Lt. Nathaniel Christy, a U.S. Navy microbiologist, gives an insider’s perspective on working at NAMRU-3 in Cairo.
Sabah Alkhyr! As way of introduction, I am Lt. Nathaniel Christy, a microbiologist at U. S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt.
We operate under U.S. Embassy Chief of Mission authority, which means we have diplomatic status and report to the Ambassador. My wife accompanied me to Egypt and we have found Cairo to offer opportunities for adventure and to meet a lot of interesting people.
Being a regional economic center at the junction of three continents, Cairo is filled with expatriates working in the many international schools and businesses. A typical weekend may include a camel ride and Bedouin dinner with friends in the desert, an all-inclusive cruise on the Nile River, or stopping at the Valley of the Kings to see ancient archeological sites. For shopping for local goods, nothing beats the ancient Khan El Khalili bazaar.
Needless to say, the hustle and bustle of Cairo can keep one busy! But the real exciting reason to be at a NAMRU-3 is being part of phenomenal research and disease surveillance activities. The combination of a quality laboratory facility with unprecedented access to clinically and epidemiologically interesting sample sets and study populations means there are many opportunities to conduct infectious disease surveillance research.
With local partners across Africa and the Middle-East, we can field test new products to enhance Force Health Protection and support public health in the area. Also, NAMRU-3 staff assists DoD, WHO and Egyptian officials to decipher the etiologies of unknown infectious disease outbreaks.
I was able to accompany the NAMRU-3 team on extended TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) that helped respond to the 2014 Ebola epidemic in Liberia. Out of a mobile laboratory setup, we performed sample testing each morning and assisted in training our Liberian lab counterparts in the afternoons. The Liberian team we helped train ultimately took over diagnostic operations after Operation United Assistance redeployed back home.
NAMRU-3 has definitely broadened my experience and has proven to be an adventure. A wise man I know once said, “the air in Cairo has a certain spicy quality to it.” I would say that both the air and the opportunities in Cairo have turned out to be of the “spicy” variety.
Article and image courtesy of Lt. Nathaniel Christy via the Navy Medical Research and Development (NMRC). Edited for context and format.