Payson's Lee Gary, Jr. leads waste management efforts in Ebola-ridden Sierra Leone

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A longtime consultant and adjunct faculty member for the Tulane Payson Center and School of Social Work, Lee P. Gary, Jr. is currently working in Sierra Leone to help combat the West African Ebola crisis. Gary serves as the WASH coordinator for the Makeni Ebola Treatment Center, taking charge of all sanitary operations and observing all water and waste management efforts in support of medical activities.  His credentials certainly prove him to be the best man for the job.

An entrepreneur from the beginning of his career, Gary has over twenty years of experience under his belt leading projects in extreme environments, a field increasingly in need of expertise. Having founded and served as chief executive officer of Strategic Management Services - USA, and Sanitary Consortium Inc., a Haitian Partnership, Gary has maintained a consistent focus on designing, managing, and analyzing strategic initiatives for mitigating and safeguarding public health, particularly in post-disaster situations. The Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone is currently the disaster of Gary’s focus and specialized skills, and has brought him to the town of Makeni under dire circumstances.

Summoned in November 2014 to work with the International Medical Corps, he has spent the past four odd months moderating infection control systems and management at the Makeni Center, an essential undertaking considering Ebola’s highly communicable nature. When a local traditional healer conducted a blood ceremony, igniting a vicious flare-up of the disease in the community, Makeni found a prime response crisis manager in Gary.

When he is not overseeing general sanitary practice, Gary carries out the dirty work, washing clothing, restocking soap supplies, and incinerating protective gear. Sadly, perhaps the most important role Gary plays is overseer of burial procedures, ensuring that infected bodies are ceremoniously mourned and disposed of in the safest way possible. 

The Makeni Ebola Treatment Center, funded by the UK Department of Foreign Investment & Development, opened in December 2014 at the peak of the outbreak. Today, the center is the largest Ebola patient treatment facility in Sierra Leone, housing 66 patients, 33 of which are confirmed Ebola positive. Makeni saw 31 new Ebola cases in February after the traditional healer incident, sending the community into total lockdown. Gary’s role as WASH coordinator has been absolutely vital in the town’s quarantine procedures.

Of his numerous assignments in the crisis arena, Gary’s tenure in Sierra Leone has been the single most challenging one of his career. “Everything I ever learned from my colleagues, mentors, and teachers are in play with keeping operations on track at Makeni,” Gary explains. Nevertheless, he is game for the challenge. “Right now, Makeni is the epicenter of the Ebola Surge in Sierra Leone, and I am delighted to be a part of the action,” he asserts.

Gary’s position is indeed harrowing. It demands a combination of leadership and management that has presented him his most difficult yet rewarding assignment. When all is said and done, it is comforting to know that such a qualified man has a firm hold on such a terrifying crisis. The wrath of disease can certainly be controlled when combatted with competence and confidence, two virtues that Lee P. Gary, Jr. exudes.

Lee P. Gary, along with Robert Reimers will be teaching an International Development graduate course this summer called Sustainable Environmental Management of Ubiquitous Waste from June 8 through the 26th.

Tulane Freshman, Madeline F. Birch contributed to this story.

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