One Gambian Doctor Saving the Lives of Children with Diabetes in His Hometown

This post is one of a series of seven blog posts that go behind the scenes on our recent short film Insulin for Life. Watch the film and check back on our blog for more stories about the people in the documentary.

Our film crew followed Dr. Alieu Gaye out the front door of Pakala Clinic and into the streets of Banjul, the capital city of the West African country, The Gambia. The physician, tall, graceful and deliberate, took our film crew on a short walk to see the streets of the city he grew up in. His childhood home is a quick walk away from the clinic he now runs.

As they walked, Dr. Gaye greeted friends, neighbors and patients and patted the heads of young children as he passed them. Everyone seemed to know him and he seemed to make each and every one of them smile. It was a walk that showed what Dr. Gaye would never say himself – he is admired and respected by his community and to him they owe a world of thanks.

Dr. Gaye started his clinic in 1993, a small facility with just nine beds. Eight years ago, they moved to their current location where he and his fellow physicians and healthcare providers see around 15,000 patients a year on an inpatient and out patient basis. The nearby hospital uses his operating theater for some of their procedures. It is a modern building tucked back a short way from the street. It has welcoming gardens on either side of the entrance and friendly faces inside with the knowledge and kindness to treat the ailments of the local population. Though most of their patients pay for their services, Dr. Gaye and his colleagues also treat others without the means to pay, evaluating each request on an individual basis.

“It is part of my social responsibility to give back to the community that I grew up in,” Dr. Gaye explained when our crew asked him about his generosity. “These are people I owe a lot to. They helped be in being who I am at this point in my life.”

Dr. Gaye practices general medicine, but he has special interest and deep knowledge of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Many of his colleagues around the country refer newly diagnosed patients to his hospital.

“Diabetes is one of our strengths,” Dr. Gaye told our crew. “We run blood sugars, do kidney profiles, we do lipid profiles, we test their A1C. It is part of a package that we offer to patients and they find it very attractive. Newly diagnosed diabetics and all children with type 1 diabetes get referred to this clinic by my colleagues.”

In treating his patients with diabetes, Dr. Gaye has become very familiar with the access to insulin and diabetes supplies in his country. The government is one of the main providers of supplies and he told us they don’t provide enough to cover everyone’s needs. So, Dr. Gaye set up a small program where he provides insulin and diabetes supplies to children with type 1 diabetes from families living in poverty. The program now treats about 70 patients. Each of the patients receives Dr. Gaye’s time and all the insulin and supplies they need free of cost. Insulin for Life USA provides insulin and supplies for Dr. Gaye to deliver to these patients.

Dr. Gaye’s partnership with Insulin for Life USA is a great example of how the model works. Carol Atkinson, Director of Insulin for Life USA noted that IFL finds healthcare providers to partner with who can help distribute supplies to patients in need.

“Dr. Gaye in The Gambia has been a wonderful partner. His impact and work in The Gambia is admirable,” noted Atkinson. “He has had a very deep and profound impact.”

“Without Insulin for Life, I would find it difficult to practice diabetes in this country,” Dr. Gaye told us. “We would like to thank them tremendously from the bottom of our heart for the support we are getting.”

Watch our film to learn more about Dr. Alieu Gaye and his patients.

To donate supplies or funds to Insulin for Life USA click here