Arbor residents, or any other randoms who happen to stop by on the interweb (hi!), I realized that my experiences, both academic and otherwise, can be summarized three ways:

1. Where I’m from: I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I received my bachelor’s in statistics with a minor in demography from UC Berkeley. I’ll admit that at times (read: when it’s -30 degrees), I hella miss California, but after living here a full year I could see how one would miss the seasons, to some degree (pun so intended).


Amazingly colorful trees during the fall-to-winter transition last year on my way to school through North Campus

Actually, I’m convinced that since last winter was my first winter, my obliviousness to how weather really works helped me cope better than native Michiganders with the polar vortexes <- that’s what it’s always like, right?


2. Where I am: Namely, why U of M? I picked U of M because I felt the need after going to college 10 minutes away from my home to spend some time out of state, and because it was the most reputable biostatistics program to which I was admitted. After undergrad I felt comfortable with, and also almost an allegiance to large public research institutions, and Michigan is most assuredly a big school with all the big school activities:

It’s certainly possible to get “lost in the crowd,” and I get that that may be intimidating, but one learns to navigate the bureaucracy and join organizations or social groups in which you can make yourself heard. I myself love that there are so many people to meet!

3. Where I’m going: I don’t know! The nice thing about biostatistics is that job options are wide open. Secret: I feel that this field of study was the most decisive way I could make a non-decision. Meaning, one could work in a hospital, pharmaceutical company, government agency, consulting firm, tech start-up, or in truth at any organization with data.


The challenge for me is doing the whole applying thang.

Hopefully I’ll have good news to report come spring 2015. Until then, I’ll fill you all in on my (mis)adventures in the charmed grad school life, so stay tuned!

Mom! I’m in Michigan!

November 5, 2014 by

Hello All,

I am Elise Tolbert. I received my bachelors degree from Tuskegee University in Environmental Sciences and I am currently a second year Environmental Quality and Health student at University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

I am so excited to share my Michigan experience with everyone!

Here is a little video introduction with more information to follow!!!

As mentioned, this is my second year yet I am still in disbelief that I am actually here. Each day is a reminder of how privileged of an experience this is. The faculty and staff are amazing and conduct some of the most prolific research in the world.

Below are a few links to interesting things going on in the School of Public Health.

1. Here is a short clip featuring the Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) department!!

In EHS we have world class professors who work diligently to ensure that students master specific skills necessary  to evaluate critical environmental health issues and solve the worlds most pressing environmental health problems.

2. Here are 5 things you need to know about Ebola presented by the School of Public Health’s Risk Science center.

The Ebola outbreak has many concerned about their risk for exposure. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of misinformation on the infection. This clip demystifies some of the rumors about Ebola.

3.Here , the dean of the School of Public Health, Martin Philbert, gives remarks on chronic disease.

Several weeks ago the School of Public Health hosted the Public Health Symposium honoring Noreen M. Clark, former dean of the School of Public Health. The symposium focused on “Confronting the Challenges of Chronic Disease.”

The clips above provide just a glimpse to the into the excellence that is the Michigan experience. The students and faculty here are experts in all areas of public health. Additionally, there is a friendly supportive academic atmosphere here in which peers and professors are happy to share information with each other. All this is and more explains why I can not believe that I am here and find myself repeatedly saying with pure joy, “Mom, I’m in Michigan!”

Surprise Trick & Healthy Treat

November 1, 2014 by

Originally posted on jessicayuewu:

Last night, halloween came with the first snow of this coming winter. Yesterday morning, during Biochemistry class and I was trying so hard to memorize every single detail of Calvin cycle, one student walked in with a 3D dinosaur mask on his head and I have to say, that is the coolest moment on this class so far.

Being a person who is so into Halloween, I decided to give some creativity for this year’s treats. Though buying bags of candies with discounts will save a lot of time and money for me, I just assumed kids from neighborhoods might be tired to get the exactly same candies from every house, every year and will appreciate some thing new. Meanwhile, for the honor of being a Nutritional Science student, I feel I have the responsibility to try out some real desserts. After a short discussion with my friends, we decided…

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New blogger here

November 1, 2014 by

Originally posted on jessicayuewu:

It is really an honor to have the opportunity to join the student bloggers family and sharing my life. I have kept writing bloggers for years and I think it is probably the first and my best chance to get my blog viewer counts exceed 50. As an international student, with English is not my first language, writing a blog really needs efforts. I am saying that because unlike tracking life in boring diary, people want to show their funny or even wicked sides of humor in their blogs. I am still learning American humor now and it does need practice. So, if I tried so hard and accidentally make some lame jokes, please laugh it off.

Here comes the official personal introduction part. I am Jessica and the first year MS student of Nutritional Science. I came from a small city of China, which is quite like Ann Arbor…

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Books About Me

November 1, 2014 by

Hello there! My name is Peggy Korpela. Pleased to meet all of you :) I’m a first year School of Public Health student, and a new SPH student blogger. I’m in the Health Behavior and Health Education program, heading for my Masters in Public Health (M.P.H.) My Bachelors degree is in Human Biology with a minor in Bioethics, Humanities, and Society. I run a blog called thebiobabe that features science, health, medicine, and politics and I’m also a submissions editor for

So in thinking about writing my first blog post, I decided to  introduce myself by way of my 2  favorite Public Health/Biology books. Without further ado, here they are:

1.Steven Johnson’s “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World “

I love The Ghost Map because not only is it extremely well written nonfiction, but it’s about one of the most revolutionary discoveries in the history of public health, right up there with the vaccine and fluoride in the water.    The narrative follows Dr John Snow, a scientist and physician, and Reverend Henry Whitehead as they each track London’s 1854 Cholera epidemic. The reverend follows the trail of the disease as he attempts to support his sick and dying parishioners, all the while noticing that their deaths all have a common element- they drank from the Broad Street water pump not many days before. Dr. John Snow was a radical scientist for his time, believing that Cholera did not come from miasma ,the dense and damp air pollution that plagued the city of London for decades, but rather from something else unseen. His method of tracking the outbreak is now a basic principle of Epidemiology- he used a map. Through his collaboration with the reverend, he was able to visualize all the deaths in the Broad street area and when he combined it with his knowledge of the dead’s symptoms and patterns of behavior, Snow stopped the epidemic in its tracks. This book really reinforced my desire to pursue some aspect of public health when I first read it two summers ago, before I even got into UofM SPH.  Reflecting on the book now that I’m here, I find it reminds me to not be afraid to be intellectually rebellious and curious like Dr. Snow, and to remember that a core value of public health work is concern for the safety and well being of all, as the Reverend Whitehead believed.

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond-

Guns, Germs and Steel completely changed how I look at the history of the world and biological history too. The pressing question the book seeks to answer is “Why has the history of humanity unfolded as it has?” and the entire book meticulously and expertly answers it. Diamond , a Professor of Geography  at UCLA, asserts that the reason that Eurasian peoples advanced quickly and eventually colonized most other places on Earth is not due to some sort of inherent superiority, but because of advantages of geography in Eurasia after the last Ice Age. He uses evolutionary biology, anthropology, ecology and geography to lay out the types of crops and animals that Eurasians would’ve had access to, what makes them easy to domesticate, and how peoples in the rest of the world (The Americas, Australia, Africa) may not have had those equivalents. He connects these ideas to the creation of technology and the spread of disease and germs within larger societies and history as we know it.This is book really appeals to me because all of the work on the natural history of the world teaches us about unfolding of human history and  dynamic global interactions we have today, which have a direct impact on the health of all of us.

So that’s it for me and my books. I look forward to sharing more with all of you in the coming year!

Ebola as an Epidemiology Student

October 25, 2014 by


That squiggly blue line in a sea of red…the little virus that has the world in uproar…you’ve heard about it…the mysterious and deadly Ebola virus!

about-ebola(picture from CDC)

This year’s Ebola epidemic has been one of the deadliest and largest in history, and as a first year Epidemiology student, there is almost nothing else that we talk about with such fervor and intrigue. On the other hand, because I’m in public health, the questions that I have received directly from family and friends, or indirectly from wild, hysterical posts on social media, have made me think seriously about the effect the media has on all of us….

So today I present you with the facts about Ebola. There is absolutely no reason for chaos, panic, fear and/or hostility for people dying of Ebola in America. We have the resources to deal with the virus – it is West Africa where the epidemic is raging that needs the help and support of the world.

First of all – how does one contract Ebola? There are numerous crazy people posting all sorts of theories on the Internet. These are the facts:

  • Ebola is spread through direct contact. This means you must be touching an infected person’s bodily secretions (blood, sweat, mucus, vomit, feces, semen, breast milk, saliva) to actively contract it.
    • Given the cases that have happened in America so far – this make sense. They are healthcare workers directly involved with Ebola treatments
    • Additionally, contact in this way can happen even after a patient with Ebola has passed away…which is how a lot of the virus has been spreading in West Africa. Improper funeral preparations and burial practices without knowledge of this fact have contributed to a lot of transmission
  • Ebola can also be contracted from contaminated medical equipment like needles and syringes…which again goes back to the previous point
  • Finally, Ebola can be transmitted through infected apes/primates…the lowest risk for us in America, but a very real and often unknown fact in much of West Africa.

EbolaOutbreaks_0729 (Huffington Post)               Stopping the Ebola Outbreak (CDC)
Some infographics that summarize information nicely.

Given all of this information, why is the Western world in uproar over this disease? It seems many of us have forgotten the concept of humanity – angry talks of quarantine and travel bans (these are among questions I’ve fielded) are not what is needed in the fight against this virus. What is needed is calm, rational reporting, and aid to West Africa. People in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone are just that – people. Helping them should be our priority.

My awesome advisor at school, Dr. Eden Wells, has been giving a lot of talks about Ebola in conjunction with some of the other professors! Check them out for more reasons on why we all need to calm down about Ebola and recognize it for what it is and stop it in its tracks in West Africa.

So what can we do? We can help! Doctors Without Borders is struggling to help everyone who needs help. Consider donating to them if you can…let’s stop the fear mongering and start helping. I have personally been to Liberia and it saddens to me to hear the stories. A barely-there infrastructure is crumbling even more, doctors and healthcare workers are dying by the dozens. Literally half the infected healthcare workers in Liberia have died from the disease. The modeling estimates are staggering and it is our global responsibility to help.

MSB13567 Aid worker from DWB helping a child suspected to have Ebola (from John Moore/Getty Images)

Super long post – but super necessary. Hopefully this answers any concerns that you have about the virus and what it’s actually doing in the world. As always, if you have any questions, I am happy to answer them!

A new adventure begins!

October 23, 2014 by


My name is Tanya Taveras and I’m very excited to share my experiences and perspectives during my time in Ann Arbor. I’m an international first-year student from the Dominican Republic (DR), and I’m very happy and proud to have started the Health Management and Policy program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a top-ranked program in the United States.

I’ve already learned so much during the first two months of classes; my frontier of knowledge has already expanded significantly and this is just the beginning! It is such a powerful feeling to know that I’m acquiring strong skills that will influence and define my career in the years to come. My classmates come from very diverse backgrounds, which makes discussions even more interesting and enriching. We’ve already tackled public health issues from the perspective of different professionals such as doctors, economists, lawyers and public health specialists who share their amazing work and school experiences in class.

So, how did we all get here? Everyone has different stories but there is one thing we all have in common: a true passion for public health and a clear vision of long-term goals. When I was going through the rigorous application process, I realized it requires much hard work so that applicants can be sure their passion is greater than all the efforts and sacrifices made. Overcoming this initial barrier will allow you to realize that following your passion will have high returns. Moreover, I’ve learned that there’s no straight line to success. There’s no preset road; you make your own path as you walk along the way, discovering new interests and priorities. It’s an ongoing learning process and only those who are brave enough to leave the comfort zone are able to reach higher.

One of my aspirations is to be able to contribute my knowledge to improve the efficiency of DR’s health system where –according to World Bank data in 2012– almost half the population remains without health insurance and the poor are left to the mercy of an inefficient public health system with one of the lowest government health expenditures as a percent of GDP in Latin America. I’m aware it’s not an easy task, but I already started to take the steps towards achieving my goal.

Have you?!

SPH Symposium

October 14, 2014 by

charles-zhouThe School of Public Health held its 2014 Symposium last Monday (October 6). Held since 1998 and every other year since 2002, this year’s symposium addressed the challenge of chronic diseases from the viewpoint of experts from across SPH and across the country.

The 2014 SPH Symposium was held in honor of Noreen Clark, a professor and former Dean of SPH who sadly passed away last year. In addition to being a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Dr. Clark founded the Center for Managing Chronic Diseases, pushed for the establishment of a regular SPH Symposium, and was a well-respected leader in her field. Current Dean Martin Philbert described her as a Jedi—as she was able to do so much and touch so many lives. After hearing all of the stories about her, I was saddened by the fact that I had never met Dr. Clark.

The symposium began like every SPH event begins: with healthy snacks, fruit, coffee, and tea for breakfast, and with introductory remarks from Prof. John Piette, who is currently the director of the Center for Managing Chronic Diseases and helped organize the whole event, as well as Dean Philbert, who butchered my last name (it’s okay, everyone else does and I forgive you). Dean Philbert also gave a very touching tribute to Dr. Clark, speaking of her as his (and many others’) caring mentor.

We then had keynote speeches from Dr. Anand Parekh, a Michigan alumnus and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Dr. Ed Fisher, director of Peers for Progress and professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health.

ed fisher symposium

Dr. Fisher speaking about how social interactions can greatly aid management of chronic diseases.

Next up was a panel on scaling up and implementing programs to help manage chronic diseases, speaking about various programs and how they were developed and put into place.

Left to right: moderator John Piette and panelists Paula Lantz, Vic Strecher, and Marianne Udow-Phillips.

Left to right: moderator John Piette and panelists Paula Lantz, Vic Strecher, and Marianne Udow-Phillips speak during the morning session.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early and miss Dr. Strecher’s talk to prepare for the luncheon panel that I had the privilege to moderate, one of five panels open to students only. Entitled “Environments That Won’t Break Your Heart”, the focus of my panel was environmental health and more specifically, the effects of fine particulate matter on the cardiovascular system.

luncheon panel room

The calm before the storm. Nearly 80 students packed the room a few minutes later.

My panelists were Dr. Robert Brook, a cardiologist and professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Alan Vette of the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Dr. Tim Dvonch (stepping in for Dr. Amy Schulz who had a last minute commitment come up), a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. Together, the three gave an excellent overview of research, policy, regulations, and community impacts with respect to the relationship between particulate matter and heart health.

Update, 10/20/14: You can watch the morning session of the Symposium here.

Life in the Grad Lane!

October 10, 2014 by

aparnaI’m a planner…an organized, calendar-obsessed, color-coding-system-for-everything kind of girl. I had my life planned to a tee – some of my friends used to compare me to a graph (in case you’re curious: x-axis, age, y-axis, life event)…but then, of course, life changed. Life put me smack dab back here at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health (SPH) in Ann Arbor…a place I’ve called hoMe for over 15 years!

I’m Aparna – a first year International Health Epidemiology student and I’m super excited to blog about my experiences here at SPH! I enjoy reading (fantasy and mystery – Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Harry Potter anyone?!), Indian dance, cooking/baking and all things science. I got my Bachelor’s in Neuroscience and International Studies (2013) here, and then worked in a research lab and heavily increased my Red Cross involvement for a year afterwards (year offs are a great idea). In the six weeks I’ve been living the grad student life, I’m learning more about U of M everyday. I love the collaboration that I have seen already and can’t wait to see what else will happen over the next couple years.

When I tackle a new experience, I enjoy fully immersing myself in it, and really involving myself to the best of my ability. One of the reasons I chose to come back here for school are the activities that I have been able to participate in already. I’m a member of the Public Health Action Support Team (PHAST-just did my first event this weekend!), and like the name suggests, it’s a chance to put those lectures into action! Health and wellness are community oriented and community specific and PHAST lets us work directly with community members. I’m also working with a group at the medical school here – MedStart - where we’re putting together a Child Advocacy Seminar to teach kids going to school in an underserved community the importance of a healthy lifestyle. My other public health specific group is the newly formed Spirituality, Religion and Health group, which looks at how spirituality and religion play a role in healthcare on multiple levels. Like I said – the collaboration is amazing!

With these and school, I’m definitely keeping myself busy, but I feel that the environment is all about learning and less about competition, which I am loving tremendously. Looking forward to a great two years here and always happy to answer questions that anyone might have! I’ll post about my experiences with the groups above, epidemiology things (Ebola, anyone?), and life in the grad lane :)


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