Improving Paediatric Care in The Gambia through Research, Training and Support

16 March 2011

Established in 1999, The University of The Gambia has been a close partner of the Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia since the University’s inception. MRC staff provide lectures and other academic support, while students are taken in on internships, and The Unit now employs a number of graduates of the University.

A new chapter in this relationship has commenced with the secondment of Dr Kalifa Bojang (a paediatrician, clinical scientist and malaria expert) from the MRC to the University. This is the second MRC secondment to the University: in 2003 Professor Ousman Nyan joined the School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. Today, he is the Provost of the Medical School, one of the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellors and Chief Medical Director of the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul.

At the signing ceremony, Professor Tumani Corrah, MRC (UK) The Gambia’s Unit Director said ‘Kalifa is a well trained paediatrician and an excellent research scientist. His tasks will include developing a cadre of young Gambian paediatricians, strengthening the postgraduate training of the University and introducing a culture of research into the Department of Paediatrics. We are quite aware that Kalifa will not be able to do this alone, so we are also seconding another paediatrician – Dr Uduak Okomo – to support this capacity building initiative.’

Citing the MRC’s donation of Farafenni Field Site to the University in 2010, Professor Muhammadou Kah, Vice Chancellor of The University of The Gambia commented ‘Yet again, the MRC has intervened in the capacity and competency needs of the University as they relate specifically to our School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. On behalf of the Chairman and the Governing Council and more importantly our Chancellor, we thank the MRC.’

The School of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences has graduated almost sixty clinicians who are now practicing in various health facilities around The Gambia. Professor Kah added ‘Our vision is not only to service the health infrastructure here but also to serve in other countries, especially in the region. We cannot do this alone: we need partners like the MRC.’

Dr Kalifa Bojang started his working life at the Paediatric Department of RVTH and has worked at the MRC for the past fifteen years. Commenting on his return to RVTH he said ‘I hope that I can strengthen the Department through service provision, research work and the teaching of the young doctors coming up. As Principal Investigator of a recent trial that was conducted at RVTH, Dr Bojang knows the benefits that research can bring to the Paediatric Department. He said ‘the trial showed that artesunate (which is used for treating severe malaria) is actually better than the quinine we are currently using. We hope that the use of artesunate will become common practice throughout Africa.’

In his closing remarks, Professor Corrah said ‘I will be very excited when we begin to see young Gambian doctors joining the MRC in various capacities. The continuous development of those who will look after us and lead research in the near future is one of our key goals.’