Under its Young Professionals Internship Programme (YPIP), the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), trains young professionals from the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) region in the basic principles of public health, management and leadership, as well as information and communication technology. WAHO and MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) have a long-standing collaborative program to fund young medical doctors and bio-scientists to improve their proficiency in a second official ECOWAS language.
The annual internships are conducted at research centres of excellence within the ECOWAS region and provides an opportunity for French speaking interns to have professional exposure in English speaking countries’, while the English speakers also have the opportunity for internships in French-speaking countries. The implementation of YPIP enables interns to be posted to institutions whose area of intervention aligns with the intern’s area of interest.
This year, two medical doctors, Dr Annick Raissa Sidibe (from Burkina Faso) and Dr Edem Akpalu (from Togo), who were on WAHO-MRCG internship program (from June 1 to November 18, 2016) successfully completed their six months internship at the MRCG.
While at The Unit, Dr Sidibe had practical experience working within the Disease Control and Elimination Theme (DCE) in the field of community pneumococcal transmission after routine Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine serotype 13 introduction in The Gambia and in the field of operational research focusing on vaccine wastage. She was supervised by Dr Effua Usuf (MRC/LSHTM West African Fellowship and Principal Investigator of the projects) and Dr Anna Roca (Theme Coordinator, DCE). Dr Akpalu, also had practical experience working with the Vaccines and Immunity Theme, on understanding the aetiology of neonatal infections in The Gambia and the role of maternal colonisation, supervised by Dr Uduak Okomo, Paediatrician/Research Clinician.
Commenting on her experience at MRCG, Dr Sidibe said,”My internship at MRCG was an amazing opportunity to work in a highly recognised research institution that upholds international standards and to develop a first-hand experience in my research area. I was involved in a study assessing the nasopharyngeal carriage of streptococcus pneumoniae in The Gambia five years after implementation of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine serotype 13 in the routine immunisation of children. It was a tremendous experience along which I developed skills on study procedures, study design and data management. I have also acquired experience in implementing an epidemiological study through community approach, team work, team management and supervision.”
When asked to comment on the performance of Dr Sidibe, Dr Anna Roca said, “To host ECOWAS young public health young professionals is a great opportunity for the region. We are very happy with the overall performance of Dr Sidibe. Dr Sidibe is a well prepared Medical Doctor and having her here for six months allowed us to exchange experiences. We are happy to participate in these programs to support capacity building within the region. Dr Effua Usuf and Dr Bully Camara integrated Dr Sidibe on their daily project activities and teams. Dr Sidibe was involved in the implementation of an epidemiological study in rural communities and participated in the time-consuming data cleaning process. She also participated in one of our well organised Good Clinical Practice training courses”.
Commenting on his experience, Dr Edem Akpalu said, “My internship at MRCG was a wonderful experience. I had an insight into high-level health research institution and first-hand contact with researchers working in improving health in Africa. I was involved in the project on neonatal infections in The Gambia as well as a systematic review of the literature on the aetiology of neonatal infections in sub-Saharan Africa. My mentor and study team guided me throughout this internship to achieve my goals. I particularly appreciated the MRC Festival of Medical Research which highlighted the achievements of young scientists. MRCG and The Gambia will be an unforgettable experience in my life.”
Commenting on the performance of Dr Akpalu, Dr Uduak Okomo said, “Dr Akpalu is in his final year of residency training in paediatrics and so already considerable experience in paediatrics and child health in the West African sub-region. This was his first experience with a clinical research project and there was a steep learning curve. He, however, integrated himself quickly in the study team as he became acquainted with the study procedures and field activities. Dr Akpalu reviewed the clinical records of recruited study participants for completeness ahead of submission for data entry. He also worked with me on a systematic review of neonatal infections in sub-Saharan Africa, providing the much-needed translations of the numerous French articles that were identified. Working with and mentoring Dr Akpalu has been a pleasurable and rewarding experience”