It has surely been a day of contrasts today. After spending the morning at the Medical School and the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital we visited the MRC’s base in The Gambia. The RVTH is very poorly funded (for example the pathology labs have only H+E staining only, and manual histological processing – imagine how this extends to the rest of the hospital), newly populated by recent graduates of the Gambian medical school who are working very hard, alongside the nursing staff and senior doctors. Banjul is a busy, poor city, full of friendly hassle but also full of colour and smiles.
The MRC’s institute here has been in place for 60 years, and again is populated by dedicated, young, hard working staff. But the MRC is a modern, state of the art facility, filled with impressive kit (real-time cyclers, DNA sequencers, 9 colour flow cytometers) & equally impressive men and women.
The MRC institution is heavily involved in researching & eradicating communicable diseases in the Gambia & abroad. They also treat many of the local population, with people queueing overnight to be seen by a doctor. One man at the MRC that we met begrudgingly admitted that he started work at 3.30am every morning, to care for those patients. He was still there after 5pm when we visited.
Right now, I’m sat in a bar that is itself sat right on the Atlantic, in the sunset. It’s quiet, remote and gorgeous. The weather is good, I’m drinking Julbrew and considering forgiving Steve for dragging me away from the pool. My view of West Africa has flipped from desperate dislike to potential and promise. If this was 6 or 7 years ago I’d be thinking about looking for a molecular biology post-doc here.
The man running the MRC institute is a Gambian. A deeply impressive Gambian.