Honorable Deputy Minister of Health
Directors of the Ministry of Health
Representative from the World Health Organization
Leadership team from AFENET
District and National-level Representatives of the Government of Sierra Leone
Esteemed Colleagues and Friends
Good morning. It is my great pleasure to join you today for the final presentation and graduation of the 6th Cohort of the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP). I am honored, in just my second week in country, to be able to participate in this graduation and I hope to participate in the conclusion of many more training events during my time here, as we continue our long-standing partnership with Sierra Leone in the health field and work together to build a sustainable health system for the people of Sierra Leone. I arrived in country on September 7, 2023– World Field Epidemiology Day, and I want to take this opportunity to offer belated congratulations and thanks to all those engaged in this important endeavor! The United States honors all field epidemiologists for the vital role that you play in protecting the health of populations worldwide, strengthening health surveillance systems to detect diseases early, and advancing global health security.
In this age of global travel and open trade keeping the international community safe from infectious disease is a shared global challenge. Disease outbreaks of pandemic potential can start anywhere, and it is imperative that public health officials be able to detect, prevent, and respond. The open exchange of credible data within the international community is equally vital to ensuring that such disease outbreaks are contained and eradicated at the earliest opportunity. As we are all aware, the global public health workforce is currently being challenged by an alarming increase in emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Marburg virus, Lassa fever, and other public health emergencies. This makes proven public health in-service training programs, such as the FETP now more crucial than ever.
I am happy to recognize our FETP graduates — Sierra Leone’s newest “Disease Detectives” — as they embark upon this challenging work in country. The work that you will carry out is critical to the well-being not only of Sierra Leone but to the entire international community. You follow in the footsteps of global public health leaders, many of whom started their careers through the same training program that you have just completed. It is my fervent hope that each of you will also take on the mantle of public health leadership and help to enhance the sustainability both of Sierra Leone’s public health system and the global network of disease detection and surveillance that is an integral component of free and open international borders and global commerce.
With this cohort of graduates, Sierra Leone currently has 90 intermediate public health professionals trained in field epidemiology and surveillance — n important indicator of the seriousness that national leadership attaches to this critical skillset. Through your new-found expertise, the Ministry of Health will gain an enhanced capacity to recognize public health hazards, a strong culture of data-driven decision making, and a nationwide network of well-trained and motivated surveillance personnel.
The United States is committed to supporting transformative programs like FETP in Sierra Leone through the Global Health Security Agenda. Together with CDC and funded partners, we will continue to work with you to strengthen workforce capacity, surveillance, and epidemiology throughout the country. Sierra Leone has demonstrated true international leadership in establishing and expanding disease surveillance capabilities at all levels of its health system. Many FETP graduates are now in positions of public health leadership, embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance health equity.
Allow me to offer my appreciation for the Ministry of Health’s leadership in establishing and executing this tier of the FETP program. I have no doubt that it will meet the critical needs of the public health system and ensure Sierra Leone remains prepared for emerging and re-emerging public health crises. As shown over many decades in numerous countries, the FETP program is accredited, strong and impactful!
In conclusion, let me extend once again my congratulations to the 6th cohort of FETP-intermediate graduates! It has been a challenging 11 months, and your dedication in completing this rigorous curriculum shows the strength of the FETP program. My best wishes for future success go out to you, and your families, on this milestone, and you have my continuing gratitude for the tremendous work that you are doing to support Sierra Leone and the international community. I look forward to learning more about your efforts as I travel within Sierra Leone and have the opportunity to see your important work first-hand.
Thank you once again for the invitation to join you today and best wishes in your future endeavors.