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And So We Begin Our Adventure…

Along with her colleagues at Sabeti Lab, computational biologist Pardis Sabeti studies genetics and infectious diseases, working to improve our knowledge and implementation of medical care worldwide.

The sun sets in West Africa. Photo by Stephen Gire
The sun sets in West Africa. (Photo by Stephen Gire)

When I was just a girl, my mother brought home a copy of National Geographic with a cover story on monarch butterflies. I would pour over the beautiful images and read the story again and again. It is still one of the most vivid memories from my childhood. Over the years, I learned from the pages of National Geographic. Through the rich narratives and photographs, I journeyed along with each story, to every corner of the world, dreaming of one day exploring the vast beauty myself.

I was humbled and thrilled to be selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer last year. While my own individual exploration could never match that of the many explorers I learned from, I am not alone. I work with an outstanding team of students and collaborators from the US, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and around the world tackling some of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases—Lassa fever, Ebola, malaria, and cholera.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my blog, and my many outstanding partners in this journey, with the National Geographic community.  I am deeply honored to introduce each of these amazing human beings.

Collaborators at the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) greet the Harvard team during the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Photo by Stephen Gire
Collaborators at the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) greet the Harvard team during the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. (Photo by Stephen Gire)

It is fitting to begin with Stephen Gire, an extraordinary talent in my lab who travels the world leading initiatives on devastating infectious diseases. Stephen is an accomplished public health researcher, scientist, humanitarian, chef, photographer, and artist. Beyond his research on Lassa fever and Ebola with my group, he developed Congo Medical Relief, Inc. to provide medical supplies and scientific training to underserved hospitals in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is an accomplished photographer, whose work has been featured on the National Geographic website, and a beautiful artist, whose art and video work have been showcased by NIH and Science magazine. Just to round out his endless talent, he is an exceptional chef chosen to compete on the TV show Top Chef, but he gave up that opportunity so he could help individuals in the Congo with a disease called Monkeypox.

Stephen Gire performs PCR (polymerase chain reaction) experiments on suspected Ebola cases in the high containment laboratory at KGH. Photo by Kristian Andersen
Stephen Gire performs PCR (polymerase chain reaction) experiments on suspected Ebola cases in the high containment laboratory at KGH. (Photo by Kristian Andersen)

Stephen traveled to Sierra Leone in the wake of the recent Ebola outbreak in neighboring Guinea to help collaborators at the Kenema Government Hospital (KGH) and the Sierra Leonean government prepare for the potential spread of Ebola across the border. He and another member of my team brought much-needed supplies to help safely monitor suspected Ebola cases and to support the growing efforts already underway by the exceptional team at KGH.

As he posts under this blog, you will see that Stephen is also a thoughtful writer, with rich stories to tell of our experiences combating deadly diseases. I hope you enjoy our collective journey as we partner with some of the brightest minds on the front line of disease epidemics.