In this interview, Raphael Frankfurter describes overseeing the Wellbody Alliance clinic’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Kono, Sierra Leone. He recounts succeeding where other organizations failed by institutionalizing empathy, tightening protective protocol for health workers, and coordinating with partners to streamline treatment. In particular, Frankfurter attributes Sierra Leoneans’ exceptional degree of cooperation with Wellbody to the pairing of each patient with a community health worker. He explains how Wellbody benefited from a mostly local staff, with a structure that promoted vital conversations among community health workers, supervisors, and managers. He notes that discussions with local leaders, residents, and traditional healers helped the organization identify and serve the area’s needs. Based on various players’ achievements and setbacks in the field, Frankfurter concludes that to effectively deliver care, healthcare providers should respect patients as humans from the beginning.
At the time of this interview, Raphael Frankfurter was an MD/PhD student at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley. He previously served as the Executive Director of Wellbody Alliance from 2013 to 2015. He led the organization’s community-focused response to the Ebola outbreak by operating a medical center in Kono, Sierra Leone and a network of care centers throughout the country. Frankfurter conducted ethnographic research in Kono during his undergraduate career at Princeton University, where he studied anthropology as well as global health and health policy.