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COVID-19 Conversations: U.S. Ambassador Shares Lessons from Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

The Riley Institute’s Center for Critical Issues “brings the world to Furman” by hosting a diverse roster of speakers on campus each year.

While our events are on hold due to COVID-19, The Riley Institute’s Advance Team students are (virtually) bringing notable past speakers into their own homes for thoughtful conversations about the coronavirus’s impact on many facets of life. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented global health crisis. As countries contend with the coronavirus’s many unknowns — chiefly, how and when can we put a stop to it? —  there are still invaluable lessons to be learned from other recent disease outbreaks.

It was just six years ago that Ebola, a virus with an average fatality rate of 50 percent, swept across Liberia, where Deborah Malac was actively serving as U.S. ambassador. In that time, Malac played an important role in coordinating the U.S. response to the epidemic in the West African country.

Revisiting what she learned as a leader during the outbreak, Malac shares why she believes transparent communication remains important as ever in the fight against COVID-19. In this conversation, the diplomat, who graduated from Furman University in 1977, is joined by students Elise Dudley, Davis Cousar, and Emily Zeytoonjian.

Malac, who was appointed U.S. ambassador to Uganda in 2015 following her service in Liberia, retired earlier this year. She spoke at the Riley Institute’s Crisis and Response: Stories of Leadership event in 2019.

View all COVID-19 Conversations episodes

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this recording are those of the individuals appearing in the video and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Riley Institute or Furman University.