Professor Steve Allen first travelled to The Gambia as an adventure-seeking medic in 1988 and has been committed to developing Gambian medicine ever since.
In a 2008 interview, he explains why the Link was started and what it’s all about.
The aims of the link with Gambia are clearly different to your aims with the MRC. Why do you keep coming back to the Gambia? What are your current aims?
Because, at the end of the day, the world is an unfair place, because people that live in poor countries don’t get a fair deal. It’s not their fault, but they live in poor countries and under certain regimes and they suffer.
If you can contribute to making it a bit more equal and to improving health for poorer people then that’s a privilege. What else do you do in your life that’s so good? It’s a very good thing to do. It gives you self-satisfaction. It’s just something that give you pleasure to do. You know, if you like fixing cars then that’s great, go and fix cars.
I think it’s just worthwhile to try and even the balance a bit and to make the world a fairer place.
With what you’ve seen in the Gambia over the last almost 20 years, do you think that the aims and plans being made by the current link are plausible
Absolutely. I think our approach is absolutely right. The approach was developed by people with great experience working in developing countries such as Professor Parry who set up THET (the Tropical Higher Education Trust in London), and the approach is that we partner, and that we address the needs of the developing country partner.
We don’t have any agenda; we’re not here to achieve anything necessarily in our own right, but we’re here to try and help. I think for too long westerners have been involved in the tropics and in poorer countries for their own agendas, at the end of the day, and that it’s high time that people came and addressed the needs of the local people.
Clearly, if there are improvements to be made then it’s up to the local people to make those improvements. It’s Gambians who are going to fix Gambian problems. Hopefully we can have a role in facilitating that, in helping Gambians fix Gambian problems, and it’s a privilege to be able to do that.
Read the full interview.