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S.H.E. IS: Mary Guinan, A Medical Detective inspiring COVID-19 Healthcare Workers

Dr. Mary Guinan (B. 1939) describes herself as one of many medical detectives who worked hard to combat the Smallpox, Ebola, and AIDS epidemics. She traveled around the world into hotspots of medical crises risking her own health to try and understand the outbreaks. In 1975, she visited India to address a dangerous smallpox outbreak. In 1980, she traveled to Pakistan to review the health situations of Afghan refugees. As well, Dr. Mary Guinan was one of the first doctors to work with AIDs patients in the United States and served as an expert in many important court cases. These are a few of the many medical situations she worked with. Her novel, Adventures of a Female Medical Detective, reviews many of these experiences and is an excellent resource recommended by John Hopkins University Press for understanding the COVID-19 outbreak.

In her novel, when discussing the Ebola outbreak of 2014, she wrote:

“One can only be in awe of the many dedicated workers who have volunteered to serve in such a dangerous environment. Not the least of these are the medical detectives who collect clues, analyze data, investigate suspected cases, and carry out their public health mission”.

This passage reminded me of the current health crisis of COVID-19. Our medical providers and detectives who are trying to protect and understand the current pandemic risk their lives for public health. We must show our appreciation and respect for these people who risk their lives to save ours. In the past, Dr. Mary Guinan has been one of the individuals who made personal sacrifices for the sake of public health. Reading her stories which parallel the COVID-19 situation can help the general public better understand our current position in this pandemic. As well, her stories highlighting the success of modern medical techniques and social practices in slowing previous health crises can provide hope to anyone self-isolating during COVID-19.

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