Addressing Ebola

woman in blazer with sign in red letters with Ebola

Nursing Professor addresses Ebola in Epidemiology Class

Note: Clarke was interviewed on this subject by National Public Radio (NPR)
Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. on KCWC, Wyoming Public Broadcasting System.
You can watch the interview at


UW nursing professor, Pamela Clarke, RN; MPH, PhD; FAAN, has many reasons to be interested in the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the consequent panic in the United States. Clarke has a background in Public Health (Master’s in Public Health from the University of Michigan) and extensive experience in the epidemic field years ago, when “diphtheria was rampant,” says Clarke, “and polio and smallpox still had somewhat of a presence. I know about quarantines since we had to quarantine those with polio and tuberculosis. Whole neighborhoods of people were quarantined, being told to stay in their homes.”

Clarke also happens to teach the school’s graduate online Epidemiology in Rural Health Care class (NURS 5060) this semester, which is a course offered to any graduate-level student in health sciences. Clarke’s classes are composed of nursing, pharmacy, nutrition and BioMed doctoral students –altogether an interprofessional group greatly enriching the course through their online discussions. The fall semester at the University of Wyoming began right after the current Ebola outbreak. Clarke knew she needed to confront the Epidemiology students with Ebola, since the World Health Organization stated that "the Ebola epidemic ravaging parts of West Africa is the most severe acute public health emergency seen in modern times.” Clarke has been using the catastrophic event to heighten students’ understanding of Epidemiology. 

Clarke brings not only her experience to her class, but also knowledge gained from her current involvement at the local and national levels. Locally, Clarke represents the UW School of Nursing with the Community Health and Emergency Medical Preparedness group of Albany County. Having served as president of the Association of Community Health Nurses nationally, Clarke has been asked to be a member of a public health leadership network focused on Ebola this fall. She was invited to most of the national conference calls, and was also fortunate to be able to sit in on a call with President Obama, his staff and leaders from some of the West African countries.

Clarke said her class online discussions concerning Ebola are intense: “Some students are posting on the discussions five times a day,” as they find themselves wrapped up in the issue.  One student from Texas shares that state’s broadcast on Ebola. The class studies Ebola screening measures, the history of the disease, and why the epidemic grew so fast. They witness what harm the media can do to stir up people. They learn from mistakes made by the nurses involved with Ebola. They discuss how to handle a suspicious case, and determine when to put the patient in isolation instead of the waiting room. They explore the art of interviewing patients, including how to discern if patients are not giving full answers. They also confront the divisive issue of “protecting our own” versus reaching out with compassion to a very needy segment of humanity.

For the most up-to-date information about Ebola, Clarke says to refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention web site devoted to Ebola at


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