Through the NYIT Center for Global Health, several NYCOM/NYIT students went on a 3 week Global Health Fieldwork trip to Oworobong, Ghana. Our primary affiliate for this trip was the Jesse M. Rohde Foundation at the Oworobong Clinic. At this point, it is a child and maternal care clinic, which has been in development for the past 4 years. The goal is to eventually be serving a grand total of roughly 5,000+ people in the local population. Although the majority of the time was spent at this location, we went to other less rural areas as well. This included a missionary maternal health center that had been established since the 1940s in Tafo, and on the other end of the spectrum, a relatively modern hospital, the Hawa Memorial Saviour Hospital in Osiem, Ghana. Each environment provided unique experiences to learn from.
Strictly in terms of medicine, there were a decent amount of activities to be observed and take part in at every location. Be it from taking histories and vitals for patients, educating children about using bed nets to prevent malaria, taking part in grand rounds with Ghanaian attendings, observing several surgeries and deliveries, assisting on suturing, discussing the similarities and differences in our medical curriculum’s with Ghanaian medical students, and even learning some osteopathy from one of our own resident physicians that accompanied us, each day brought distinctively interesting opportunities to learn new things. For me, these were all new experiences. Before medical school, I had a relatively limited “real-world” exposure to medicine so these experiences were fascinating to me. It’s interesting to learn about Steven Johnson’s Syndrome in class, but it’s quite breathtaking to see the grimace and pain on a child’s face that is actually suffering from it. That’s when I really started understanding how important it is to manage a patient properly before they reach the point of developing such conditions. However, there were many medical students that had many of these experiences previously. Observing a surgery or suturing a patient may seem more routine than exciting for them. That’s when I felt this trip was truly unique in that it was much more than only learning about or observing medicine since that can be done, arguably better, here at home.
This trip really showed how medicine is not a standalone or independent discipline. In theory perhaps, but in reality, the practice of medicine is influenced greatly by social, cultural, economical, epidemiological, and political influences as well as being vastly limited by the availability of resources. In order to better tailor the Oworobong Clinic to the needs of the local population, we would go to neighboring villages to conduct demographic studies on the local population.
Each of these hikes to reach a village would be a minimum of one hour, some ranging up to two and a half hour hikes, and that’s only one way. The trips to the villages were crucial to the development of the clinic because it helped us gauge the needs and wants of the local people instead of us imposing our ideas on them. The interviews with the locals showed us how the people in Ghana approach things differently, may it be in regards to medicine or other factors like gender roles. We found out that even along with building a clinic for patients, better roads were being built to make the clinic accessible to people from further distances so that it is utilized properly. That’s when we realized that building a health care system goes beyond just practicing medicine, there are so many other factors involved, and I think we all gained an appreciation for this after we came back from the trip.
– Piyal Alam, OMS-II, Sejal Tamakuwala, OMS- II
You can find the rest of this article in the NYCOM PULSE.