Monday and Tuesday of these I had the privilege of attending the ACCEL (Academic Consortium Combating Ebola in Liberia) meeting at the University of Massachusetts Medical School campus. The two day event covered not only the activities to fight the outbreak from all the members of the consortium but also a special focus on the e-Learning system Julie and I installed. Our friend and partner in the effort, Dr. Golakai, the Deam of the medical college in Liberia where we deployed the system gave several talks on the school, healthcare in Liberia, funding, and laid out his vision for how to make effective changes. It was a great two days with representatives from several medical schools, the Massachusetts department of public health, and a several key figures from Liberia and Ethiopia.
It is Tuesday and we are back in the hotel. Julie managed 4 lectures today and I spent a frustrating day with a firewall and in the end won and lost that battle.
We started our day with a huge scare (and we continue to be on guard). There were two deaths from Ebola in the last two days. One from the hospital where the medical school students do their clinical and the other next door to the medical school. It has put is both on edge.
Despite or maybe because of the outbreak both Julie and I feel we really need to do more here. Part of the reason for the problem is the low medical training here. The Liberian people are warm, smart, friendly, caring, and patriotic. We have seem this every day here. We have gotten used to being the ‘white people’ here from the outside and really begun to get to understand the limitations everyone here faces. When we went to church here we saw compassion, love, joy, and hope all one place. Our friend Chacha said to is “Africa will change you” and she was right. We are not sure what will happen next except somehow we will come back.
Our colleague Dr. Jeff Bailey headed home early this morning. I am going to miss him as he is way better than I am at Linux plus he is an avid football (soccer) fan and watching the world cup will having a few ‘Club’ beers has been a hoot! Safe travels Jeff.
Yesterday we had a guest at the medical school computer lab, Dr. Emmet Dennis, the president of the University of Liberia and his vice president for academic affairs. I showed them the system including an online demonstration of the Moodle system. We were lucky he came by late enough because earlier in the day the little generator failed.
Today I am plowing through another Moodle install on the new server, this is the one Dr. Bailey configured with raid drives. I am hoping to finish the install, back up our existing Moodle to it and test to make sure our backups are working. Meanwhile I am continuing to setup the learning site. I was supposed to train the faculty today but the generator failed again. Maybe tomorrow.
My final work here will be to put in remote access. This is critical so that Jeff and I can figure any final parts remote and so UMass Medical can provide support. I don’t know how I will fit it all in.
More pictures coming tomorrow….
The system installation is going well. Anne and Julie have been teaching classes. Jim has been continuing to organize the medical library and Jeff was able to install Linux on the second server with the RAID disks. Yesterday I was able to link the administration building back to the academic building using the long distance WiFi.
Even with all that effort there is still a large problem at the school. Most of the time the school is either completely without electricity or running on a too-small generator. Power, consistent power has been a problem in Liberia since the war. All of the public utility electricity comes from generators and all the fuel for those generators is imported. Next year or so a new/rebuilt hydroelectric dam will come online which will generator more electricity than they currently do with generators. It will be a big change but for now, the school for the most part runs in the dark.
Eight months ago the schools big generator failed, partially due to lack of maintenance combined with the corrosive effects of the salt air from the ocean (about 200 yards away). Compounding this, the local electric company will not complete installing a new, larger circuit until the school puts in a better grounding circuit. I’ve have become the electrical engineer for the school and have been working with administration to get the grounding completed, the electrical connection to the grid upgraded and now working with our manager and USAID to try to find the money to fix the generator. All in a days work here….
Here’s some pictures of the generator and electrical room…
Julie and I are very excited about the new University of Massachusetts Medical School article by Sandra Gray about our upcoming trip to Liberia. It is well written and lays out our long term objectives for this effort as well, the ‘medical school in a box’ concept.