Martel Safety Transcript


Martel Safety Transcript


Q: Were there any moments, keeping that in mind, that the country was in charge, where as an advisor from somewhere else you kind of disagreed with an aspect and you had to work through some disagreements?

MARTEL: Yes, and I remember some very funny things, like for example, one day I received a call from Atlanta. People were saying, Lise, you need to tell Dr. Sakoba that it doesn't make sense to put ThermoFlash in all the schools. It's very costly. The kids are not at higher risk. Actually they're safer in the schools because most people being infected are people that are taking care of bodies. You need to advise him to ask the president to reopen the schools and this ThermoFlash thing, forget about that. Instead, just make sure that if a kid is sick, they go back home. Anyway, so I arrive in the meeting, and Dr. Sakoba comes in the meeting, despite having received this feedback from CDC, and he says, "We need ThermoFlash in all the schools." I'm kind of a little puzzled by it, but trusting him a lot, I said, "Dr. Sakoba, can I talk to you for a minute?" And I closed the door and said, "Dr. Sakoba, I want you to explain to me why it's important to have ThermoFlash in schools." He looked at me and he paused, like he was deciding how he was going to say that to me. And then he said, "You know, Lise, when foreigners leave Guinea and come to Guinea at the airport, we have ThermoFlash, right? And we take the temperature of everybody, correct?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Okay, so we see on TV a lot of white people, foreigners, temperatures being taken, people are being monitored for temperature," he said. And then he said, "When you go to your country, you get monitored for temperature, and you have a proper apparatus to do that, right? So what message are we telling parents if we say, we're going to do that here, but in the schools, your children are not quite important enough to have a ThermoFlash?" He said, "The point is not that the kids need to have their temperature taken. The point is perception of the community, and if you want the buy-in of the community to help us to do activities, you need to give them what they want. And right now they're scared. They're scared for their children. Their children is the most precious thing they have, and you have to show them that you're willing to do anything to help them protect their children. If you do that, we're going to buy a lot of goodwill from the community." And I said, "Dr. Sakoba, I totally understand." I was like, "We need ThermoFlash in all the schools." [laughs] So sometimes the decision is not purely scientific. Public health involves a lot of psychology also.


“Martel Safety Transcript,” CDC Museum Digital Exhibits, accessed June 14, 2024,