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Vol. LXVII, No. 7
March 27, 2015
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‘Woman of Courage’ Visits NIH

Marie Claire Tchecola, an Ebola survivor, meets with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci in his office.
Marie Claire Tchecola, an Ebola survivor, meets with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci in his office.
Marie Claire Tchecola, an Ebola survivor and recipient of a 2015 International Women of Courage Award, visited NIH on Mar. 9, meeting with NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci and getting a tour of the Clinical Research Center from its director, Dr. John Gallin.

The International Women of Courage Award, presented by the U.S. Secretary of State, annually recognizes women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.

Tchecola, a French speaker, is an emergency room nurse at Donka Hospital in Conakry, Guinea. The first woman to be educated in her family, she grew up in a small Guinean village near the border with Senegal. She could have been a doctor but chose nursing “because you can touch more people.”

Only doctors at Guinea’s largest hospital were given gloves, so it was Tchecola’s passion for touching, nurturing and caring that exposed her to the Ebola virus while treating a patient in July 2014.

At the time, transmission was not widespread in the capital. One of the insidious traits of Ebola is that its early symptoms mimic those of other diseases common in Guinea. Once Tchecola identified her own symptoms, however, she checked herself into a treatment center, stopping the chain of transmission and sparing coworkers, friends and family from infection.

Tchecola gets a tour of the Clinical Research Center from its director, Dr. John Gallin (c). She’s accompanied by her interpreter, Martin Gilbert (r).

Tchecola gets a tour of the Clinical Research Center from its director, Dr. John Gallin (c). She’s accompanied by her interpreter, Martin Gilbert (r).

Photos: Bill Branson

Battling fear and stigma over Ebola, including being forced by her landlord to leave her own home, Tchecola returned to her job caring for the sick at Donka Hospital. She is an active member of the Ebola Survivors Association of Guinea, committed to speaking out publicly about Ebola, spreading awareness about the disease and fighting stigmatization against survivors.

Tchecola’s visit to Washington, D.C., was hosted by Meridian International Center, a nonpartisan public diplomacy organization. She received her award from Secretary of State John Kerry and First Lady Michelle Obama on Mar. 5 at the State Department.


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