In conjunction with the Drexel University WeServe program and the Drexel University School of Public Health, we will be traveling to Gambia (West Africa) this summer to do work on a number of public health projects related to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS prevention & education, and chronic disease management.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building, Bridging, & Bonding

Last week the L.O.V.E. Abroad team separated. Tomi and Idris accompanied Shirin and Dr. Allen on their first trekking endeavor. They left early in the morning to meet Mr. Badgie, CEO of Sulayman Junkung General Hospital. While touring SJGH they were introduced to the hospital procedures and operations, as well as visited the medical school where past WeServe participants set up the virtual library for e-learning and other telecommunication. Shirin and Dr. Allen also saw the library that was implemented by the first WeServe participants. After the hospital tour, the group went trekking in Kanilai. Dr. Allen was taken back by the many idle machines that could have been used by the trekking staff. When Tomi and Idris asked both Shirin and Dr. Allen about their overall thoughts of their experience, they responded by saying they were astounded by the staffs resourcefulness. It was nice for the L.O.V.E. members to see their Drexel colleagues experience similar situations that they had been accustomed to!

The second half of the L.O.V.E. team  (Greg, Lauren, and Tosin) assisted Dr. Marquez in a meeting with The University of The Gambia (UTG). The whole UTG administration team, press, and faculty was in attendance including the Gambia newspaper, the Daily Observer. The L.O.V.E. team was amazed to find out that Dr. Marquez had previously taught many of the faculty and administration that now run the University including the head of the public health department. The purpose of the meeting was to sign a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the relationship with the Drexel University’s partnership with the University of The Gambia. The event was so important to the Gambian community, it was a featured section in The Observer (a popular local newspaper) where some of the L.O.V.E. team members were pictured at the signing ceremony.

The meeting led to a collaboration dinner to introduce all participating university’s including the University of Iowa, Drexel University, and University of The Gambia. During this dinner, the L.O.V.E. Abroad team was able to mingle with other students from Iowa and South Dakota and hear about their experiences and work within the Gambia. The whole team, as well as the entire Drexel faculty, was able to share their purpose and goals in working with the University of The Gambia.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drexel Arrives in The Gambia

Sunday afternoon, L.O.V.E. Abroad greeted Dr. Marquez, the Director of Global Health Intiatives and Shirin Karsan, the director of the Drexel WeServe Program.  They also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Fred Allen, professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Drexel, and his wife, Dr. Lynne Edwards of Ursinus College. The team was very excited to see some friendly and familiar faces and welcome them to The Gambia. Much needed snacks were given to the team as their previous supply had run out weeks ago.  Dr. Marquez quickly noticed that the members of the group had gotten a lot of sun while being out in the village.  A weeks worth of planned meetings and cultural activities was also a part of the highly anticipated meeting and they were very excited to see us all and hear how things were going.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vaccine Vials and Syringes in the Hallway...we are currently working with some of the hosptial staff on ways to manage such clinical waste appropriately

Tosin, during our assessment of the pharmacy.

Tosin helping Dr. Camara with an extraction in the dental clinic.

Group meeting with Matthew, one of the head nurses in the outpatient department.

The girls with the staff from the dental and eye clinics.

One of the 8 trekking sites that the hospital visits to provided care to children under 5 and administer vaccines.

Tosin and Lauren at the Somita Clinic, helping Kalilu, a public health worker, administer vaccinations.

The team, rocking our Drexel polos.

Tomi, helping Dr. Camara in the dental clinic.


Heading into the trip Tomi, Tosin, and Idris solely focused on implementing an electronic medical record system. However, due to the needs of the community and hospital alike, their projects were altered where they are now taking a systematic approach on improving the efficiency of health services. Likewise, Greg, who envisioned tracking the prevelance of HIV and malaria amongst the individual villages the hospital serves, has found that there are inadequate statistical measures in place to do so. Therefore, his project has shifted into helping the medical record department to track common diseases' incidence and prevelance per respective village through developing an excel statistical modeling platform. Lauren has been working primarily with the public health officers trekking team, assisting with immunization record keeping and birth registrations for children under 5.  Originally she planned to focus on maternal mental health and the factors influencing that, as well as its implications on childhood development.  However, since then her focus has shifted to a general assessment of maternal and child health services offered by the hospital with regards to efficiency, quality, and satisfaction.  Additionally, she has been working to promote health education among village women on a number of MCH topics and exploring the cultural factors in the Gambia that influence maternal and child health.

While working on our respective projects, we have also delved into other pressing issues that impact the hospital.  Approached by Hassan, a nursing student with Junkung, we learned that the hospital is inadequately disposing  both clinical and non-clinical waste. In Hassan's situational analysis, he specifically noted the lack of waste bins,inefficient dumping/ incineration site, and poor cohesiveness amongst environmental safety staff to collect waste from respective wards. After our meeting, we visited the make-shift dumping site behind the hospital which resembled a messy graveyard scattered with smold-ering used syringes, broken glass vials, and other indiscernible garbage. In the days to follow, as requested by Hassan,we brainstormed ideas on how to address this important issue.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Week 3

Rain, Rain, Go Away!! The rainy season is here in the Gambia and so is Malaria season! The L.O.V. E crew experienced their first torrential downpour of this season. Rains so loud you cant hear yourself think, and thunder so long that it seems like an echo. Although the rain may seem like it's bit of a hindrance from their work, it has made a significant difference in cooling down the climate! The L.O.V. E team often catches themselves just listening and watching the rain come down in what seems like buckets! The rain has also increased the L.O.V. E team's "family time" in the house, allowing them to watch movies, Oprah, play "UNO", and just talk about a numerous amount of topics. One of the first battles they have experienced with the rain is, its aftermath. The army of bugs and animals trying to come in and escape has been nothing less of a battle between man versus insects! Tomi, Lauren, and Tosin had an insecticide war with some peculiar flying ant-worm things! Thankfully, man won this fight and they figured out a way to prevent these insects from invading the house. Meanwhile Greg and Idris have been on Promtherin duty, spraying down the perimeter of their home in order to keep bugs OUT! The rain has had its good and bad effects, but one thing is for sure...they definitely did not bring enough OFF!!

After the last rain storm, the L.O.V. E crew went down to the river with their guide Sanna. It was about a 30-minute hike from SJGH hospital. On the way, the crew walked through villages, saw, colorful insects, and observed the nature that guided their way to the Gambian River. They noticed how close they were to the river by the sudden appearance of green grass that accompanied their journey. Idris and Tomi noticed a weird and slow movement across the shore, and after taking a closer look, noticed a ton of hermit crabs and regular crabs moving together! One thing the crew couldn't help but notice was how deserted and abandoned the river was. Deteriorated boats bordered the perimeter and dead fish and crabs were being washed upon the shore in handfuls. After they reached their destination Sanna explained how people use the river to travel, swim and to fish. It was cool to see the place where a lot of Gambians go to provide for their families and use as recreation.

After the L.O.V.E crew's weekly meeting with Mr. Badgie, they all came to the consensus that it would be a good idea to visit other local hospitals. This would help the team assess and compare the functionality of how other hospital systems work.  It was decided that they would visit 2 hospitals in Sara Kunda and the Royal Victoria hospital in Banjul. The L.O.V.E team plans on touring and observing these hospitals for two days to just gain a better understanding of how the healthcare system in Gambia works.  


The L.O.V.E Abroad team experienced their first Gambian market. It was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon and the L.O.V.E team was very excited to start haggling and purchasing souvenirs for their loved ones and supporters. Upon entering, they were engulfed by the immediate atmosphere of the market. It didn't take much to notice that the 5 of them were foreigners and the vendors were very very happy to see new customers in their "off" season. Idris wasted no time finding a shop of African clothes owned by a vivacious Gambian woman. Idris and Tomi immediately began showcasing their haggling skills in order to buy a few of her products for reasonable prices.

Meanwhile, Tosin ran into another merchant who went by the name "Mama Africa". She was lively and very eager to see someone interested in her jewelry. Shortly after meeting Mama Africa, she referred to Tosin as her daughter and made it her duty to make sure Tosin met all of her friends and visited their shops as well. Something that stood out to Tosin was that Mama Africa kept saying "we are all family, we help each other out.” Although all of the vendors were ultimately competing for customers, there was still a sense of community. 

After cautiously assessing the market (like a true statistician), Greg entered a vendors shop in order to buy a few trinkets. He displayed a very calm and cool demeanor while talking down the price of his souvenirs. Greg was able talk down the vendor of what he wanted to very reasonable prices, and he was very pleased with his performance.

Mama Africa saw Tomi and realized that Tosin was her sister and immediately made them meet her sister Nay. She quickly took it upon herself to guide them through the market and “take care of her daughters”. Mama Africa noticed Tomi and Greg talking to one another and inquired to Tomi if Greg was her husband! Tomi replied, “No” and laughed it off with a good sense of humor.

Meanwhile, the sea of vendors had submerged Lauren from the moment the L.O.V.E team walked in, and she had moved to the opposite side of the market. Lauren was pulled into many different shops by the ecstatic vendors and she ended up buying a few goodies from her new friends.

 After the L.O.V.E team was finished shopping (to the dismay of the vendors) they felt a sense of friendship with the different vendors they had encountered. They reassured them that they would undoubtedly be back to buy more souvenirs. This was definitely an experience of a lifetime!! MARKET MANIA!!