Bayer and CDC Foundation Address Zika Virus Threat in Puerto Rico
By Dr. Yesmean Wahdan, Bayer U.S. Medical Affairs
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well-Ralph Waldo Emerson.
If I could choose a quote that embodies how I view life, it would be this one by Ralph Waldo Emerson. My goal in life is to look back and to truly feel that I have contributed in some way to make some difference. This is why I became a physician — as an OB/GYN I’m always focused on understanding and addressing the latest public health concerns that may affect patients.
Last year, I had a life-changing opportunity as a member of the Bayer task force that quickly mobilized to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation in its efforts to address the deadly Zika virus that was impacting Latin America at alarming rates and beginning its spread across the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. This groundbreaking initiative is featured in the January 2018 issue of the prestigious and respected Lancet medical journal.
Puerto Rico had the highest number of Zika infections in the United States, a high rate of unintended pregnancy and limited access to contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs). Contraception access was limited by many factors, such as reduced availability of the full range of reversible methods and high out-of-pocket costs. The CDC Foundation, with technical leadership from the CDC and partners in Puerto Rico, established the Zika Contraception Access Network (Z-CAN), and Bayer stepped up to provide important support and technical assistance.
I was honored to be part of the on-the-ground team that provided hands-on training and education to health professionals on the front lines helped deliver the tools and knowledge needed to protect the lives of women and babies facing this crisis. This experience was the most rewarding of my life and my career — to be part of a compassionate effort that impacted the lives of thousands of women, their families, and generations to come, humbles me to no end. I will proudly look back on this later in life and know that our work and partnership made a real difference in the lives of thousands of women.