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Doctor Phuoc Le will travel to West Africa next week to join the fight against Ebola — a trip that involves a great deal of sacrifice.
On top of the month he will spend in rural Liberia teaching rural clinics how to handle Ebola patients, he plans to be quarantined for three weeks afterward.
"I believe I am well-equipped to go," he told NBC News. "That doesn’t mean I’m not scared."
His wife, Erin, is also scared.
"On a very selfish level, I don’t want him to go," she said.
Still, she understands the need in West Africa is great. But she knows her husband’s homecoming may not come with great fanfare.
"I think people may be nervous being around him, even after the quarantine," she said.
Despite the possible stigma, Le's employer, the University of California San Francisco, is encouraging its health-care workers to make the trip.
"Our mission, our focus should be on getting enough people to West Africa to stop transmission,” said Dr. George Rutherford, who heads the university’s Ebola task force. “If we don’t do that, it’s not going to go away."
The university has set up a system for employees to give their vacation days to those heading to West Africa. So far, more than 660 hours have been donated.
On top of that, some employees, including Doctor Madhavi Dandu, are voluntarily picking up shifts for colleagues who are heading overseas.
"The stigma and the concerns around the quarantines really worry me, partly because we risk the loss of many other health professionals who might decide to go there," Dandu said.
UCSF will not allow Le on campus for 21 days upon his return. That means no interaction with patients and no meetings.
It might be a moot point because Le intends to be quarantined for 21 days. He realizes that quarantine rules for returning health workers are fluid right now, so it is unclear where he will have to stay during those three weeks. But he is more than willing to isolate himself to reduce fears.
"I don’t want the focus to be on me when I come back,” he said. “The surest way to do that is just to take myself out of the picture."
That means he might go a couple months without seeing — or hugging — his 2-year-old daughter. That will not be easy, but Le calls is a small price to pay for the greater good. And to reward his daughter, he plans to take her to Florida once the quarantine is over.