“Early on, we developed the habit of having our own worlds and being self-sufficient,” said Lynn Henry, Dr. Henry’s older sister. When Lynn suffered appendicitis at age 8, little Bonnie came to visit, looked around the hospital and declared, ‘‘This is what I want to do.’’ She would become the family’s first doctor.
After high school, Dr. Henry joined the naval reserves, drawn by the camaraderie, naval navigation and communication techniques, and the lure of the open ocean. She enlisted in her third year of medical school and graduated to become a fleet medical officer in Esquimalt, B.C., not far from where she lives now.
“I look back on it now, a lot of the work I was doing with a group of captive men was prevention. They would tease me about always telling them to wear sunscreen and use condoms,” said Dr. Henry, who stayed with the navy for almost 10 years, meeting her husband there. (They separated five years ago, after 20 years of marriage, and never had children.)
During a gastrointestinal outbreak onboard, Dr. Henry used basic epidemiological legwork and a microscope to trace the source of the sickness to contaminated bottled water they’d taken on board in Tahiti.
One day at her job at a clinic in San Diego, a man burst in with a gun, demanding to talk to someone. Dr. Henry stepped forward. “I said, ‘I’m somebody. Let’s talk,’” she recalled. “He burst into tears. He was in pain and distraught.”
It turned out he was recovering from open-heart surgery and was unsure how he would pay the medical bills.
It was while working for the World Health Organization tracing Ebola outbreaks in Uganda that Dr. Henry developed her ideas about how best to respond to public health emergencies. The keys to an effective quarantine, she came to understand, were communication and support, like food and medical follow-up, not punitive measures.