There is a dizzying complexity to shaping a humanitarian response that is irresistible to American aid doctor Pranav Shetty, who lives with his wife, Nora, in Arlington, Va.
When he trained health care workers and treated patients at the height of the Ebola epidemic last August in Liberia, the local hospital system was in shambles.
He organized the delivery of medical supplies in northern Iraq after attacks by the Islamic State left areas isolated. At the time, refugees from the overrun city of Mosul were flooding into the area. His work brought him as close as a mile from an Islamic State checkpoint.
“Everybody wants to have an impact on the world,” says Shetty. “The greatest impact is not to go to the places everybody goes to. The greatest impact is to help the people that nobody wants to help.”
His wife, who also did humanitarian work, said she occasionally tries nudging him toward the lesser of two dangerous destinations. Nora Shetty successfully lobbied him to fight a deadly virus. “With Ebola, you have a bit more ability to protect your own safety,” she reasons.
She describes her husband, among the first people the International Medical Corps sends to crises, as someone who disdains complacency and is committed to always improving his disaster-relief skills.
“You want to be challenged,” he explains. “You don’t want the same thing every day. If it was easy, everybody would do it.”