The death of Dr. Samuel James Palmer, aged 87, the owner and founder of Westfield Clinic has been announced. He died at the Medical Research Council (MRC) clinic at Fajara on Monday.
Upon receiving the news yesterday, this paper sounded the opinions of colleagues and friends who worked with the late Dr Palmer during his medical career in the country.
Dr Peter John Ndow a retired Director of Health Services of the Gambia, and a personal friend of the late Dr Palmer, said they both served in the colonial medical service.
When The Gambia gained independence in 1965, again both of them served as medical officers, and Dr Palmer (who was born in Basse, URR) was posted to Bansang and Mansakonko, and worked in the provinces for many years, before returning to Banjul.
Dr. Palmer later proceeded to Bristol University in the United Kingdom, and qualified in obstetrics and gynaecology.
After returning home, he retired and opened Westfield Clinic where he served for several years as Medical Director of the clinic.
Dr. Palmer after retiring as a medical practitioner, in 1972 handed over the running of the clinic to the late Dr Lenrie Peters.
Dr. Sheriff Aba Dumbuya, medical director at the Westfield Clinic, said the late Dr Palmer was the first to open a private clinic in the country, and that "the clinic was a school for any doctor who wanted to go then for private practice."
According to Dr. Dumbuya, all senior doctors who were in the public sector or retired started with Westfield Clinic, adding that Dr. Palmer has worked with almost all the first and second generation doctors in the country.
Dr. Palmer during his lifetime remained as a source of inspiration and a fatherly figure to the entire staff of the clinic, Dr. Dumbuya said, adding that the untimely death of Dr. Palmer is a great loss to the country's health sector. During his time as a medical doctor, he had contributed immensely towards the socio-economic development of the nation, Dr. Dumbuya continued, adding, "he was simply a perfect gentleman who gave all his best to the people around him."
Sister Sarah Joiner, a staff of the Westfield Clinic, who has been serving there since 1969, described the late Dr Palmer as "a hardworking gentleman who has dedicated all his life to the service of humanity," adding that the family planning programme started with the clinic.
"We have received the death of doctor as a great shock, but may his soul rest in perfect peace, Amen."
Sister Elizabeth Cole the matron at Westfield Clinic said "the country has lost a great asset", especially the women of this country.
Dr Sheriff Ceesay of Kololi Clinic said the death of Dr Palmer "is a big loss to the profession, because he was an icon in this generation. It is not The Gambia that only lost, but it is the entire sub-region and the world as a whole."
Mutarr Jammeh program manager at the Gambia Family Planning Association (GFPA) said the late Dr Palmer was the founding father of the GFPA and the brain behind the formation of GFPA.
According to Mr. Jammeh, the idea of forming a family planning association came to his mind in the early 60s during the course of his work as a medical practitioner in most of the government hospitals, particularly Bansang.
Dr Palmer then realised that this was necessary, because there were increasing number of maternal deaths due to complications of child-birth. Also too close births were causing many maternal deaths, and he pondered over this and shared the idea with his colleagues in the medical field, and friends around him. They agreed with the idea, and formed the Family Planning Association in The Gambia in 1968.
According to Mr Jammeh, after the founding of the association, he established contacts and networked with organisations including the International Planned Parenthood Federation ( IPPF), and eventually GFPA became an affiliate of the IPPF.
On behalf of the management and staff of the Gambia Family Planning Association, he prayed for the departed soul to rest in perfect peace.
Dr Palmer is survived by his children and the many he adopted some of whom are today prominent people in Gambian society.