International Health Experience

Brigette Gleason, MD

Our recent International Health graduate, Brigette Gleason, MD, who now works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discusses her experience with the International Health Pathway.

Every day Dr. Gleason spent in Sierra Leone this fall helping fight Ebola was filled with tragedy and the specter of death.

Next to the office where she analyzed reports and helped shape local response to the epidemic, burial teams donned protective suits before going to handle the dead.

Gleason, a doctor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who is now the agency's point person in Virginia, found herself blocking out many awful details. It was the only way to keep working.

"You have to separate yourself from some of the reality sometimes. You can't save everyone. If you get emotionally invested in everyone you care for, it could be devastating. The idea is to focus on the progress you can make and on acting and doing," Gleason said. "I think that being there and knowing that I was helping was one thing that really made it easy to keep going."

"My second year of residency I was able to rotate at the national teaching hospital in Laos with a colleague, Katie Linder, MD. Dr. Keith Armitage and Case Western Reserve University have worked with the nonprofit Health Frontiers (started by a pediatrics professor) in the past and introduced me to their current leaders. Health Frontiers helps support the internal medicine and pediatrics residency program as the only programs of their kind in Laos. I spent a month working in the national hospital, both in the general wards as well as on the pulmonary wards. We saw some patients with diseases I have never seen in Cleveland (melioidosis) and advanced progression of common worldwide diseases (lung adenocarcinoma). We had the opportunity to work with outstanding young residents, who worked incredibly hard to care for their patients with limited resources. I learned much about the provision of acute medical care in resource-poor nations. We took part in resident education activities and really felt involved in the program for the time we were there. The Program Directors Gordon and Angie were very helpful and all around there were great people. It was an outstanding experience away from University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and Dr. Armitage and the chief residents were incredibly helpful in setting up our schedules so that we could use elective time to take part."

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