background image
40
ON THE FRONTLINE
EBOLA
ON THE
GROUND IN
SIERRA LEONE
Dr Dhillon (Class of 2009), was
deployed for a six-week rotation with
Save the Children UK at the Kerry
Town Ebola Treatment Centre. It was
a bittersweet return to a country that
Dr Dhillon had visited previously
on elective while a medical student
at RCSI.
RCSI Matters began by
asking Dr Dhillon if Sierra Leone
had changed in the time between his
visits.
Q
You had previously visited
Sierra Leone on elective as a
medical student at RCSI. Could
you describe some of the
contrasts between your two
visits?
A
e oddest feeling was not being
able to even shake the hand of a friend
I had made during my travels there as
a medical student. To see someone that
I would have hugged goodbye to, a er
he had shared his city and his home
with me during my stay, and not be
able to even shake hands, is unnerving.
It really makes you realise the value of
the human touch in the doctor-patient
relationship.
e people of Sierra Leone are
incredibly resilient. I remember from
my rst trip a er the war there that
there was this incredible enthusiasm and
positive energy in the streets. is time,
that was subdued as the fear regarding
the epidemic was still at its peak and
everyone was on edge. I have sincere
hope that they will bounce back, yet
again, though.
Q
Dr Mark Willcox, also in the
RCSI graduating class of 2009,
had also volunteered in the Ebola
Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone.
Was it helpful to have a classmate
from your year to turn to for
advice?
A
Dr Willcox and I missed each other
by only one week in terms of our
rotations, so we were unable to meet
down there. Still, it was great to be able
to reach out and get some honest advice
about the risks, and what to expect,
from someone you know.
Q
Ultimately, how would you
sum up your experience at the
treatment centre?
A
In the end, I was happy to play a
small part in helping out. e scale
of the humanitarian response was
something that I had not seen before
and realising all the work that goes on
in the background to get you there, kit
you out safely, and then get you safely
out again, really makes you realise that,
as a physician, you are just the front end
of a massive team e ort. It was great
to see people getting better and being
discharged who, if the organisation
wasn't there, would likely not have
survived. e big battle now is to get
the country running again and the
healthcare system improved so that this
doesn't recur and so that the people are
healthier in general.
Q
Finally, could you tell us a
little about your current role as
a GP in rural Canada, and what it
involves?
A
I am currently working as a Medical
O cer for the Canadian Armed
Forces and heading to the High Arctic
soon for a military exercise near the
magnetic north pole. Otherwise, I work
as a full-scope rural family physician
in Saskatchewan as a locum for the
Saskatchewan Medical Association.
Dr Paul Dhillon.
mn s r Pa
hi on trave ed to ierra
eone in an ary
to
he combat the s read
o the est rican bo a
vir s e idemic
RCSI MattersSRH.indd 40
03/03/2016 11:56