Kate O’Brien

Community Engagement Coordinator
We Are TB / National Tuberculosis Controllers Association

2022 Leadership Journey Project: Growth and Development of ‘We Are TB’

My interest in global health is very personal, as I was one of the 10.4 million people who were diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2015, while pregnant with my second child. Unlike most of the other people who received my diagnosis I lived in the USA, but like many of us I experienced a delay in diagnosis that almost cost me my life (and the life of my child). Like many pregnant women everywhere I had to take medications and undergo treatments with no knowledge of how they would affect my pregnancy. I was isolated in the hospital for months away from my toddler son, and like many who undergo the months-to-years long treatment for TB, rife with side effects, I had to stop working. Also like many others, the damage from the infection has permanently damaged a lung.

Tuberculosis cost me and my family so much, but I lived and I delivered a healthy child, so I am grateful. It is an appalling injustice when anyone dies of curable disease, but there were 1.4 million TB deaths in 2015, so I am one of the lucky ones. While I love the fast pace of live television, what I think about day in and out is tuberculosis. Seeing resources mobilized so quickly for a COVID-19 vaccine has only made me more determined to get more awareness, attention and funding to tuberculosis. TB is often found in communities that face poverty, and I believe this is connected to the lack of political will and general interest in tackling the disease. I am committed to ending TB and doing it in a people-centered way.

More about my personal story here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/tuberculosis-isolation-world-tb- day_n_56eefba2e4b09bf44a9d9749
And here: https://www.cdc.gov/tb/topic/basics/katestory.htm

Stay In Touch