May 6, 2019

Vanderbilt welcomed Dr. Bernice Dahn, Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Liberia and former Minister of Health for Liberia, to campus on April 17. Dr. Dahn delivered a guest lecture entitled, "Building Health Systems: Lessons From Crisis." Drawing on her experience leading a country through and after an Ebola epidemic, she shared powerful lessons on the re-establishment of the Ministry of Health and the rebuilding of Liberia’s health care delivery system.  

During the early stages of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in 2014 Dr. Dahn coordinated the national response to the epidemic, including development of treatment protocols and infection prevention and control standards, trainings, resource mobilization, and partner coordination. 

“The most important lesson we learned from Ebola is the importance of a resilient health care delivery system. During the epidemic, routine service delivery shut down, and more people were dying from lack of treatment for common ailments than were dying from Ebola itself. A weak and fragmented system will collapse with any shock, erasing gains made in specific areas. A resilient health system is greater than the sum of its parts. It can continue to deliver care while responding to emergencies or crises. We have to focus on building strong systems – this is the way to prepare for outbreaks and to improve health outcomes overall," said Dr. Dahn, Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Liberia and former Minister of Health for Liberia.

Vanderbilt professors and VIGH core faculty members, Marie Martin, Ph.D., M.Ed., and Troy Moon, M.D., M.P.H., coordinated Dr. Dahn visit and facilitated on-campus meetings with VUMC departments interested in research and training opportunities in Liberia. Vanderbilt has been engaged in the country since 2017 through PEER Liberia, a USAID-funded initiative to enhance undergraduate medical education, build ophthalmology residency training, and establish research and faculty development programs.