Operating in the Line of Fire

One of Madrid’s foremost female epidemiologists is an inspiration to me.

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In the midst of the grim COVID-19 pandemic which has hit Italy and Spain particularly hard, one woman joined by other frontline health workers in both countries and throughout Europe ̶ has certainly stepped up to the occasion. She is one of the main epidemiologists in Spain and an expert on empirical studies carried out on epidemics like the Ebola haemorrhagic fever and now the novel Coronavirus, and also happens to be a long-term friend of mine; steadfast in her friendship ever since we were in our tender twenties. That is when we first crossed paths during my time as an exchange student in small but densely populated Tarazona in the province of Zaragoza, north-eastern Aragon. She proved kind and forthcoming then and we immediately forged a connection, only to years later meet up again in London during her subsequent residency there. On one of our first encounters I was generously welcomed into her paternal home to share a rustic meal with her parents in the Spanish countryside ̶ breathtaking scenery as far as the eyes could see ̶ and their natural and unpretentious kindness and easy-going attitude left a lasting impression.

Marta Mora Rillo, Doctor specialising in Infectious Diseases at Hospital Universitario La Paz, is fully dedicated to her work; driven by professional conviction and expertise, empathy, solidarity and compassion for others and a desire to alleviate conditions for people disadvantaged across the globe. She provides strict recommendations and advice on the ground and through the news and media channels. Also affiliated with Hospital Carlos III in Madrid, her research spans from “Therapeutic management of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever” to “Broad neutralizing activity against Ebola-viruses lacking the mucin-like domain in convalescent plasma specimens from patients with Ebola virus disease”, and “Evidence for previously unidentified sexual transmission of protozoan parasites”.

Now her both vast and deep knowledge of the current Coronavirus has been tapped into and shared by Spanish media platforms like Antena 3 and award-winning multi-topical investigative interview channel Espejo Público; first launched to the Spanish public in 1996. Asked for advice, Marta explains and clarifies the absolute importance of wearing face masks and the need for us all to understand that we are equally much potential transmitters of the virus, as ourselves susceptible to the contagion. Interviewed on Spanish TV she is direct, no-nonsense, clear and to the point; still a young woman and an authority worthy of our respect.

Capable of continuous breakthroughs in her field, Marta stands out from the crowd, enlightening her readers and listeners with her sound and level-headed insights and expertise and calmly leading her fellow medical professionals at a time when medical competence, heart and compassion are qualities of a real leader.

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