The Liberian government has conferred on the late Dr. Ann Deborah Atai Omoruto, the Ugandan medical doctor who helped to combat the deadly Ebola virus in the country in 2014, one of the nation’s highest honors. Dr. Omoruto was posthumously admitted into the Order of the Star of
Africa and conferred the Grade of Grand Commander by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on July 26.
She was commonly known in Liberia as Dr. Atai. Her daughter, Mrs. Kiyai Dorothy Esther Ndiko, travelled from Uganda to Liberia to receive the Liberian government’s decoration.
Dr. Atai arrived in Liberia from Uganda in July 2014 as part of the World Health Organization’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
President Sirleaf in the citation during the honoring ceremony, said Dr. Atai contributed her invaluable expertise to Liberia’s efforts to contain the virus. “Our courageous honoree joined other medical practitioners in Liberia’s Ebola fight with an optimistic spirit that inspired many on the frontline of the fight,” she said.
The Ugandan doctor led the establishment of the John F. Kennedy Medical Center Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) and assisted with the training of Liberian health workers who had very little or no knowledge of how the Ebola virus spread at the time. Later, when the JFK could not respond to the growing demand for beds to treat Ebola affected patients, Dr. Atai along with her team responded to the government’s decision to urgently establish a new ETU at the Island Clinic in Tweh Town, Bushrod Island, where she also trained hundreds of nurses and medical practitioners on how to treat and care for Ebola patients and on personal safety, including doffing (lifting) of the personal protective equipment (PPE).
Following the honoring ceremony, Dr. Atai’s daughter, Mrs. Ndiko, told this newspaper that she was pleased that her mother has been appreciated by the Liberian Government and people for her work in the country.
Mrs. Ndiko, who is a lawyer, said she is glad that her country sent one of its best team of doctors to come and help a fellow African country in its time of need.
She said “service above self” is very important and that those who are in the position to help should leave their comfort zones to help their fellow Africans in need.
“Sometimes, you are recognized best when you are out there serving other people other than when you are in your own country,” Mrs. Ndiko observed.
Reminiscing on her mother, she stated: “She was a very courageous woman, passionate and very loving. She was straight forward: her ‘no’ was a no and ‘yes’ was a yes. She was one person, who recognized those in the management level and the workers below them. She had always served above herself. She didn’t fear challenges; she just dived into them.”
Mrs. Ndiko said her mother loved them as children and also everyone who came her way, including the elderly and the sick.
Her mother’s humility taught them so many good lessons, including “to always be humble and God will lift you up,” said Mrs. Ndiko.
When news of Dr. Atai’s death broke on Thursday, May 5, 2016, Deputy Health Minister Tolbert G. Nyenswah told our Health Correspondent that her loss was a global loss to the public health and medical arena because of her vast experience in handling infectious diseases.
He added: “Her experience in dealing with hemorrhagic diseases is something that would be irreplaceable for a very long time.”
He recalled that Dr. Atai was “a very strong advocate for Ebola healthcare workers to be treated with respect and dignity.”