First of all, I want to start with an addendum from week 2 in Accra since I didn’t get to finish explaining all that I did since my last post.
Addendum from week 2:
On Wednesday, I got a tour of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. It is huge! It has 2200 beds total, which is just insane. Daniel told me it is one of the three biggest teaching hospitals in Africa. Here are some pictures of it:
Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to be around for the Stop Polio National Immunization Day, which happens twice a year, where there are two 2-part series lasting three days each. The first set of days is to administer the first oral polio vaccine in the series and vitamin A capsules. Then, 2-3 months later, we administer the second polio dose. This same routine happens again 6 months later. I really enjoyed working as a team of three, where we went to our assigned area and asked to immunize children under the age of five. It was such a busy morning, where we had one of us document, one administering the oral polio vaccine, and one of us administering vitamin A, 50,000 units for children 6-11 months and 100,000 units for children 12 months to 5 years old, which they are to receive every 6 months. It was hot working under the sun and I joked with my teammates that if they want an obroni when they return, they have to stop and let me reapply sunscreen and take a drink of water.
On Friday, we had our weekly teaching meeting, which was on toxicology and what to do for ingestion of certain poisons. I also got a comprehensive presentation from Dr. Charles.
From there, I went to the outpatient rehabilitation center, where 3 of the children I had seen the previous week in the inpatient nutrition ward for severe acute malnutrition were improving so well to be able to be treated outpatient. It appeared as if they remembered me and one of them was the child that cried so hard because she had never seen a white person before. I ended up playing with them and snapping some photos.
I also went out and did more polio and vitamin A outreach. I really lucked out that the National Immunization Day happened during my rotation!
In the afternoon, I picked up my second dress, and ate with Nora and her friend Charles before going to sit by the ocean near Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. Nora stayed over that night, which was fun.
On Saturday, I went shopping to prepare for Cape Coast and then relaxed the rest of the afternoon at the house. On Sunday, I slept in and then Dr. Charles and I did our Sunday ritual of having Omutsuu with ground nut soup. I love the ocean, if that isn’t obvious, so Nora and I went to labadi beach again and walked along the coast, but this time, no horses! The week prior, we almost got totally robbed after we did horseback riding.
NOW, I can start with Cape Coast for real:
I made it to Cape Coast! On Monday, I traveled with Dr. Charles to Cape Coast, where I toured the hospital and did some logistical organization of my time here. I have decided to do one week in the Pediatric department and one week in the Internal Medicine department.
After seeing the hospital, I went to my accommodations to get settled. It is about a 10 minute drive from the hospital. I am staying in a single room with a private bathroom, fan, and air conditioning. It is quite comfortable. I set up my mosquito net, which is definitely needed, even with treating the room with insecticide. In the compound, there is a kitchen, water heater for coffee and tea, a stove, and a slightly defective microwave (we are working on it). I make breakfast myself, which I take either Milo, the local chocolate drink, or coffee with a cube of brown sugar and powdered milk with biscuits. Power outages can happen, but are much less common here than in Accra.
It is kind of weird being alone at the complex, but gives me time to think and process my trip this far. I know that when future students come, they will be very comfortable here and can hang out. I got internet access yesterday, but burned through it by uploading photos, which means no more photos on the blog until I get back to the US (or maybe at an Internet cafe).
My first day at the clinic was yesterday, where I worked with one of the second-year medical officers to round on patients in the morning. Her name was Anna and we got along really well. I met another student named Diana from Long Island, NY who is actually doing her medical training here because in her words, “it’s cheaper.” How true is that!! Here is a bit about the medical training here in Ghana. It is modeled after the British system, where medical school lasts 7 years, then 2 years as a house officer and then you finish with the title of medical officer. From there, you can either support yourself and pursue residency directly or you must work for a hospital for 2-3 years and then they may sponsor you for residency. The problem with this model is that there are a lack of specialists, but on the other hand, all doctors have very well-rounded training and in a way are giving back time to the government who often sponsored them during their training.
Everyone here thinks that it is a waste of time doing two years of internship as a house officer, but it’s not much easier time wise in the U.S. We are we are required to get a four-year degree prior to matriculation in medical school, then 4 years medical school, where just having a degree is insufficient to practice medicine independently (except in Missouri), which means that one then has to complete at least 3 years of residency training. I added it up: 11 years in the U.S. and 12 years in Ghana. Either way, we have the total opposite problem in the U.S., with too much specialty training and not enough generalists.
After clinic, I ate with the residents. I will be provided two meals a day from the hospital, where I speak with them about the next day’s lunch and dinner preferences. They always package up dinner for reheating later.
Faustina came shortly after to pick me up in order to show me how to get to and from the hospital on my own and then to show me how to get to town. To get around Cape Coast, there are line taxis, which are shared taxis that cost roughly 80 peshwas to 1 cede 20 peshwas for a leg of a trip.
To get a taxi that is not shared, you must ask for a drop taxi rate from any of the taxi drivers and in essence you are paying the seats of others to have a private taxi. This is different than taxis from Accra, where all of them are private and the most economical way to travel is by tro-tro.
After we finished up getting to and from the hospital, she showed me the market, which is being renovated, along with a few areas of the city, including Kingsway bridge, the castle, and the plaza for important events in the city, the courthouse, and Oasis, a restaurant/bar/hangout with tourists I could meet. We also visited the department store, where I picked up paper towels, some cooking utensils for the kitchen, baby wipes, and ice cream. We also got fresh fruit, which I adored! I had pineapple, pawpaw (papaya), cucumbers, grapes, and apples.
I relaxed after getting back yesterday and that’s when I realized that it isn’t feasible to put pictures in the blog for the moment because I had loaded 10 cedes, which in theory, should have lasted for weeks and instead lasted for 1-2 hours getting picture in my blog. Oops!! 🙂
Today, I was able to work with the public health department doing physical examinations for preschool-aged children, which is done 4 times a year. I really loved it and only had two screaming children all day. Most were happy to sit in my lap as I examined them. I also learned how to wrap a baby on my back with cloth 🙂 I have wanted to learn that since arriving in Accra.