Everyone who knows me knows that Christmas and my birthday are my favourite times of the year. And it’s Christmas time! This year has been so many things, but regardless, there's so much joy in my heart this Christmas. I don't know if it's the Christmas songs, or the tinsels, or the fact that my brother and I got this giant Christmas tree we've wished for our entire lives, or if it's all the kindness that I see around. Still, my whole heart just lights up during Christmas time. My one wish this Christmas is not any kind of material gratification. AlI want is for women to continue to rise and win! (I also want a spa day, but anyway...😀). I want a world where women are allowed to grow, be happy, create, and chase their dreams, and do all sorts of amazing things. A world without gender bias, where there are fair rights and wages, reproductive freedom, no victim-blaming, and no body shaming.
While there is happiness being shared this Christmas, many people do not have the privilege of this good cheer. There are the sick and poor and helpless. In celebration of this season, I'd like to give a special shout-out to all the incredible Sierra Leonean female doctors and health workers who work tirelessly to make Christmas and every day a tiny bit better for some of these people. You are all amazing! I have put some of these inspirational young doctors on Santa's nice list for this year🤩. I want them to know that we see them and all their strides to make Sierra Leone and the world a better place. You can follow and subscribe to their accounts to follow all the exceptional work they do.
Dr. Bintu Mansaray
Is a Medical Doctor with a Diploma in Child Health, an MSc in Tropical Pediatrics, and a Level 3 Safeguarding and Child Protection Certificate. She is a Research Fellow and Country Safeguarding Lead for the ARISE consortium, a five-country study on the health and well being of people living in informal settlements, and is the Co-investigator for a two-country Wellcome Trust grant that will explore the sexual and reproductive health experiences of survivors of human trafficking.Her passion for Child Protection and Safeguarding, Health systems, and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Research has led her to pursue a PhD in Social Policy Law in the Uk. She is the author of a recently published child health series, 'Amy and the Safekeepers Project'. Follow her work on LinkedIn and Twitter and her Website.
Dr. Fatu Forna
Is an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, writer, and philanthropist who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and four children but is actively involved in reproductive and maternal health work and advocacy in Sierra Leone. She is the author of "From your doctor to you. What every teenage girl should know about her body, sex, STDs and contraception" and the Puppy Princess Sheba children's book series. Dr. Forna is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Mama-Pikin Foundation, a non-profit organisation that works to improve the health of women, children, and families in Sierra Leone. She recently championed a project that has secured funding to support postgraduate training of Obstetrician-gynaecologists and Paediatricians in Sierra Leone. Follow her work on her Website, Twitter, and Facebook.
Dr. Jalikatu Mustapha
Is an Ophthalmologist, one of four, and the only female in Sierra Leone. She works at Connaught Hospital Ophthalmology Department and together with local and international partners, she has made major strides in improving eye health information and eye care delivery in the country. Dr. Mustapha's work has contributed to increased awareness and increased rates of detection and surgeries for cataracts and glaucoma. She lectures at COMAHS, USL where she has been a role model and inspiration to medical students and even her colleague doctors who now see Ophthalmology in a more attractive light. She recently won the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) Award, and she had the honour of meeting Her Majesty the Queen on World Sight Day. When she is not saving eyes, Dr. Mustapha bakes cakes and runs a pop-up food kitchen (Jalika's Kitchen). You can follow her journey in eyecare on Facebook.
Dr. Nellie bell
Is a German-trained consultant Paediatrician currently residing in Sierra Leone and working as the head of the Paediatrics Department at the Ola During Children's Hospital. The wife and mother of 2, who also holds a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Public Health, is an avid pioneer and advocate for postgraduate training for Sierra Leone doctors. She teaches medical students at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS), University of Sierra Leone (USL) and trains residents in Paediatrics. She believes that the world is a better place when there is quality healthcare, and every child counts! Dr. Bell is a mentor to many- she sees the younger generation's need for guidance, and she supports them in any way she could. Follow her work on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Dr. Valerie John-Cole
Is an Obstetrician-Gynaecologist, one of the very few female specialists in Sierra Leone. She works at the busiest maternal hospital in the country- Princess Christian Maternity Hospital. Dr. John-Cole is very dedicated to her work and passionate about women's health and education. Besides her hospital duties, she lectures and supports medical students and midwives' training at COMAHS, USL and the University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospital Complex (USTHC). This Christmas, she will be doing what she does everyday-saving lives at the hospital and creating a safer place for women and babies. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Dr. Hawanatu Barrie
Works as a Medical officer at Aberdeen Women's centre in the Maternity & Fistula Department. She is part of a team that offers free safe motherhood services and work to restore and maintain dignity among women with fistula and victims of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence. Dr Barrie is the Congress Secretary of the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association and the Assistant Secretary of the Sierra Leone Medical Women Association, where she is actively involved in advocating for the welfare of female doctors and mentorship of female medical students. Follow her work on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Dr. Ronita Luke
Is a Paediatric Fellow of the West African College of Physicians and a lecturer in the Paediatric Department at COMAHS, USL. She works at the Ola During Children's Hospital, where she focuses on neonates. She cares for sick newborns and preterm babies and help them transition from life inside the womb to life in the world. Her joy and job satisfaction comes from seeing mothers happy or caregivers being discharged home with a once very fragile baby. And through great teamwork, she and her colleagues have brought smiles to many homes this Christmas.
Dr. Melvina Thompson
Is a family Physician at Connaught Hospital, USLTHC, and a Researcher in the Stroke In Sierra Leone (SISLE) project. Her job allows her to see and treat patients presenting with a myriad of ailments irrespective of their age, sex, or socioeconomic status to provide quality holistic care and patient satisfaction while buildng build life-long interpersonal relationships with them. Through her and involvement with the Sierra Leone Medical Women Association, she gets the opportunity to train and mentor medical students and young doctors. Dr. Thompson gets fulfillment from her patients' smiles during follow up visits when their conditions improve or when they recognise her outside the hospital and say 'thank you'. She is on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Dr. Martha Y. E. Forde
is the only female resident in General Surgery in the postgraduate training programme in Sierra Leone. She believes in the simple things. She teases anxiety, uncertainty, and even pain out of her patients with smiles and encouraging words. She works day and night fixing bones and exploring abdomens, and making sure her patients receive the best care possible. Dr. Forde is keen on knowledge transfer and training of medical students at COMAHS, USL. Follow her on Facebook.
Dr. Constance Cummings-John
Is the first and only female Surgeon Specialist in Sierra Leone. She works at Connaught Hospital, the main referral hospital in Freetown, where she provides care for breast cancer patients, surgery, chemotherapy, and palliative care. While pursuing her Fellowship in Surgery and maintaining a full-time job, Dr. Cummings-John lectures medical students in the Surgery Department at the College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences. She does her best every day to provide supportive care for her patients and their relatives as they go along their disease journey. You can follow her work on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Dr Mariama Mahmoud
Is a tropical medicine specialist, currently working as the Medical Superintendent of the National Infectious Disease Hospital in Lakka. Her work involves caring for Tuberculosis, HIV, and Leprosy patients. Through her work, infectious patients are kept away from their communities whilst receiving appropriate care to stop community transmission. She absolutely loves what she does. Dr. Mahmoud intends to make this Christmas as colourful as possible for her son, who was just a baby last Christmas, and her mum, whose birthday is on Christmas day. You can follow her stories on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Dr Virginia Kofie-King
Is a Medical Officer at Aberdeen Women Centre. She describes her work as demanding, adventurous, and a continuous learning process; no two days are the same at a maternity Hospital. Dr Kofie-King has learned to be emotionally resilient, patient, sensitive, have a good sense of humor and be a good listener. She is always delighted and honored to help bring a new life into the world everyday making sure pregnant women are safe throughout pregnancy, child birth and postpartum.
Dr. Alren Vandy
Is a Public Health Specialist whose work focuses on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Being passionate about SRHR, she has supported the National HIV Programme as Treatment Coordinator, where she provided patient-centred care for people living with HIV to ensure no one is left behind. Her dream started some twenty years ago when she fell in love with medicine and started helping her parents, both clinicians at Community Health Centers. She regularly participates in radio and TV programs on HIV and other health-related topics and community sensitizations. Apart from her medical services, every year at Christmas, she looks forward to bringing smiles to the faces of less privileged children and adolescents in her community by giving them toys and other gifts, including age-appropriate health talks. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Thank you! All of you! And all the other incredible women in health in Sierra Leone and the world over. The world is indeed a better and brighter place because of your unwavering commitment to health.
Have yourselves a Merry Christmas! And here's hoping for a more inclusive, egalitarian and intersectional 2021.
With all my Love, XOXO