Dr Ousman Secka talks about his career progression at MRC Unit The Gambia

Dr Ousman Secka is the Microbiology Laboratory Manager and Head of Tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics of MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG). In addition, Ousman functions as The Unit’s Microbiologist and Biological Safety Officer. Ousman continues to contribute to the success of the laboratories, by bringing his wealth of experience and institutional memory to the task of maintaining an efficient Laboratory Services Platform.

Having spent over 30 years in service, Ousman is a long-standing staff member of the MRCG, who has undertaken various training, sponsored by the MRCG. He joined the MRCG straight from high school as Trainee Laboratory Technician in 1983. His career progression is one of the success stories of MRCG’s strategy of identifying, training and retaining indigenous talent to occupy key roles that support the continuity of research. He obtained an MPhil degree in 1999 and a PhD in 2013 while contributing in several different roles to MRCG’s research agenda.

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Microbiology Laboratory Manager and Head of Tuberculosis (TB) diagnostics

Ousman was the first to characterise Helicobacter pylori of clinical isolates from The Gambia in detail and more importantly, the first to characterise isolates taken from young children close to the time of their first colonisation. The combination of phylogenetic analyses, antibiotic susceptibility, clinical correlation and geographical association within a defined human population has been unique as it is the only study so far which includes The Gambia.

Ousman worked extensively on identifying the characteristics of both invasive and carriage isolates of Haemophilus influenzae type b from The Gambia. His work led to the first description of a hyperinvasive Haemophilus influenzae type b genotype in The Gambia, which was presented at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh at the 156th Society for General Microbiology (SGM) meeting in 2005. Ousman also developed and evaluated a rapid and simple biotyping method for Haemophilus influenzae which he called “MICROTEK” published in Br J Biomed Sci. 1998.

Prior to his current position, Ousman successfully led the Research Laboratory Administrative Platform and Biobank, in setting up systems to comply with Good Clinical Laboratory Practices (GCLP). Osman led the laboratory refurbishments of Thompson block in 2011 and Biosafety level 3 laboratory in 2013. He successfully led the TB Diagnostic Laboratory to achieve ISO 15189 accreditation and maintaining GCLP in 2015.

According to Dr Davis Nwakanma, Head of Laboratory Management, “Dr Ousman Secka’s dedication to duty is exemplary and the ability to bring tasks to completion within strict timelines and in a high standard makes him an outstanding member of the Laboratory Management Team.”