From Fighting Fear to Fighting Ebola

By her own admission, Biomedical Science alumni Sharon Bosker was not always first in line to get ‘hands on’. As an undergraduate specialising in Microbiology and Virology she was troubled initially by a “fear of failing, especially in laboratory practicals”. Despite this, the supportive environment provided by academics and peers in Hull helped her to overcome her fears and develop the self-belief that she needed to pursue a career in biomedical science.

This self-belief enabled Sharon to make rapid progress in her chosen career. Having entered the industry as a Temporary Laboratory Assistant shortly after graduating in 2013, Sharon moved through an Associate Practitioner role before taking up her current position as a practicing Biomedical Scientist, a clinical role involving sample testing and handling results within a diagnostic hospital laboratory.

However, Hull was not the only character building experience that Sharon carried into her professional career, in 2014 she made a brave and life-changing decision to take her skills and experience out to West Africa in order to support efforts to tackle an outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone.

Working in a diagnostic laboratory, Sharon was responsible for testing samples from the community and from the Ebola Treatment Centre. She recalls the contrast between the feeling of security provided by protective clothing provided and the threat posed by handling deadly pathogens: “it was such a surreal feeling to handle an Ebola-positive sample, knowing that it could kill.” Despite the hazardous nature of the work, Sharon also recalls the personal reward that came from “seeing Ebola survivors being discharged” a positive outcome that she credits to a massive volunteer effort from a broad network of “medics, nurses, laboratory assistants and local staff”. Sharon’s involvement in this life-saving team effort was the result of a journey of learning and personal development that began in Hull and found full expression within the Ebola quarantine line of West Africa:

“When I started university in 2009, scared that practical work would go horribly wrong, I never could have guessed that my degree would lead me to working with Ebola to help others in desperate need.”

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the most acute public health emergency in modern times, from December 2013, 28,657 cases were diagnosed and 11,325 deaths were recorded of whom 10% were health workers. The last case was diagnosed in January 2016 and the outbreak was declared no longer an emergency on 29 March 2016

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