My student career at COMAHS

By COMAHS student Asad Naveed

My name is Asad Naveed, I am originally from Pakistan but I have stayed most of my lifetime in Sierra Leone and underwent my secondary education and now my tertiary education here. I have now applied for naturalisation.

I joined the six year Medicine programme at COMAHS, University of Sierra Leone in 2008 and will hopefully graduate this year.  Since starting my course at COMAHS I have been involved in student union activities. I have served as the information and communication officer in the student union for three years. When I was in 4th year, I had the opportunity to meet Oliver Johnson of King’s Sierra Leone Partnership and from the very start I was keen to be involved in the Kings Student programmes, one of which included participation in a research project by a King’s global health student- Danny Mclernon Billows on the problems affecting students at COMAHS such as high dropout rate and learning methodologies.

In August 2013, when I was in 5th year, I had the privilege to be selected to do my electives at King’s College Hospital in Denmark Hill. This was an important milestone as I was able to experience health care delivery in developed settings.  On our visit we received a warm welcome from Catherine Marshall and Victoria M. Bakare from the King’s Sierra Leone Student Partnership (KSLSP). In our first day, they showed around the hospital and introduced us to our supervisors. Later on they took us bowling ( my first time) and for pizza. We were also able to discuss issues about the KSLSP partnership.

Recently, I was part of the Sierra Leonean delegate to visit the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) General Assembly in Tunisia. Tunisia is great country with beautiful scenery. For the very first time, I was able to meet a huge number of medical students from many countries in a single platform. The conference was truly international in every way. Every country had a say in the IFMSA decision making process which was great. We unexpectedly met Victoria in Tunisia as well who was part of the Medsin-UK delegate. She was able to link the Sierra Leone Medical Students’ Association (SLeMSA) with Medsin-UK a connection which helped SLeMSA get full membership with IFMSA. Upon return from the visit, I stood for presidency of SLeMSA and have successfully become the new President of SLeMSA.

King’s has made a positive contribution to my professional and personal development. I am much awakened now about public health issues which make a difference in our society and I look forward to further involvement with the partnership in the future.

Ebola was not part of the plan

By Dr Marta Lado

Three weeks ago, I flew from Madrid to Freetown to start my new role with King´s Sierra Leone Partnership at Connaught Hospital. I was nervous and excited about what was ahead – but my Terms of Reference made no mention of what I was about to be involved with.

The day I landed news broke about an Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone’s neighbour Guinea. As a specialist in infectious diseases, being involved in an haemorragic fever virus outbreak response is both an incredible and threatening experience.

Fortunately, we have not found any confirmed cases yet in Sierra Leone, but being part of the National Ebola Taskforce within the Ministry as a KSLP representative is fascinating, but also quite daunting.

This role puts me at the forefront of the preparedness response. The Taskforce is regularly updated on the current outbreak and we participate actively in the preparation of the population and of health care workers in case the disease spreads to Sierra Leone. We gather at least once a week to improve the communication between the different health care units and prepare training courses for health workers.

Arranging isolation of suspected cases and preparing personal protection equipment (PPE) for the health care staff is very challenging in this setting and especially in rural areas, where basic equipment like gloves and gowns can sometimes be hard to get hold of. Our work must be therefore focused on adjusting all the protection and management protocols to a specific low resource setting but without underestimating the risk and the importance of every measure.

It is also critical to supply healthcare workers with extensive information through basic guidelines as well as sanitation and isolation PPE kits to reduce the risk of transmission. Ebola is transmitted by body fluids (blood, excrement) and therefore protecting every centimeter of the body and skin when a care giver or health worker is looking after a sick patient is essential.

According to our current guidelines and the WHO protocols, a suspected patient must be immediately isolated.  The doctor in charge must then communicate nationally and coordinate for blood samples to be taken. The patient is to then be referred to the Lassa Fever Centre in Kenema District to be managed by experts in haemorrhagic fever syndromes.

While this unexpected role has been extremely challenging, I have also learned an enormous amount and gained invaluable experience. We hope that the efforts made will help to prevent the spread Ebola in Sierra Leone and we will be on hand to support and counsel at any situation that arises during the next months.