FIU doctor tapped to combat Ebola outbreak

Like a firefighter ready to rush into a burning building at a moment’s call, Dr. Aileen Marty waits, ready to answer the call that would take her into one of the hot beds of the current Ebola outbreak.

“It’s what I do,“ says Marty, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

Last week, Marty was informed by the World Health Organization, whom she’s been associated with for 9 years, that she was on the short list to join a Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network team in the WHO’s effort to control the rapidly spreading virus in West Africa.

“The mission needs to be done, and done by people who have experience and skills to accomplish it quickly and effectively; and so if I am tasked to go, I will go,” says Marty.

There’s no question Marty has the experience. In over 30 years of practicing medicine, 25 of them as a Navy doctor, she has traveled the world, visiting 50 countries; treating diseases like leprosy, dengue, and malaria. She already has experience working with Ebola, and working in Africa, so she knows what to expect when she gets there. Still, the decision to accept this assignment was not one she made without pause.

“I know how dangerous it is and I will take all necessary precautions,” says Marty who admits having a great respect for the deadly virus and has been told by the WHO she will be sent to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and the latest to join the growing list of countries in the area reporting Ebola victims.

The Nigerian health ministry has declared a national health emergency in a move to try to curb the outbreak. “I know how arduous this kind of work really is,” she adds. “It is not the glamour of novels. It’s difficult living conditions, hot, sweaty dangerous work. But it is rewarding spiritually.”

And so, she has filled out the necessary paperwork, made arrangements for the required vaccines and physical, and is anxiously waiting for the green light to go and lend her expertise.

“I would be able to help as a clinician, treating patients, and also doing data analysis of what is working, what isn’t, and what needs to be done to get this outbreak under control,” said Marty. The fact that the College of Medicine has extensive experience and resources in data analysis, she said, can be a huge asset in processing the information.

Marty is also an anatomic and clinical pathologist with a certificate in forensic medicine. She served as Commander, Medical Corps, in the U.S. Navy specializing in tropical medicine, infectious disease pathology, disaster medicine, and in the science, medical response and policy involving weapons of mass destruction. She attended the Navy War College, where she trained in strategic studies, diplomacy, joint military operations and the art of war. The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) recognized her as an expert on chemical, biological, radiation and high-energy weapons and called on her to help develop plans, training and policy for government agencies including the White House and the National Security Administration. Marty is one of only 403 people listed in the international roster as a member of the United Nations Monitoring and Verification Team for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

The Cuban-born Marty emigrated to the U.S. when she was only four. Eventually her family settled in Miami where she graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes Academy and the University of Miami School of Medicine.