I grew up in the Midwest in a snug little suburb well insulated from the global health challenges of HIV/AIDS or infectious diseases like Ebola and Marburg virus. I only became aware of these diseases in high school science and social science classes. It really hit me that in many parts of the world, people’s lives were affected by these diseases on a daily basis. Back then, that reality just did not touch my world. Where I grew-up, people died of old age, not AIDS.
Luckily, my eyes were opened through my studies. I loved biology class; it just made sense to me. So, naturally, I majored in biology for my undergraduate studies and then went on to get a Master’s degree in medical sciences at the University of Kentucky.
To me, science is better than magic. Through scientific research, we gain the ability to prevent or cure disease. As a young woman, I watched helplessly as my grandmother slipped into dementia, further and further away from the audacious, vibrant woman I knew. Each year, I note the increasing frailty of my mother as she loses more ground in her battle against heart and kidney disease. I couldn't help them, but I wanted to help others, so I became a scientist.
I studied hard—very hard—graduated, and went to work at the prestigious National Institutes of Health. It was my job to raise awareness about the need for healthy volunteers to participate in clinical research. After all, science cannot create vaccines without human help. I did not feel I could tell others about the need for clinical trial volunteers without taking action myself; I needed to live my passion. So I rolled up my sleeve, literally, and enrolled in the Ebola vaccine trial.
I am proud of my part in helping to create these potentially life-saving vaccines. I am grateful that I am able to provide a snug, safe little world for my son, and when he learns of these diseases (hopefully through his studies and not personally), I will tell him how his mommy took action to stop them.