GENEVA — Walk into Mike Ryan’s office here on the orderly campus of the World Health Organization and you are in a train station.

Staff members rush in to see the agency’s ruddy, fast-talking emergencies chief to seek guidance on the various disease outbreaks they are trying to end. People crowd into the office where a pair of assistants are stationed, waiting their turn. When Ryan’s door is closed, it’s not long before a hand is rapping on the other side.

Ryan and his staff are firemen, the paramedics of global health. Their work is all front-burner stuff. Half an hour spent on this is 30 minutes not spent on that. There is the Ebola crisis — and a massive measles outbreak — in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Rohingya refugee situation in Bangladesh, too many crises to count in Yemen and Syria.

Zlatica Hoke (VOA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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