When Anne Gilroy, MA, associate professor of surgery and cell & developmental biology, arrived in Liberia in May, it was just after the country’s A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine received its first two cadavers in years. Gilroy had less than two weeks to teach anatomy to 40 medical students in a shiny new lab where the equipment was so new, much of it was still wrapped in plastic.
“I arrived as they were celebrating commencement,” Gilroy said. “So for the first few days I participated in the ceremonies, which were very moving.” After that, it was straight to work. The college had suspended all other activities so the students could get as much out of Gilroy’s visit as possible. She lectured for three hours every morning and demonstrated dissection for another three hours every afternoon for the next week and a half. Gilroy said it was exhausting, but also “one of the best experiences of my life.”
The Liberians are rebuilding their medical infrastructure after the devastation wreaked by years of civil war. A key goal is to increase the country’s medical workforce and expand educational institutions, because so many professionals working in these fields left during the unrest. UMMS faculty members are collaborating with the Liberians and others on multiple projects, including initiatives in medical training, nursing leadership and library services. These efforts are supported by funding and other types of assistance from agencies that include Higher Education for Development (HED), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Health Education and Relief Through Teaching (HEARTT).
“The people are tremendously grateful, from the dean of the medical school to the driver who took me to work every day,” Gilroy said. She left Liberia with a colorful traditional shirt and bracelet given to her by her students, as well as dozens of crowded group photos and a determination to go back. “I am going back in September, and maybe next spring,” she said. “They are accomplishing so much. It’s deeply inspiring to be part of it.”
Related links on UMassMedNow
Medical School team rebuilding health care in Liberia
Library projects lending order to chaos in Liberia
UMMS faculty form strong bonds with Liberia
Local Liberian community ‘overjoyed’ about Sirleaf visit