Why Medical Missions in Ghana??

Taken during Public Health Outreach in the rural communities of Ghana. Taken during a session educating mothers with their newborn babies.

Pre-departure:

 

Why did you choose to study abroad? What factors (year in school, location, etc.) played into your decision? What key things did you have to consider before deciding to go abroad?

 

A brilliant man, my father longed for the expansion of his mind and spirit. Cultures electrified his passions, and he delivered his cultural love through a large red library I called, “Daddy’s Den.” He kept my favorite book on the second shelf, a place that my six-year-old hands could easily reach. It was a Book of Questions by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda is well known for his book of Love Poems, filled with raw wounds of words. Yet, he is not recognized for his Book of Questions, which is my favorite of his works. Thirteen years later, and I find myself leafing through the same dog-eared pages. Today my finger follows a question that reflects a season: “Why do leaves commit suicide when they feel yellow?” It is true, leaves yellow and wither in the winter and I have seen how beautiful people, like my father, can also yellow and wilt. However, if I have discovered anything from death, there is a resilience that comes forth only in the presence of ruin. Because of Neruda’s yellow leaves that died, as did my father, my passion for the world grows green from the soil of my father’s legacy. As a new independent, I aspire to learn the world and create a library like my dad’s.  I long to serve and appreciate others in the name of my father. He lived his life selflessly; I seek to do the same. Therefore, I chose to study abroad and learn an unfamiliar facet of life in honor of my father. I also want to learn to stand on my own two feet without the safety of the world I know.

I am a pre-med student studying neuroscience and I hope to one day become a medical missions doctor who travels to under-resourced communities. However, I never want to be an outsider who thinks she can ride up on a white horse to “save” others. I know I am never the savior. Each community has its own distinct culture, customs, and opinions. All these aspects are sacred and fragile to the community. I must learn not only what it is like to be a doctor for under-resourced people, but what it means to step into a community, gain its trust, and soak in its fundamental values. Ergo, I chose to study abroad with Psychiatrist, Dr. Thaddeus Ulzen, who is a native Ghanaian and graduated from Ghana Medical School. The program to Ghana is a 4-week educational medical mission at a local community medical Center in Elmina, Ghana. A full range of health problems are seen at this District Health Center, and patients of all ages and genders are seen here. The primary activities include observing and participating in a traditional daily clinic and taking part in public health outreach to outlying more rural communities. Opportunities for visiting a psychiatric hospital and a leprosarium also exist, though the core program is a primary care experience. This offers an opportunity to experience a health care system run on a $6.00/capita budget in a stable democratic African country. Cross-cultural communication and adaptation opportunities are also a part of the trip. While abroad, we will:

appreciate the application of health and medical knowledge and service in a resource-poor environment, appreciate the importance of prevention and public health, identify the uniqueness of cultural and cross cultural beliefs and practices as they impact health and community, and familiarize with common sub-Saharan African clinical conditions and treatment dilemmas.

The main thing I had to consider before going abroad was  making sure it was timely and financially doable. After I found the program that fit my interests of service, medicine, and cultural expansion, I had to make sure my summer was free to give the month towards the program. Then, knowing my single mother is not in the best financial state, I had to find ways to pay for the program.  I applied for countless scholarships and financial aid. I did not tell anyone about the program, even my family, until I heard back from all the scholarships and financial aid programs.

I know my father would be proud of my adventurous, ambitious decision to understand and help others with my medical passions.

 

Author: Charlotte M

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