21 November 2022
Pierre Gomez, Field Coordinator of Health and Demographic Surveillance Systems (HDSS) at the Medical Research Council Unit The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) recognising his services in medical research in The Gambia. The event was held at the residence of the British High Commissioner on Thursday 17th November 2022.
The honorary awards, approved by Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2022, recognises people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping the UK.
As ‘fountain of honour’ in the UK, The King and formerly Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, has the sole right of conferring titles of honour on deserving people from all walks of life, in public recognition of their merit, service or bravery. This includes honorary awards to non-British nationals who through their ties to the UK have made an outstanding contribution.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, British High Commissioner, Mr David Belgrove said: “Mr Gomez is known for his personal support and generosity to members of staff and the community in which he lives and works. It is in recognition of these valuable services that Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II appointed you to be an honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. It is with great pleasure that, on her Late Majesty’s behalf, I present you with the badge of the Order. May I congratulate you Pierre Gomez MBE for services to Medical Research in The Gambia.”
Pierre was one of the first members of staff to be appointed to the MRCG at LSHTM Unit in Farafenni in 1982. He played a key role in establishing and sustaining surveillance systems which underpin important research discoveries such as the value of insecticide-treated bed nets and seasonal malaria chemoprevention, given to nearly 30 million children across the Sahel and sub-Sahel last year, as well as many important studies in other research areas.
Deployment of these interventions has played an important role in reducing the burden of malaria in the Western and Central parts of the Gambia, including Farafenni district, where under-five child mortality was nearly 300 per 100,000, and malaria the cause of many of these deaths, at the time that Pierre joined the Unit.
Reacting to the award, Pierre said: “I am very happy and grateful as we witness this precious, historic, and extraordinary MBE Award today. This is an incredibly special honour for me and my family, and most importantly, particularly my mother who is the real deserving person to see this remarkable MBE Award honour of her son. I would sincerely like to thank all the MRCG at LSHTM Executives, HDSS Team and individuals who made this remarkable and overwhelming historic award possible.”
Speaking on behalf of Dr Esu Stanley Ezeani, Head of HDSS, Dr Annette Erhart conveyed congratulations to Pierre on his award and commended him for his significant contributions to the Farafenni HDSS.
Dr Esu said: “You have been one of our most dedicated, efficient, impressive, and above all dependable staff… You have played a key role in establishing and maintaining the Farafenni HDSS which has allowed the impact of the various public health interventions pioneered by the MRC and colleagues in the Gambia to be measured accurately. Congratulations!”
Professor Umberto D’Alessandro, Director of the MRCG at LSHTM, shared similar feedback and congratulated Pierre on his award saying: “I am extremely happy for Pierre as this honour recognises his outstanding contribution to health research and to the work carried out by the MRC Unit The Gambia over the last 30-40 years. Pierre has been a formidable pillar of of the MRC Unit in Farafenni and has continued to support MRC activities even after our field station was donated to the University of The Gambia.”
Prof Umberto added that thanks to Pierre and his decision to stay in Farafenni even during difficult times, our Health and Demographic Surveillance System has been able to function and has continued to produce demographic data. This has allowed for the implementation of other research projects in Farafenni. Pierre has been instrumental in maintaining a close relationship with local authorities and the local population, facilitating the implementation of our research projects.
Pierre Gomez is the second MRCG at LSHTM staff member to be conferred MBE awards after Dr Abdul Karim Sesay, Head of Genomics Core Strategic Platform in January 2022.