Dr. Kent Brantly, the American physician who recovered from Ebola contracted while treating Liberian patients suffering from the often-fatal disease, has been selected to receive the first CEPA Award for 2015. Dr. Brantly, who was named along with other Ebola fighters as “Time Person of the Year for 2014,” has been a forceful advocate for increasing awareness and aid for the West African nations and peoples suffering from this outbreak.

The CEPA award is intended to honor premier examples of effective and ethical oral, written, or mediated communication on issues of significant public interest. Dr. Brantly, through his public statements, testimony before Congress, and in media interviews and presentations, well represents the qualities of a worthy award recipient.

And, appropriately, this first award will be presented at the College of Communication Symposium on Servant Leadership, the second annual program presented by the Conference on Ethical Public Argumentation (CEPA). Dr. Brantly is without question an outstanding exemplar of the qualities of a servant leader as well as those of a highly ethical communicator. Complete details on the schedule for the presentation as well as the rest of the Symposium will shortly appear on this site.

Dr. Kent Brantly is a native of Indianapolis, a graduate of Indianapolis Heritage Christian School. He received his undergraduate degree from Abilene Christian University in 2003 and went on to medical school at Indiana University, receiving his MD in 2009. Dr. Brantly completed his residency at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, in 2013, and then became a family physician in Fort Worth. During his academic career, he exhibited a definite, powerful calling to be a medical missionary. While at Abilene Christian, he went on mission trips to Tanzania and Uganda. Fluent in Spanish, he also participated in two mission trips to Central America—Honduras and Nicaragua. It is not surprising therefore that he answered a call to take on a two-year commitment with the organization, Samaritan’s Purse, as a physician at the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital in Liberia. Dr. Brantly and his wife, Amber, moved to Monrovia, Liberia, with their two children in October of 2013, and were hence in that country when the Ebola epidemic surfaced in 2014.

Dr. Brantly was on the ground when the Ebola outbreak began to ravage the nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone in West Africa. The fact that Liberia and Sierra Leone had recently emerged from devastating civil wars further exacerbated the terrible impact of this epidemic in those countries. As Dr. Brantly said in his testimony before a Senate committee hearing in September, “I worked as a physician to support the woefully inadequate healthcare system of a country still struggling to recover from a brutal civil war. Resources were limited, and we often saw patients die of diseases that would be easily treatable in the United States. It was a challenging job to provide quality care even before the Ebola virus tore through the country.”

He accepted an appointment as the Medical Director for Samaritan’s Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, the capital and largest city in Liberia. He came to personalize the Ebola epidemic for Americans when he himself was stricken with the disease in the summer of 2014. Health care workers are at extreme risk during this emergency because of their close contact with persons suffering from this highly infectious disease. When only two doses of an experimental medication (one never tested on human subjects at that time) were made available, he insisted that another American health care worker be the first to receive them. In the event, doctors decided his own case was so grave that he had to be given a first dose. As is well known, he was then airlifted to the United States for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and subsequently recovered from the disease. He has since provided blood for others suffering from Ebola, which it is thought could serve as a sort of vaccine for such patients.

Dr. Brantly has become a spokesperson for furthering awareness and understanding of Ebola both nationally and internationally. On September 16, 2014, he testified before a joint hearing of two Senate committees regarding American response to the outbreak in West Africa and potential dangers to the United States, http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Brantly.pdf . His testimony, which can be read by following this link, specifies the main elements of his arguments for increased international response and specific American initiatives to combat the threats of this dangerous Ebola epidemic. As he points out, the destabilizing of the fragile nations in West Africa can lead to consequences not just for international public health but also for political stability throughout an area already struggling to contain civil wars and violence in Nigeria, Central African Republic, and other countries of the region—such effects can have serious negative ramifications for the United States and the international community.

Dr. Brantly has continued to be a spokesperson and advocate for strengthening our response to this disease outbreak and the public health needs of poorer nations as well. As mentioned already, Time Magazine featured Dr. Brantly in their most recent “Person of the Year” issue, which highlighted several of the Ebola fighters. The link in the previous sentence leads to further information concerning Dr. Brantly’s role in the early stages of the struggle against this disease outbreak, as well as the heroic efforts of other Liberian and international doctors and volunteers in the West Africa nations first affected. He has also spoken out on the continued need for medical and humanitarian aid in these areas through interviews on NPR and other media outlets.

He and his wife, Amber, have signed a contract to write a book detailing their experiences and emphasizing the continued need for volunteers, governmental programs, and “servant leaders” to meet this and future international challenges to health and security. They hope that the notoriety achieved from this effort and his appearances and testimony will further bring attention to this cause.

Further sources for more information on Dr. Kent Brantly:
Indianapolis Star
Samaritan’s Purse

William W. Neher
Bill Neher

Bill Neher is professor emeritus of communication studies at Butler University, where he taught for 42 years. Over those years he has served as Dean of the University College, Director of the Honors Program, Head of the Department of Communication Studies, the Chair of the faculty governance, and most recently as the first Dean (Interim) for the new College of Communication begun in June 2010. He is the author of several books dealing with organizational and professional communication, ethics, and African studies, plus several public speaking and communication text books.


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