News / Africa

Sierra Leone Doctor Returns from US to Improve Health Services

Dr. Sylvester Nicol
Dr. Sylvester Nicol

Multimedia

Sierra Leone's health system has suffered from decades of corruption and the destruction wrought by a long civil war. The few functioning hospitals are under-staffed and short on medical supplies and equipment. Now a new medical center provides high quality services all under one roof. In this edition of Making a Difference we introduce you to Dr. Sylvester Nicol.

Freetown, Sierra Leone's bustling capital city, sits on the slopes of mountains that slide steeply into the Atlantic Ocean. During ten years of civil war, Sierra Leone's institutions crumbled from widespread corruption and the mass exodus of the country's  professional class. None more so than the health sector. Today a population of 6 million relies on the services of just 77 doctors.

Many Sierra Leoneans in the country's diaspora are now considering coming back.

One of the few to make the leap is Dr. Sylvester Nicol.  He moved home in 2008 after living abroad for 14 years.

He left behind a successful medical practice in the United States to establish a unique facility in Freetown.

"The concept was to have as many services under one roof as possible," Dr. Nicol explained. "This is a common concept elsewhere, but in Freetown usually after you see a physician you might have to go elsewhere for a lab test, then somewhere else to get an x-ray."

Dr. Nicol built and manages the medical center which offers out-patient, laboratory and x-ray services, a pharmacy and more sophisticated services such as ultrasounds and specialized lab work. The center also has an intensive care ward. "What I love about my job is the fact that people can get better and, if you do it well, quickly. It is very very rewarding," he said.

Dr. Nicol believes that a strong private sector is key to social development in his country. He believes his medical practice will convince others in the diaspora to move back home and rebuild their country.

"I think it is an incentive for people to come back especially the middle class folks who are the ones who drive the economy. They need and they are used to a certain type of healthcare," he said.

Sukai Alghali moved back to Freetown from London two years ago. She has trouble with high blood pressure but says the other health facilities in Freetown are not up to standard.  "The center is a God-send. I think for the doctor to leave America to come here, you know, it must be - he must have the love of the country," she said.

Although consultations cost only $15, many Sierra Leoneans cannot afford the  services at the medical center. But Dr. Nicol treats everyone who comes his way and tries to balance his business between those who can and those who cannot pay.

"In Africa you have to have services for people who cannot pay the 50,000 leones [$15]. Just as a medical person, you treat people who come through your door and you worry about being paid later," Dr. Nicol said.

It's not easy to operate such a center in Sierra Leone. Clinics here must cope with regular power cuts, a lack of trained medical personnel and drug shortages.

"It was a huge challenge," Dr. Nicol stated. "But like any significant thing that you do, it has to be challenging for it to be rewarding."  

Dr. Nicol has no regrets and no plans to move back to the United States.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs