In a country with “less than 0.5 physicians per 10,000 inhabitants, compared with 2.4 per 10,000 in the WHO African Region”, doctors like Pa Amadou Sohna play a critical role in the development of a crippling healthcare system. Raised by a retired engineer and foodpreneur, Dr. Sohna is the embodiment of goodness. The eldest of four children, he is used to looking after people and providing much needed guidance, navigating challenging realities.
Gambia’s extremely scant, unevenly spread healthcare coverage is emblematic of a far wider concern across Africa with the critical shortage of doctors and brain drain. Most trained doctors are leaving home to find work in more prosperous developed nations. The choice to stay home, and fight against corruption, mismanagement and limited resources when the world is at your finger tips; is a choice we applaud.
His 100-watt smile comforts his patients and warms the heart of all those who know him. We asked to share his story.
Tell us about your educational journey, thus far.
I started my educational journey at Bakau New Town Primary. After passing the common entrance (primary school exit exam), I then headed to Methodist Academy where I completed both my junior and senior high school grades. From there, I proceeded to the University of The Gambia, School of Medicine and graduated in December of 2014.
All through my academic progression, I have been involved in lots of leadership roles coupled with community work, highlights of which include: Senior school prefect, President of the Medical Student’s Association, Public Relations Officer, The Residents Doctor’s Association of The Gambia, Secretary, the Scientific Committee of the West African College of Surgeons, The Gambia 2018 conference.
During medical School, I represented The Gambia for the All Welsh link, The Gambian perspective. I completed a 5-month rotation at the Morriston Hospital’s (Wales, UK) surgical department (internship) and also, presented at the Surgical Conference in The Gambia in 2018.
I completed my medical internship at the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. After, I worked at a private hospital for about two years. As of now, I am doing my residency rotation at the teaching hospital. This hands-on experience is preparing me for part one of my exams at the West African College of Surgeons Fellowship Program.
Furthermore, I am currently the head Medical Doctor at Travel Express Airline, one of the most reliable agencies commuting pilgrims to and from Hajj. I am in charge of our pilgrims’ health and safety throughout the pilgrimage.
Is being a doctor, what you thought it would be like?
The biggest joy I have is turning a sad face into a smile, lifting up someone and restoring happiness to an almost lifeless situation. The only way to achieve that innate joy on a daily dose is to restore health.
Yes, being a doctor is exactly what I thought it would be like and so much more! With all honesty, I would choose it over and over again. Despite, all the challenges of working in a poor resource setting such as The Gambia; my contributions to society as a doctor is far more rewarding than any amount of money.
What’s the most challenging part of being a doctor in a country where the healthcare system is severely underfunded and neglected by the government?
I, work in a setting where politicians promise free health care but do not fund it. This is the biggest challenge we have, and it leads to all the problems we encounter such as: basic lab support and essential drugs, coupled with our below average poor population.
Given the chance to speak truth to power about the state of our healthcare system, what would you say?
If given the chance to speak truth to power about the state of our healthcare system, I would demand the government give priority to optimal funding and strongly, consider the idea of health insurance schemes for the masses.
The lifestyle (working hours) of a doctor can be challenging on a young family, how are you and your wife craving time to nurture your marriage?
Fortunately, my wife is a doctor as well. We practice together, and engage in time management and utilization. She understands my sometimes crazy schedule, and it’s nice to come home to someone whom I can discuss complex cases with and get her professional perspective. Our free time is precious, we maximize it well enough.
I must admit, we have a very bad social life; so we were meant for each other!
You pride yourself on being a father figure to your niece, what’s one lesson you want her to hold on to as she grows in a society that is unkind to young girls and women?
She is the first child of the family (my brother’s daughter) and as we know in Africa, your brother’s children are naturally yours rather than being your niece/nephews. Being the eldest son, she naturally falls under my arms as her father.
My duty is to teach her love and religion; the Islamic religion elevates the status of women and keeps them so high. I want her to know her place in society as a muslim girl, so that she won’t take anything less than she deserves. I believe, a girl loved by her parents has an extra form of protection, in the sense that she can always turn to family for support rather than the cruel world.
How does it feel to be an Alhaj, what responsibilities that come with the title do you try to uphold?
I feel thankful to have the title at such a young age, and blessed to have visited the holy land twice already. But we must remember, Hajj is just one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, each of those pillars in some way does some sort of teaching to mold us into righteous believers. Hajj teaches equality and remembrance of the final day, when Allah will gather us all to account for our deeds and pay us accordingly.
The Our Stories, Our Way Fast Three!
1. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
I only listen to Zikr, and I have a lot of favorites. (Zikr is ritual prayer or litany practiced by Muslim mystics for the purpose of glorifying God and achieving spiritual perfection)
2. If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and why?
My Spiritual guide Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, only if I could go back in time.
3. If you could change one thing about your life right now, what would it be?
I want to eat healthier!