Foods and Nutrition students share their personal experiences in Ghana. From the plane ride to hospitals and engaging into the community, you'll hear first-hand details of their Ghana adventures.
Discoveries and growth at Ridge Regional Hospital in Accra
Seeing the hospital from a teacher's perspective
A renewed sense of purpose after shadowing in the OB/GYN out-patient department
Witnessing the mortality of a baby boy proved the importance of hope in a hospital.
I was shadowing another medical officer named Felix as he did patient reviews prior to rounds
My first time watching surgery.
How Ridge Hospital observations ignited my passion for surgery in medicine
Affirmation on this path to medicine
WhatsApp the Midwife
April 23, 2020
I never really thought I would be interested in obstetrics and gynecology. To be honest, I had always wondered what drew people to that field. However, that all changed on Thursday when I found myself shadowing in the Outpatient Obstetrics and Gynecology Ward, commonly nicknamed “obs and gynae” at Ridge Regional Hospital. It was actually just chance that I ended up there, as my stomach was hurting and I didn’t want to go to the Pediatric ICU with any sort of bug and risk getting vulnerable children sick. So I tagged along with Dr. Anderson and Julie to the OPD obs and gynae and I am so glad I did. The day began with a nutritional session led by the midwives and Dr. A, informing mothers on the best foods to eat, the optimal methods for breastfeeding, and the importance of maternal nutrition. The energy surrounding this part of the hospital was so different than where I had shadowed before. Here, there seemed to be a sense of excitement and intrigue. One of the midwives, Sandra, immediately welcomed me and introduced herself and her counterparts. They were intentional, asking my name, my expectations for the day, etc. and were receptive and thoughtful when I asked them questions about their work. When it came time to start the appointments, Sandra offered for me to shadow her and I was excited, I had been hoping to get to know her a little better. Her passion for her work shined through everything she did. She had had two other girls from our group shadowing her, but was still just as ready to teach me. When the first patient came in, she showed me how to measure fundal height— the height of the womb, essentially— how to find the fetal heartbeat, even let me feel the baby’s head in the mother’s belly. She taught me how to calculate gestational age with the little wheel tool and understand what that means for mother and child. It completely rocked my world! Honestly, for so long the OB/GYN has terrified me. Doing that as a profession didn’t ever cross my mind. However, to see the passion that Sandy and the midwives had for the patients and mothers and seeing the bond of sisterhood in the women counseling their fellow woman— it totally shifted my views. I don’t know if I would now say that I want to be a gynecologist but it has definitely planted a seed of interest in my mind. Her passion for her work and desire to teach and involve newcomers was inspiring. I hope to emulate such passion in my future work, such that even the routine and mundane stays exciting to share with people willing and excited to learn.
Getting so close to Sandra (nickname Sandy) and the other midwives and nurses at the hospital really made me sad to go. Most days I forget I am a temporary presence here in Ghana. I feel like I am a plant with roots slowly sinking down into the soil and taking hold. The beauty of the land and the people here has become now familiar and expected. I noticed the other day how the things that, at first, took me by surprise now were expected. Street sellers and bumper to bumper traffic are now commonplace instead of novel. The group of girls— and Chinonso— on our program have become a family that I expect to see gathered around the dinner table every night. The doctors and nurses at our hospitals and the patients we have come to know are now friends we will remember and pray for but likely not see for some time. Our friends and colleagues, Roberta, Albert, Ms. Gladys, Dr. A’s family, the local children, will all continue their lives here though we leave them on Monday. I do not write this as a lament, but as a reminder of the people and places that have meant so much to me. I hope and pray for the chance to return, perhaps to give back, or to work, or just visit these friends in future. I am so grateful for the opportunities and growth this program has plied me with.
Thank you FACS and thank you Ghana— you will be missed until I can return again,
A Fly in Milk
April 23, 2020
When we were kids, our parents asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Over the years, the answers have changed ranging from things such as astronaut to movie star to mountain climber. Now that we’re reaching adulthood, our answers have less inconsistency. Mine is set; I want to be a teacher. In our group of 13, my desired vocation sets me apart as I’m the only one that doesn’t want to work in the medical setting.
This fact weighed heavily on my mind as I walked into Ridge Hospital and saw how developed and up to date the facility was. All of my companions would work in a place like this in their futures, yet I wouldn’t. This had me worried that my experience wouldn’t live up to expectation. Now that the week is over, I can tell you that I was 100% wrong. Every doctor I worked with, every nurse, every patient, every midwife, everyone was so incredibly accommodating and willing to teach despite knowing that my future profession was in a different field. This was my highlight—experiencing the hospital with acceptance and inclusion.
My most favorite moment from the week came on Tuesday when I was scheduled in labor and delivery. It was on this day that I saw three babies enter the world for the first time. As I witnessed their first breaths, my mind traveled to motherhood and to children and to the journey of life. I wonder now, what will these children do when they grow up? How will they change the world?
I didn’t have a medically minded perspective as I shadowed the midwives and doctors this day. Instead, I had the mindset of a mother, a teacher, and a friend. Sure, I had my questions and thought of the procedures, but I didn’t think of myself as the one providing the care. Rather, I thought of the child itself and how motherhood would pertain to me in the future. As I observed, my most prevalent thoughts were about the beauty of motherhood. In Ghana, epidurals aren’t common, so the birth I witnessed was more natural than any I’d heard of from women back home. As the mother, cried, yelled, and pushed in pain, I first wondered if it was worth it, but then a nurse laid the baby down on her chest for the first time, and everything went silent. The bond was undeniable and left me with tears in my eyes.
This moment came on day two at the hospital, but it had already made my experience a remarkable one. I had a new appreciation for mothers, for doctors, for people in general—an appreciation that wouldn’t have come without stepping outside my comfort zone as an intended teacher to explore the field of medicine.
Tiny Humans, Big Dreams
April 23, 2020
Within the first few hours of shadowing at Ridge Hospital, which is the regional hospital for the Greater Accra area, I made fast friends with one of the midwives, Sandra, at the obstetrics and gynecology and antenatal out-patient department. I was sitting beside her as the head nurse was giving a pregnancy education for the mothers waiting to be seen. Because the whole education was in Twi, I could not understand what she was saying, so I asked her to explain to me what was going on. She kindly answered my questions and told me about her journey to becoming a midwife. I asked her specifically what her favorite part of her job was, and she replied, “I love pregnant women and babies, and it is extremely rewarding getting to be part of that stage of life for women.” Hearing Sandra talk about how fulfilling her career devoted to women’s health has been was affirming for me because I desire to serve women someday as a physician, specifically an OB/GYN.
Sandra invited me to observe her as she did the antenatal checks for the women at the clinic. I watched her do a physical examination on the mother, palpate the baby, perform a urinalysis, estimate the expected due date, find the fetal heartbeat, and ensure the woman had the necessary vitamins to be healthy during the pregnancy. She spoke Twi to most of the mothers but was quick to explain everything to me in English and ensure that I understood with clarity each test performed and medicine given. It was awesome seeing how attentive and compassionate she was toward each patient, tending to their specific needs and reassuring them in their worries.
There was one instance where Sandra could not find the fetal heartbeat for one of the mothers, so she had to order a scan to ensure that everything was alright with the baby. I witnessed the mother come back with the results of the scan with a huge smile because her baby was confirmed to be healthy. A small moment, yet a powerful one, and the midwives, nurses, and physicians at the OB/GYN out-patient department get to be part of those tiny, yet purposeful moments each day in the lives of the mothers who visit.
At the end of the day, Sandra let me perform one of the check-ups, and I was able to feel the baby and find the fetal heartbeat, “thump, thump, thump.” Currently, I am in the midst of applying to medical school, and the strenuous and lengthy application process has left me questioning at times my decision to pursue this as a future career. However, doing the fetal check-up and playing a small role in an unborn babies’ life reminded me of the purpose of it all—to use healthcare to serve others in all phases of life using medicine as a vessel to do that. Tending to the tiny human inside that mother’s womb gave me a renewed excitement for what the future as a healthcare provider will hold.
With love from Africa,
April 23, 2020
Ridge Hospital has been an avenue for advanced education and hands-on experiences amongst us all. The employees were grateful for us being there and immersing ourselves in their team. They resembled a company revolved around persistent protocol, strong work ethic, and sanitary organization which I greatly appreciated. The doctors and nurses brought life to their career through communication and excitement. Even in the midst of difficult scenarios, they were willing to discuss the cases and treatment plans for the patients in critical conditions. I was placed in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit for my first day at the hospital where I witnessed life-altering events.
The NICU at Ridge Hospital consists of three separate rooms for newborns based on the severity of their case. I shadowed Dr. Theo in the intermediate room where the cases were moderate but not severe. I observed his rounds of doing check-ups on each newborn. He would use a stethoscope to check for heart murmurs, physically examine their abdomen for protruding organs, test their Moro reflex, and press their skin to test for jaundice. Dr. Theo exemplified the importance of knowing what medications the patient is receiving, the amount of nutrients the patient is gaining, and the improvement status the patient has made. I learned more about the teamwork in this unit. Nurses would feed each baby and the doctor would update the charts for the patients. The head doctor would come in to do rounds with the team and everyone participated in the discussion for each patient. This showed the essential dynamics of a medical team and the importance of communication in this setting. The dedication and effort the team would put into healing the patients showed me how the hospital consists of more than encouraging smiles and learning opportunities. The hospital is a place of healing. The hospital is a place of pain and discomfort. The hospital is a place where lives are taken but also where lives are saved.
I witnessed the passing of premature newborn at Ridge Hospital today. The baby’s mother had a lipid deficiency which caused pre-eclampsia and jaundice in the child. Later on, the baby suffered from an infection and was required to stay in the hospital. After 23 days there, the doctors had to resuscitate the newborn four times with continuous heart failure and incubation for manual breathing. The team was fighting hard for this child’s life and wanted to see him survive. I walked into the room when they were incubating and resuscitating the child for the last time. They enabled the probe to test his saturation levels and recognized the heart monitor beeping once again. About an hour later, I walked back into the room to see more nurses surrounding the tiny patient. The monitors were off. The nurse explained to me how they officially lost him. The doctor reassured the team that they did everything they could, and the newborn didn’t deserve to suffer any longer. The mothers face when she walked into the room was the moment, I knew it was real. She was stunned, with wide eyes and a quivering lip, looking around in distress. Her first boy did not survive the battle he was against.
I stood there with the nurses, trying to conceptualize what occurred. They said they see this every day in the NICU and it never gets easier. Losing a life, even if the child was only in the world for a month, is always sad. This reality of a hospital gave me a new perspective into the field of medicine. Each one of us is restricted to a certain amount of time. Some make it for a few weeks, like this baby, and some make it to a hundred years. Lives can be taken instantly, from a serious infection to an accidental injury. Our life in this world has an end and time is ticking by. May all of those individuals who don’t believe they can fight for the impossible or be enough to witness change, I ensure you that life goes by too fast to worry about what you cannot do. May we all fight for increased knowledge and new discoveries. May we all contribute to healing and helping those around us, at home or in a professional setting. May we mourn with those experiencing hardship and celebrate with those experiencing joy. We need to fight for one another like the healthcare professionals fought for this child’s life. As a witness to this circumstance, I know the importance of hope in a clinical setting. I pray that one day, I can also be this avenue of hope for those in need around me.
- Devyn Malinzak
Mud on the Wall
April 23, 2020
I once heard that learning medicine is analogous to throwing mud on a wall: most of the mud will slide to the floor, but some mud will stick to the wall. In other words, learning medicine is a slow process. Each experience, each learning opportunity, each bit of confidence gain, each piece of knowledge gained from mentors, teachers, advisors, and doctors sticks a little more mud on the wall. This week, while given the opportunity to learn and observe at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital at Ridge, I can definitely say I have a little more mud on my wall.
On Wednesday, I was given the opportunity to go to the Labor and Delivery Ward and observe two natural births and two C-sections, one of which an emergency, unplanned C-section. At the end of the day, directly after delivering a baby, the midwife turned and looked at me and said “Do you want to deliver the placenta?” My eyes widened in surprise and I instinctively nodded my head, grateful for the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience. The midwife gave me sterile gloves, let me gown up, and talked me through as I pulled the placenta out and put it in a bin. As I examined the placenta for any irregularities, the midwife explained the function of the placenta, showing me the maternal side and the fetal side and detailing what goes on in each. As I stood captivated by the intricacy, the vasculature, and the amazing function of the placenta, I got some more mud on my wall.
While observing in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, a medical officer named Gideon carefully explained to me the basics of how ventilators work, pointing out a few settings on the ventilation machine and explaining lung dysfunction. That day, I got a little more mud on my wall. Later during the week, while shadowing in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I was able to use that mud to ask the doctor informed questions about the use of ventilators in newborns, further building upon my knowledge.
During my time in the Pediatric Medical Wards, I was shadowing another medical officer named Felix as he did patient reviews prior to rounds. He was crunched on time, having to see over five patients under an hour and writing notes for each of them in the electronic medical record system. After reviewing his patients and scribbling down his notes on a sheet of paper, he was struggling to input all of his notes in the time he had left. Trying to help, I told him I have done some scribe work in the United States at Mercy and I might be able to assist him. Surprised at my offer, he jumped up, grabbed a laptop and logged in. He handed the laptop to me and I was able to input some notes as he dictated. Using the previous mud I had on my wall from my experiences in the United States, I was able to help Felix that day, and ultimately, allow him to better care for his patients.
All of these experiences are reminders that in medicine, no experience, no knowledge, no opportunity ever goes to waste. I can’t wait to see where all this mud on my wall takes me as I continue to learn and grow in the years to come. I will be forever grateful for Ridge for throwing lots of mud on my wall and challenging me to see healthcare in an entirely different light.
Written by Emily Austin
April 23, 2020
I have always been a very indecisive person. Going into college I had no idea what I wanted to study and it took me a couple of months to set on Nutritional Sciences. A few months into my freshman year my advisor asked me if I wanted to be Pre-Med and in the moment I told her yes, unsure of what the steps were to prepare for medical school. It took me months to finally decide that going to medical school to be a physician is what I wanted to do. Since then everyone has asked me what I want to specialize in and every time I would say “I have no clue, I’m just going with the flow.” I said this because I knew one day I would find a specialty that was right for me. Everyone attending this experience with me has an idea of what they want to specialize in and were so excited to visit that corresponding ward of the hospitals we were shadowing in. I was excited for the nutrition related wards and clinics at PML, but other than that I was just wanting to explore PML and Ridge hospital.
Our first day shadowing at Ridge Hospital, I was in the emergency theatre with Chin. We were ready to see either something crazy or nothing at all, knowing the emergency OR was nothing but chance. We were fortunate enough to see an appendectomy, a skin tag removal and a tendon repair. I was nervous going into the first surgery because I was scared it was going to be too much for me to handle. To my surprise, as soon as the surgeon started the appendectomy I was so curious to see what he was doing and how he was cutting and maneuvering the body to find the appendix. The tendon repair surgery was even more interesting to me. At first I was a bit overwhelmed because the woman had come in with a deep cut in her pinky and the surgeon had to cut even more to find the tendons. Her pinky was completely opened up by the first five minutes of the surgery. It was so intriguing to watch him dig for the tendons and so smoothly suture them back together. The surgeon was educational and would explain each step and exactly what he was doing. He explained to us that he was in “no mans land” because the pinky is so small and difficult to operate on. He let us take several closer looks and would point out each tendon, nerve, muscle etc. in the pinky. This surgery took several hours but I kept my eyes glued on his precise movements the entire time. By the end, he sutured her pinky back up and said she would regain full movement in her finger. After these two surgeries I was craving to see more.
I observed scheduled surgeries on Thursday and had the opportunity to watch four intricate surgeries. Every surgeon was eager to answer any question we had and would also let us take peaks into the incision site so we could get a better look at what they were trying to accomplish. I learned so much from these surgeons causing me to learn so much about myself.
After my experience at Ridge I have decided I want to specialize in surgery. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still undecided about which field of surgery I want to specialize in so that indecisive part of me has not changed. But since I stepped foot in the OR I knew I was meant to be there. It was so thrilling to watch and I can not wait to be the person preforming the surgery one day. I am so glad I had this experience and I was able to figure this aspect of my life out. I am excited to commence medical school with at least an idea of what I want to do with my life.
P.S. The organ pictured is a woman’s uterus who suffered from uterine fibroids.
~ Laura Triana ~
Break A Leg
April 23, 2020
What do you want to be when you grow up? This expansive question is one that sticks to people like a lingering plague, from the day you can utter your first words until the day you finally make that decision. The struggle to find a passion and occupation that perfectly suits you is extremely difficult. With all the options present and avenues available to make a difference in the world, it is hard to pinpoint one central occupation that will become the focus for the rest of your life. You can only live once, and your life is dependent on the job that you will eventually choose. Luckily for me, I know my passion lies in medicine, but that is only half of the work. Choosing a specialty from the multitude of fields in medicine is a task that many pre-med students struggle with. Yet, Ridge Hospital, the regional hospital in the Greater Accra region, has provided the perfect backdrop for my excavation into the many specialties of medicine.
Last week, Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital was important as it cemented my passion for medicine and the service of people in underrepresented communities. However, with its struggles, it lacked the structure to pinpoint my specialty of choice. Ridge Hospital provided the perfect contrast as it emulated the structure and organization of an American hospital. There were numerous divisions to explore, and I used my time here to maximize my experience. This hospital, like PML, emphasized teaching and made an effort to give me a hands-on experience without limiting the quality of care of their patients. I gained experiences that would not otherwise be presented to me in America. During the week, I mixed pain stabilizers for patients in the anesthesia department. I redressed and debrided burn patients in the burn unit. During my time here, I was exposed to many departments at Ridge, but none other had interested me more than the surgical department.
Due to the privacy restrictions placed in American hospitals and their emphasis on maximizing the patient care experience, opportunities to learn in a hospital setting are often only reserved for those in medical school. Prior to our visit to Ridge, I had never witnessed a surgical procedure. By the end of the week, nonetheless, I had observed six surgeries: from minor procedures such as facial skin tags to complicated methods such as laparoscopic fallopian tube repairs. I enjoyed helping in the theatre, as I was always sought out to adjust the lights or retrieve vital tools like sutures and gauze. I enjoyed being in the surgical theatres, where plastic surgeons would educate me on surgical procedures such as skin grafts and orthopedic surgeons would quiz me on the bones of the body and their functionality. While people usually shriek at the sight of blood and a human body being cut open, I find peace in that environment. Even the sight of a tendon repair brought forth a feeling of serenity and euphoria through my body! My visit to the surgical department at Ridge Hospital birthed my fascination with the human body and its miraculous recovery methods. I became addicted to the importance of surgery and its implications in fixing otherwise damaging, lifelong conditions. Hours in the surgical theatres felt like seconds. I didn’t want to leave. Through my experience in the surgical department, I have discovered my passion in surgery. With my specialty set for medical school and my future as a physician, there’s just one thing left to do: break a leg.
- Chinonso Ani -
C-ing is Believing
April 23, 2020
One of my strongest motivations for coming on this program was the opportunity to dive further into women’s health. This field is one I have become deeply passionate about through my interdisciplinary fields of health promotion and women’s studies. Learning about how nuances of privilege and inclusion have created health disparities for women and other marginalized populations made me understand the power physicians have to not only improve health, but to make the world a more equitable place. The realization that I could help women by providing healthcare, potentially as an OB/GYN, was the defining moment that made me decide I wanted to pursue medical school.
I came into our week at Greater Accra Ridge Hospital with high hopes of further exploring this passion and I was not disappointed. On our second day, I had the chance to witness my first Caesarean section in the theatre. I felt my heart racing as the OB/GYN made a clean incision along the belly, deftly slicing through the dermal layers, subcutaneous tissue, and the fascia until the uterus emerged. After one last slit, the physician reached in both hands and began feeling for a head. Before I could even process it, he had pulled out the newborn child, expertly cut the umbilical cord, and handed the baby off to the nurse.
The whole experience was exhilarating. Within twenty minutes, a child which was once nestled in its mother’s womb, was brought into this world. The relief on the mother’s face was tangible and I could see her gratitude that her baby had arrived, safe and sound. It was truly one of the beautiful things I have ever experienced, and it left me in awe of the resilience of the human body. In that moment, I saw a glimpse into what my future in medicine could look like.
These last few weeks have certainly been challenging. I have doubted myself several times and questioned my strength in the long journey to becoming a physician. However, if there is one thing my time in Ghana has shown me, it is that what medicine requires most is passion not perfection.
The healthcare providers we have met at Princess Marie Louise and Ridge Hospital are not perfect people. They have encountered the many trails of tribulations that come with this profession of selfless service. Like me, they have failed, but have persisted. They work hard every day to positively impact health. Their devotion to their patients has inspired me and given me hope that I can one day work alongside them.