Local News

UNC medical worker plans to help fight Ebola in Africa

Posted October 24, 2014 6:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2014 6:42 p.m. EDT

— Most people dream of retiring for the chance to start a new chapter in life.

For John Strader, a physician's assistant at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, that means heading to West Africa to help fight the Ebola outbreak.

Strader retires from his job of 10 years next Friday, and after some safety training in Alabama, he plans to board a plane in a few weeks to Liberia, where he will help treat patients.

He had originally planned to go to East Africa and fight AIDS, but then, he had a change of heart.

"I woke up at about 3 in the morning and something was pressing on my heart," Strader said Friday. "It said, 'You're not going to East Africa. You're going to West Africa.'"

"He moves to the beat of his own drum," said coworker Elizabeth Tita. "He doesn't mind being different, and he follows his heart."

Ever since he survived cancer years ago, Strader says he's chosen not to ever let fear paralyze him.

"I'm a cancer survivor," he said. "You sort of look at things a little bit different. You take your life one day at a time – and without fear."

Strader admits that some might call him crazy for his decision, but he says the work is his calling.

"He's at peace," Tita said. "I said, 'John, what if you were to die over there?' He said, 'Hey, I'm fine.'"