Ebola Fighter Catalyst for Change

0517-Katie Meyler

More Than Me Academy founder, Katie Meyler, started a school and ended up fighting Ebola. Hear her story during Tuesday’s Plenary Session. Photo: Thomas Lhomme for More Than Me.

Katie Meyler will share the story of her compelling work as one of the “Ebola Fighters,” collectively recognized by TIME magazine as the 2014 Person of the Year, during the Plenary Session on Tuesday. At the onset of the largest Ebola epidemic in history, Ms. Meyler was spurred to turn her school for girls in Liberia into a disaster-response center.

In 2009, Ms. Meyler founded the More Than Me Academy, a tuition-free girls school located in a Liberian slum. She helped girls get off the streets and into school by providing scholarships, free meals and supplies, and an after-school program. The More Than Me Academy opened its doors in 2013.

A year later, when Ebola broke out, airlines canceled flights and the U.S. Peace Corps left Liberia. Ms. Meyler was fundraising in the United States, but she returned to Liberia. With the help of a donor, she transformed the school into a disaster-response center. Her team took in Ebola orphans, organized meetings, distributed food, provided home health care, and ran an ambulance service transporting the sick for medical treatment. According to More Than Me, its ambulance service reduced response times from the local service’s four days to 30 minutes, which likely saved the lives of more than 30,000 people.

“Our mission changed from helping these young girls go to school and making sure they have real choices when they graduate to keeping these children alive,” Meyler told TIME.

The TIME editors’ selection is based on “who best represents the news of the year,” spotlighting leaders who showcase “both a snapshot of where the world is and a picture of where it’s going.”

On April 30, 2015, More Than Me ended its Ebola programs, and the World Health Organization declared Liberia free of Ebola transmission on May 9, 2015. According to More Than Me, a new case emerged in June 2015, but Liberian authorities acted quickly and the WHO declared Liberia Ebola-free again on Sept. 3, 2015.

The More Than Me Academy reopened on March 2, 2015, and Ms. Meyler is now working with Liberia’s Ministry of Education to overhaul the education system.

Today, the More Than Me Academy serves more than 150 children and six Monrovian communities. Ms. Meyler also has been honored as a Forbes 400 Fellow, the 2014 Woman of Excellence by the Ms. JD Global Education Fund, a Nelson Mandela Changemaker by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the 2015 Best Activist by the Shorty Awards, and an Oprah Ambassador. She also was the 2012 winner of the Chase American Giving Awards. She divides her time between Monrovia and New York, and is an inspirational speaker, performer, and spoken word poet.

The ATS Plenary Session will be from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in the Moscone Center, Room 303/305 (South Building, Esplanade Level). It also will feature the introduction of the ATS slate of officers, an in memoriam presentation; remarks from ATS President Atul Malhotra, MD, and ATS President-Elect David Gozal, MD; and presentation of the Outstanding Educator Award to Robert Kotloff, MD, chairman of the Department of Pulmonary Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, Ohio.

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