Travel and Global
Experience Ghana in Global Health.
How it all began and why is it important?
While attending the 2019 ACOG fall conference, I listened to a presentation on the establishment of the Ghana OBGYN residency program, enabling me to essentially begin my Journey to Ghana earlier than I had initially thought. The planned KATH rotation was still several months ahead of me and I didn’t know what to expect. My intention going in was to demonstrate flexibility in all aspects of learning, and to prove to myself that I could be as successful in a medical environment that was much less structured than the American system. For my personal development, I wanted to be cognizant of development in my powers of awareness, compassion and gratitude. I recall how much the lecture inspired me while reinforcing my belief that I could develop these crucial qualities. In US Medicine, I have witnessed how easy it is to get lost in egos, titles, publishing and gathering citations. The speaker, truly informed my medical journey, particularly when he described how he was able to persuade Ghanaian doctors to change their habits through gentle encouragement. In short, the ACOG presentation, had a profound effect on me, resulting in decisions, that will shape my life and career, and altered my attitude when heading into the upcoming clerkship in Ghana.
Several months later when I went into my OBGYN rotation in Ghana I worked to keep an open mind, seeking where I could contribute as I gained medical expertise and cultural competence. During my time in Ghana, I developed profound appreciation for the medical education I received in the USA, particularly in the basic sciences. The work there reinforced why we learn what we learn and when. Observing the limited access to health care and working with PPE shortages, when a pandemic is about to break out in the USA, had a profound effect on me. In Ghana, I watched surgeons operating without access to CT scans, patients being unable to pay for any imaging and very long wait times for the return of pathology permanent sections. All of it was the reality in Ghana, the reality that was affecting doctors’ decisions every day. Every medical student needs the Global health experience, as it provides a new depth of understanding on how much is done for patients in the USA and what “patient centered care” actually means. On the other side, Ghana attendings working amidst chronic PPE shortages and the necessity to improvise, showed me how spoiled I was in our ORs. To them, perforations mean that they will be the attendings to fix the bladder. There is no general surgery on call, usually there is nobody else. Lack of CT means that they will “open” and make a plan on the fly. Thinking fast on your feet is a must. They just get the job done, no matter what is ahead of them. Clerkship at KATH also helped me understand my exact purpose as a future physician. That is, to have a brain with knowledge that goes through my heart and combines with compassion and then runs into my hands to provide service.
To experience Ghana – experience its Culture.
For me, when not working at KATH, the nation of Ghana was truly delightful to explore, with its unique cultural highlights and festivals. I also learned tiny bit of Twi with the help of one of my US classmates, who was born in Kumasi at Kath, but grew up in Toronto. I became fluent enough to conduct a basic physical exam in the native language. During my rotation, I also attended drumming classes twice a week and now am the proud owner of Ashanti drums that reside with me in my tiny New York apartment. I find that drumming can be very therapeutic. It is a feeling of zen that is only surpassed by my suturing practice routine! YouTube was a great help in learning new moves. You can join me every Saturday at 7 pm, as the majority of big cities in the USA make loud sounds clapping, drumming, hammering on wood or with pots and pans to thank the essential workers. I do Ashanti drumming.