A University of Dundee graduate says it would be a “dream come true” to establish The Gambia’s first IVF clinic.
Haddy Bittaye hopes to use knowledge learned through her studies at the University’s School of Medicine to transform fertility treatment in her homeland.
For couples struggling to conceive, going through the process of finding the right fertility treatment can often be daunting and emotionally draining, but exciting if treatments are successful. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over five million children have been born through assisted reproductive treatments, such as IVF, however availability and access to such treatments remains a challenge in most countries.
Traditionally throughout The Gambia, the topic of infertility has often been considered taboo, however significant progress has been made in recent years on raising awareness of reproductive issues. Despite this, fertility treatments are not currently considered a priority within healthcare and couples struggling to conceive have few options. Determined to break down barriers to treatment, Haddy , who this year graduated from the School of Medicine’s Human Clinical Embryology & Assisted Conception MSc course, has plans to set up the Gambia’s first IVF clinic.
“Reproductive health in the Gambia, is very, limited,” she said. “Couples who suffer from infertility and require IVF either accept their situation or travel abroad, paying large amounts to do so. The Gambia is a poverty-stricken country and people don’t have that kind of money.
“Infertility runs in my family. I’ve witnessed first-hand what infertility means in my society. Infertile couples and women go through a lot and it causes so many problems, like depression. In rare cases people want to take their own lives due to infertility, so this is something that is needed.”
Before coming to Dundee, Haddy was working as a laboratory scientist at the Medical Research Council Unit in The Gambia, under a malaria platform looking at antimalarial drug resistance.
Determined to change the landscape of fertility treatment options in her country, she came to the University of Dundee under the Chevening Scholarship, which is awarded to outstanding emerging leaders from all over the world to pursue one-year master’s degrees in the UK.
“I’ve always been passionate about reproductive health and human development, which is why I decided to pursue an MSC in Human Clinical Embryology at Dundee,” Haddy continued.
“I chose to study at the University because of its reputation of excellence in Medicine. It is also one of the few universities that offer both the clinical and lab aspect of human clinical embryology, and the close working relationship with the NHS gives students the benefit of learning from experiences embryologists, nurses and doctors. It’s important that we network with experts in the field.
“My professors at the University have been incredibly supportive of my goals. My thesis supervisor said to me – ‘don’t just let this be a dream. Don’t let your thesis be another piece of paper. Make sure that you implement these things that you want to do’. That was very encouraging and inspired me.
“This course and support is a foundation to make this dream to come true. It has given me the management skills to have and run my own lab, and given me the lab and clinical skills. It’s the complete package to help reach my goal of running a successful IVF lab in The Gambia.”
Haddy has shared her plans with government officials within The Gambia and has had encouraging words of support from the Ministry of Health department. The next step is to source financial support to get the funds needed to set up and run a successful lab.
“I believe we will get there,” she said. “I don’t think it will be a small change. I think it’ll be great change.”