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One of the SLMTA cohort groups in Cote d’Ivoire. Ms. Sanneh is seated, second from left. Christiane Adje, PhD, of the Cote d’Ivoire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seated, fifth from left.
One of the SLMTA cohort groups in Cote d’Ivoire. Ms. Sanneh is seated, second from left. Christiane Adje, PhD, of the Cote d’Ivoire Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is seated, fifth from left.

ASCP Walks the Talk in French to Accomplish Global Connection

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aji Sanneh, Associate Manager of ASCP Global Outreach, received a resounding “Akwaba!” (“Welcome!”) from 50 laboratory professionals she met in Cote d’Ivoire last November. The enthusiastic greeting in the Akan language signified their acceptance of the newcomer with open arms.

“You could see that they felt, ‘She’s one of us!’ ” says Ms. Sanneh, who grew up in French-speaking Cote d’Ivoire. “That changed the tenor of the workshop instantly. They were very happy and felt that ASCP is really reaching out to them in their language.”

“You could see that they felt, ‘She’s one of us!’ That changed the tenor of the workshop instantly. They were very happy and felt that ASCP is really reaching out to them in their language.”
—Aji Sanneh

She was there to coordinate the second of three workshops in the Strengthening Laboratory Management Toward Accreditation (SLMTA) program, which ASCP provides to resource-limited countries through its partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The vast majority of laboratories in sub-Saharan Africa are not accredited. SLMTA provides trainers and mentors to assist in-country laboratory managers in such areas as productivity and inventory management, test result report, and quality assurance to prepare laboratories for accreditation and, ultimately, improve the quality of healthcare delivery.

The francophone countries, such as Cote d’Ivoire, have often felt “second-tier” since most of the laboratory training materials previously provided have been in English, Ms. Sanneh says. Additionally, there are not many French-speaking consultants who have been trained to lead the in-country trainings.

ASCP Global Outreach, part of the ASCP Institute for Science, Technology, and Policy, is expanding its efforts to address both of those concerns. In August, the Institute hired Ms. Sanneh and Tim Scheel, who is also fluent in French, to coordinate the in-country trainings in francophone countries. Mr. Scheel is coordinating a SLMTA workshop in Haiti in March. Ms. Sanneh will travel to that workshop and will also return to Cote d’Ivoire in March for the final workshop with the cohort group she met in the fall.

“Aji and Tim are making a huge difference,” says Shannon Castle, ASCP Director of Global Outreach, which coordinates the SLMTA training. “There is much more engagement in the workshop discussions and learning. It is important to communicate with people in their native tongues; it instantly builds trust.”

The November training in Cote d’Ivoire was led in French by consultant Monique Tabi Zambo, Director of the School of Medical Laboratory Technology in Cameroon, with the assistance of five local facilitators. The weeklong training sessions, held in the commercial capital of Abidjan, were divided into two cohorts of 25 people, collectively representing 21 laboratories in Cote d’Ivoire. One cohort comprised hospital and laboratory administrators, while the other served laboratory employees. ASCP, Cote d’Ivoire’s CDC, and several other healthcare organizations underwrote the trainers’ costs.   

What impressed Ms. Sanneh most was the dedication of the Cote d’Ivoire laboratory professionals to work toward gaining accreditation for their medical laboratories. They have endured a lengthy civil war in their country, which caused a three-year disruption in their SLMTA training. Ordinarily, the SLIMTA training takes 18 months to complete, whereas it has taken the Cote d’Ivoire laboratory professionals more than three years to finish the program.

During the war, people worked in small increments to make laboratory improvements as best they could, while dealing with limitations such as not being able to travel outside their own city because of safety concerns.

“Once the war ended, their sense of national pride just soared,” Ms. Sanneh says. “Even in our training sessions, we had people who were Christians and Muslims—whose groups were previously fighting each other—sitting together and glad to see each other." 

Ms. Tabi Zambo adds, “I think that the commitment of Ivoirian laboratory professionals for this SLMTA II is based on the fact that they have seen the benefit of the first SLMTA that had brought a big improvement in their individual laboratories. In addition, by sharing experiences with professionals of other countries that had gone through SLMTA training, there is no doubt on how SLMTA can lead to the improvement of a laboratory.”

More recently, political instability has engulfed the country. Nonetheless, the SLMTA participants remain undeterred. Ms. Sanneh looks forward to her return trip in March to learn what improvements they have made in their respective laboratories.

“Their dedication to laboratory improvement, through all that they have endured, is absolutely inspiring,” she says.


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