The event, held from 8-10 November 2022, under the theme ‘Celebrating 75 Years of Impactful Health Research,’ highlighted the Unit’s achievements and the ongoing collaborations within West Africa and beyond.
The event also provided an opportunity to strengthen ongoing collaborative links and establish new ones in an effort to discuss future global health challenges and the best research strategies to mitigate them for meeting the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In his welcome statement, Professor Umberto D’ Alessandro, Director of the MRCG at LSHTM said: “This event is also to celebrate the substantial work the Unit has been doing in building the next generation of African scientists, including Gambian scientists. Our investment in capacity building remains at the heart of what we do, and we continue to be committed to supporting the professional development of many African scientists.
“This 75th anniversary provides the opportunity to look back at our history and celebrate some of the Unit’s achievements and reflect on the way forward. It is a rich history, crossing several historical periods during which new ways of thinking emerged, and new tools for diagnostic and treatment, and for disease control were developed,” he added.
In February 2018, the Unit became part of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, one of the UK’s most prestigious universities.
Professor Liam Smeeth, the Director of LSHTM, spoke about the Unit’s contribution to global health saying: “I am enormously proud of the Unit, its incredible scientific contributions, and the way the Unit has helped build expertise not just in the Gambia but far more widely. Getting to know the Unit and The Gambia a little more over the past year or two: especially noticed how “trusted” the Unit is within the Gambia and what an integral and important part of this beautiful country the Unit has become.
“Unit has also successfully diversified into other areas that we will be hearing about in the next few days: nutrition, vaccines, other infections including malaria, MCH and now breaking new ground in genomics and in health and climate change.”
Since its inception in 1947, the MRCG at LSHTM has worked closely with the Gambia Government through the Ministry of Health to deliver an effective public health response to strengthen epidemic preparedness and to a build more resilient healthcare system in The Gambia and beyond.
Delivering the opening statement, the President of the Republic of The Gambia, H.E Adama Barrow expressed gratitude for the decades-long partnership between the Ministry and the MRCG at LSHTM. He cited the crucial support that the Unit has been providing to The Gambia’s healthcare system.
“The impact of your research in collaboration with the Gambia Ministry of Health can be appreciated when our National Malaria Control Program reported a 40% reduction in Malaria incidence 10 years ago, and the successful clinical trials and incorporation of vaccines against liver cancer and invasive bacterial diseases such as Pneumonia and Meningitis amongst other preventive vaccines.”
President Adama Barrow added that the development of the Unit to become an internationally recognised Centre of Excellence for Research and Training in West Africa, and its contribution to improving health across the World over these many years deserve celebration.
Dr Amadou Lamin Samateh, Minister of Health acknowledged that “Our collaboration over the years on testing health interventions provided the Gambia with trial vaccines in the Expanded Program of Immunization (EPI) and giving us the opportunity to be the best in the region and beyond.”
As part of the celebrations, an Open Day and Cultural Show were held at the Unit’s grounds in Fajara attended by scientists, policymakers, students, partners, and local community members.
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