A scholarly response to a global challenge

11-13-2014

The Ebola epidemic has created concern on our campus, just as it has among thoughtful people everywhere, due to the toll of the suffering as well as the challenges of controlling and treating a life-threatening pandemic. Given the number of MSU faculty and students with ties and connections to West Africa, we’ve watched especially closely. We watch not just with curiosity, but with concern for people we will never meet, those with whom we have worked, and places where we have worked. We wonder about their futures, the future of our research, our academic travel, our students’ travel, and our students whose homes and families are in West Africa. Others worry about risk of exposure, given the volume of MSU’s international travel.

These are legitimate concerns, none of which should be approached with the kind of misinformed—if well meaning—responses portrayed recently in popular media. That’s why I was particularly appreciative of a recent panel discussion hosted by our African Studies Center. The interdisciplinary discussion, “Confronting Ebola Hysteria,” addressed the multiple and complex issues surrounding Ebola. MSU faculty members from many disciplines participated, collectively working to counteract misinformation—and the secondary fallout associated with the perpetuation of misinformation—while calling for more thoughtful and responsible responses to the epidemic.

This academic event wonderfully illustrated the evidence-based way in which universities approach all challenging topics:  by engaging in thoughtful, interdisciplinary conversations based on facts. With a challenge as grave as Ebola, we should all expect nothing less than such a measured approach. And with MSU’s longstanding commitment to and presence in Africa, I would have expected nothing less from our community of scholars.

I am encouraged by the tone and tenor of the MSU community’s collective response to the global Ebola crisis. Thank you to all who participated in the recent panel discussion, as either a panelist or as an attendee. I trust that the ongoing conversations we continue to have about this topic will remain as thoughtful as those of the past few weeks.

The University Physician’s Office continues to carefully monitor the global situation, while being prepared for any local response, as we were formerly with H1N1 and the Avian Flu. While we are grateful that we never had to use our responses to those medical emergencies, good planning assures a level of confidence that we are prepared to handle difficult circumstances. For the most up-to-date information, please visit the Office of the University Physician's website.