Liberia: Heroes & Villains - part 1

Mark is a doctor from the UK. He's working at an MSF / Doctors Without Borders hospital in Liberia, a country where the health care system is still recovering from the 2014 ebola outbreak. Today he introduces one of the heroes from the hospital...

One of the success stories of this project is the high skill level of the Liberian physician assistants (PAs) and nurses.
This week, I had a chat with one of the many heroes of the hospital – Richard. His role, as PA Supervisor is to manage the physician assistants, maintain patient flow through the emergency room, intensive care unit and the wards, and to be the first point of contact for medical advice and ensuring patients receive the correct treatment.
Image shows Richard, a smiling man in green scrubs, photographed at the MSF / Doctors without Borders hospital in liberia
Richard, the physician assistant supervisor. Photo: Mark Lee / MSF

1) Where did you grow up?

I was born in River Gee, South Eastern Liberia – a rural area close to Ivory Coast. At the age of 14, I moved to Monrovia to join my older brother for schooling while the rest of my family stayed in River Gee.


2) How long have you worked with MSF?

Straight after graduating from physician assistant’s school in 1992, I started working with MSF, and apart from a brief period during ebola, have worked on various MSF projects for the last 25 years.


3) What was your experience of life during the ebola outbreak?

During the ebola outbreak, I worked for United Methodist Church. I was their focal person for ebola education – educating the community and distributing infection control materials such as water buckets, soap and hand sanitizer.
Many people died in my community and it was challenging trying to explain the scientific facts and the necessary preventative measures to people with little understanding of western medicine.


4) How do you find working at Bardnesville Junction Hospital?

It was initially difficult during the ebola period having to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Everyone was always afraid of bodily fluids like vomit and diarrhoea. Now, post ebola, it’s a lot easier - full patient contact allows better care. I enjoy having new international staff arriving every six months as each time they bring experience, new ideas and improvements to the hospital.


5) How do you relax in your free time?

I spend a lot of time with my wife and our children. I’m fortunate to have extended family living nearby too. I like to keep up to date on current events so enjoy watching CNN,BBC, and Al-Jazeera. Like most Liberians, I like watching football, particularly the Spanish, English and French leagues.

Story continues after photograph

Image shows Richard in green scrubs,attending to a woman with a child in her lap

Richard triages a patient. Photo: Mark Lee / MSF

6) What do you like most about Liberia and Liberian people?

We are friendly, we always make visitors welcome and like to share our culture with foreigners. We manage well with our limited resources - we are proud of our country.


7) Where do you hope to see Liberia in 20 years time?

More job opportunities, better infrastructure – improved roads and reliable, widespread electricity. These existed before the wars, even in the slums. However, these days we have to rely on a generator for power.


8) Any advice for international staff coming to live and work in Liberia?

Be friendly and integrate with us and feel like you’re at home in our country. We have a mixed culture, everyone has a different background, so Liberians are quick to learn and adapt to new people. The community is very important here, so everything requires their involvement and support.
In this post, Mark introduced one of his heroes from the project. Click here to read his next one, where he encounters one of the villains.