Dr Tamsir Mbowe:: A renowned medical doctor and DG PATP
Friday, September 14, 2012
This column was revived exactly on Friday, November 20, 2009
after missing in the pages of the Daily Observer Newspaper for a very long
time. Since then, the column has featured many prominent Gambians and known
Gambians alike in diverse fields of work, whose stories represent achievements
at personal level, while at the same time serving as sources of inspiration for
others. Set to clock three years this November, the column will continue to
feature those Gambians and non-Gambians alike who have stories to share with
the general public through this medium.
In today’s edition of the Bantaba, I have decided to bring the excerpts of the interview we had with our first guest when it was revived. He needs not much introduction, as he is a household name in the country, who has given much services to the health sector and humanity in general. He has occupied virtually most of the key positions in the country’s health sector – from serving as a minister of Health and Social Welfare, the director of Health Services, as well as chief medical director of the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital. He is now heading the President’s Alternative Treatment Programme, formerly the Presidential Treatment Programme; an initiative set up by the Gambian leader way back in 2007 to treat people afflicted by complicated ailments such as HIV/AIDS, Asthma, diabetes, and so on, through herbal therapy.
Please read the interview
Bt: Can you please tell us more about your background?
Dr Mbowe: Thank you for having me as your first guest on the Bantaba Column.My name is Dr Tamsir Mbowe.I was born in Banjul at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital on February 9th, 1964.
Bt: What can you tell us about your educational background?
Dr Mbowe: I attended Methodist Primary Schoool in Janjangbureh in 1969. From there I went to Muslim High School to do my O’level and I later went to Gambia High School to do my A’Level from 1982–1984. Then I went to the University of Ile-Ife in Nigeria from 1985 – 1986, from there I went to Lugansk Medical Institute in Ukraine from 1988 – 1994.After my first degree, I came back to the country. I later went to Korlu-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana from 1995 – 1997 and I went to the University of Dublin in Ireland from 1998 – 1999 to obtain my postgraduate degree in obstetrics and gynaecology. I can remember before I went to Russia, I met one Dr Kabir Cham, who was a Russian-trained doctor. He encouraged me by telling me the words that I will never forget: “It is not the university that makes students but it is the students who make the university”.Wherever you go to, it depends on your own personal performance.
Bt: We learnt that while studying in Russia, you were expelled for sometime. What can you clarify on this?
Dr Mbowe: (Laughs) No, that is not true! Although I was a radical student; I was never actually expelled, to be quite honest. I was very influential in the university and as you know, when you are influential with so many students behind you, they tend to make you the ‘Godfather’ of the university. I used to have problems with my lecturers because sometimes I disagreed with them. And you know Science is very wide and I think for any Science student, you need to be smart and be ready to take up challenges and discussions. Some of the lecturers didn’t like that and I used to face such problems. Sometimes, I would deliberately not attend lectures just to avoid having confrontations with my lecturers.
Bt: How about your employment record; when did you join the civil service?
Dr Mbowe: Coming back home in 1994,I was appointed as a medical officer at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital in Banjul. So I started work with the government in 1994 as a junior medical officer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in RVTH.
Bt: Now, with regards to your employment record, did you only serve in the medical field or you served in other sectors of national development?
Dr Mbowe: I can fully remember that I joined the army as their medical officer for a while.
Dr Mbowe: That was in 1997 but I lasted there for only three months.
Bt: Were you trained like a real soldier or just a medical doctor in the army?
Dr Mbowe: Yes, I was trained like any other soldier and after my training, I became their medical doctor, and later I decided to quit and returned to the hospital (RVTH).
Dr Mbowe: Well, there were some technical problems with the army by then, so I decided to go back to the hospital to continue my medical career.
Bt: As a medical practitioner, what has been your contribution to The Gambia’s health sector?
Dr Mbowe: Well, primarily, to save lives.My dream has been and will be to continue to save as many lives as possible. I have that strong belief that the aim of any medical practitioner or the greatness of any medical practitioner depends not only on the number of degrees he/she has or the number of universities that he/she attended, but the number of lives that he or she is able to save during his/her medical career. My primary aim in medicine is to try as much as possible to do as many operations as possible and to save lives and I want to set a record in the medical field. Although I have now done thousands of operations, I want to set a record.
Bt:You were at one time in the cabinet and during that time, even though you were very busy - like any other cabinet minister, you still carried out operations.What compelled you to do so?
Dr Mbowe: As I said earlier, my main aim as a medical practitioner is to save lives and that is why even when I was a minister, people used to see me in the hospital or within different health facilities helping patients and I will continue to do that. In the health sector, I have enjoyed a lot because I held almost all the key positions. I was the Health minister for 3 years, then I became the director of Medical Services, the chief medical director of RVTH and the director general of the Presidential Treatment Programme. So health is I and I am health.
Bt:Why did you specialize in Obs and Gynae?
Dr Mbowe: I specialized in Obs and Gynae because I was motivated. Up to my 5th year in medicine, I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon but when I went to my 6th year, my final year in the university, because of my relationship with one of my lecturers in Obs and Gynae, she persuaded me to go in for Obs and Gynae and I didn’t regret it because Obs and Gynae, to me, is one of the most important fields in medicine. At any given time, you are confronted with two or more lives; the pregnant woman and the foetus. So at any given time, your brain needs to work; continuous thinking, working and treating lives.
Bt: As the director general of the Presidential Treatment Programme (now President’s Alternative Treatment Programme), what encouraged you to join hands with President Jammeh to support him in his treatment programme?
Dr Mbowe: I think from day one, I had that belief that medicine is medicine, be it traditional, conventional, Egyptian, Gambian, Chinese or Japanese; its aim is the restoration of the sick to health. I have seen patients who suffered and are coming back to their normal lives after receiving the president’s herbal treatment. His Excellency has done a lot in terms of development and he has boosted the health sector. Health is his first priority and that is why he is helping patients, treating them free of charge. So we are proud of President Jammeh and we really need to thank him so much and pray for him.
Bt: Now, tell us about your family. Are you married and if so, how many children have you?
Dr Mbowe: Yes I am married with children.
Bt: What is your greatest regret?
Dr Mbowe: My saddest day in life was when I saw my elder brother dying in the hospital, without being attended to by any nurse or doctor. And I could not do anything to support him because at that time I was going to school. This was in 1979 at the RVTH. In fact, that was what compelled me to read medicine.
Bt: What is your happiest day in life?
Dr Mbowe: My happiest day in life was when I did my first surgery at the Korlu-Bu Teaching Hospital in Ghana, in 1995, without being assisted. That was the day I knew that Dr Mbowe is now a real medical doctor.
Bt:As a public figure, what challenges do you face?
Dr Mbowe: The challenge I face is when I am needed by the patients and am not available. I feel very bad.
Bt: What are your hobbies?
Dr Mbowe: Reading, playing with my kids when I am free, football and special interest areas in medicine.
Bt: Which football club do you support?
Dr Mbowe: Inter Milan, because of Samuel Eto’o.Eto’o is my star, so wherever he is, I support that club. In The Gambia, my team is Real de Banjul.
Bt: Any final word?
Dr Mbowe: First of all I want to thank my family for the support and understanding of the nature of my job. I want to thank His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh for not only sponsoring part of my academic programme, but also for giving me the opportunity to hold key positions in the health sector. I also want to thank my colleagues in the Presidential Treatment Programme for their support. I would advise the younger generation to go in for Science and read for the future of this great country. And I am ready to share the knowledge I have with anyone.
Bt: Thank you for granting us this interview.
Dr Mbowe: Welcome.
Author: Hatab Fadera