Enlightening and Challenging Experiences

March 15th, 2011 by njandreau

Hi, I’m Casey Toombs and a medical biology/ Pre-PA student. I spend most of my time as a volunteer EMT and doing research in a lab. I was intrigued by the trip to Ghana to gain healthcare experience and knowledge of the culture.

Today was filled with many enlightening and challenging experiences. We started the clinic where I run the lab table. When the providers suspect malaria from the patient’s symptoms, I am able to use a test using a few drops of blood from their finger. It takes about 15 minutes to determine whether they are positive or negative for the infectious disease. This prevents us from over treating patients with malaria symptoms if they don’t have it. Today we tested about 10 patients and only had two very sick children that ended up having malaria.

I also observe the two providers, Andrew and Jessica, while they see patients. I have been able to help them with rechecking blood pressures or listening to lungs or the heart. This has enlightened my perspective in working with children and has expanded my knowledge of so many different diseases. One of the most amazing things I have noticed is how the mothers care for their children. They wrap them up in a cloth to carry them on their back and just care for them deeply. Another observation I saw was that none of the patients complained of how long they had to wait and were more concerned that they were getting the chance to get care. I am also truly amazed by how resourceful everyone is and how they use what they have, such as splints made of cardboard or cloths to carry children.

Two of the community workers also brought us to a woodcarver and the Takarodi market. The woodcarver had many incredible pieces that you could see the hard work they spend on them. In the market, it was amazing how all the children run up and are so excited to see you and ask your name. It was definitely a busy market and crowded but no one was in a rush or rude in any way. I have definitely gained a new perspective in how simple life can be and how ridiculous it is to stress about the little things in life.

Seamless in Every Aspect

March 14th, 2011 by njandreau

Today’s clinic can only be described as one that was seamless in every aspect. Despite unrelenting heat and temperamental water flow, our cohort came together to deliver the best care possible to every patient who walked through the doors of the Assemblies of God Church in Sekondi , West Ghana. The community workers (Clifford, James & Felicia) and I joined with nurses Jen S. and Brenda C. to greet patients of all ages at the triage tables. Blood pressures, weight and heights, head circumferences (for the infants and toddlers) were taken and charted; health workers and carers sat side by side, putting together pertinent health histories, determining the patient’s 3 most prevalent symptoms and determining health insurance needs. There were some awkward moments brought about by differences in language and health perceptions, however these seemed easily handled – we all wanted to make things work.

Amazingly those who came for healthcare waited patiently (40+ each day). They sat in hard backed chairs, some dressed in garments handmade from local fabrics, some with babies nursing or wrapped in colorful swathes around their waists, others animatedly talking with old friends who had also come by for advice and treatment.

From triage patients went on to see the providers. Andrew T., wearing his beaded stethoscope and bearing sesame street stickers, saw all the children. Casey T., a med bio student, watched as Dr. Andrew examined the children and comforted their parent(s). Adjoa, a community health worker sat in to assist when translation was needed. Jessica T., a 2009 UNE alum physician’s assistant, saw mostly adults, some with serious medical concerns – others with waist pain or malarial symptoms. Emily D. held court at the pharmacy table with Trisha M. as her accomplice. To say their work was phenomenal is an understatement.

And as always Jennifer M. kept everything running smoothly; from making an early morning pharmacy run, to planning an outing to the Effiankwanta Hospital in Sekondi where we toured and learned about how the caring in health care works miracles when supplies and resources are scarce and the needs are high. The day ended with Augustina’s amazing Ghanaian cuisine and great conversation – seamless.

Shelley Cohen Konrad

First Full Day in Sekondi, Ghana

March 13th, 2011 by njandreau

Hi, my name is DeAnne Start. I am 2nd year graduate student in the school of Social Work at UNE. When this wonderful opportunity to travel to Ghana, Africa came my way I knew that I have to go for it and absorb all this experience and culture had to offer me.

Today was our first full day in Sekondi, Ghana. After a day’s worth of travel which included 2 planes and a 5 hours bus ride. This bus ride took us through some many cities, towns and villages and was my first exposure to the culture and lifestyle. Upon arrival, we were welcomed with open arms and lots of love and warmth.

Though I have nearly no medical experience I have been entrusted to work the triage/intake station with two fellow comrades, a fellow social worker and a nurse. The people of the community who we saw today were absolutely wonderful and grateful for the work we are here and the sharing they offer us. Most of the patients seen today do not have health insurance or a provider they can see on a regular basis.

The children in this community are the most adventurous and beautiful children. They are always there with a smile on their faces and a warm greeting to give. They are happy to have a talk with you or hold your has you walk down the street. With the limited resources around them, they are amazingly happy and playful.

I must also mention the community health workers that help out in so many ways. They are in the clinic with us to be interpreters, translators and to offer guidance. They are a wonderful source of cultural information; they also help us to navigate many cultural opportunities.

Though I have only been here for just over a day, I can already tell that they place and its people are going to change me for the rest of my life. I would not exchange this experience for anything. I really looking forward to meeting so many more people in our upcoming clinics; our tours of the surrounding area; visiting; shopping in the market; and Cape Cost University.

Half Day of Clinic

March 13th, 2011 by njandreau

My name is Brenda L Connell. I am a practicing RN at MMC in Portland and alumni of UNE (ADN 2008, BSN 2010). I grew up in a small rural town in NH in a hardworking lower-middle class family. My father was a laborer for 45 years in a brass foundry. My mother was a homemaker. I have 3 older sisters.

I worked very hard to become a nurse. It is a job I take very seriously and with great pride I carry out my role in caring for ill patients and their families. I came to Ghana with the impression that I was to be humbled in the presence of such a kind and gracious community. Let me tell you a little about day one in Sekondi, Ghana and you may begin to agree with the impression I had.

The travel part of the trip was a bit beastly as far as the length of sitting time. For a fidgety person like myself it was a challenge. Some minor hold ups at the airport led to quite long delays and of course, more sitting.

Once we arrived in Sekondi (following a terrific bus adventure of about 5 hours) it was dark, so difficult to soak in the change of scenery. Today though was already incredible. We have such amazing hosts here at the mission. Augustina, the Reverend Andoh’s wife is reserved, regal, and she is the most heavenly cook. I haven’t eaten this well in I don’t know how long. One of my travel companions, Stephen (also known as Gus, Carl or Joe) is betting that I will always have more than one serving and will be the only one to gain weight on this trip. I agree!

Some of us had a chance to walk around Sekondi’s market which is an intricate maze of wooden structures with little chickens, goats, snails, herbs, fish, plantains, crafts and other food items in every corner. Everywhere I looked there was someone smiling at me. Many people, both men and women asked to be my friend, asked my name, told me they love America and welcomed (Akwaaba) me to Ghana.

There is music everywhere. It pulses on the streets, outside the mission and in the market. Time is slow here. People smile a lot. It is about 90 degrees. Shade is scarce. I love it.

For me, the most important and best part so far has been the mere half-clinic we were able to carry out today. Approximately 30 people were seen in the health clinic today, men, women and children.  Our clinic site is the church, which is a large open space. Casey (med bio student) and I tended to the rapid malaria testing while Dr.Morton, Dr.Andrew and PA Jessica completed assessment, diagnosis and treatment plans with the patients. Jen S (Nsg), Deanne (SW) and Shelley (SW-Faculty) triaged patients on arrival and completed intake evaluation forms and vital signs. Dr.Emily and Trisha dispensed medications at the pharmacy area. This was most meaningful to me because I work in a major hospital with all of the technology and supplies at my fingertips and a patient population so completely different from the one I am used to. It was a huge change to my perspective as a health care provider.

Remember folks, this was only day one and only a half day of clinic. I am looking forward to the rest of my time here and the opportunity to help in any way I can.

Signing off for now… Medasi

2011 Trip

March 8th, 2011 by njandreau

On March 11, 2011 students and faculty from WCHP, CoP and COM will travel to the twin cities of Sekondi and Takoradi in Ghana, West Africa to participate in a cultural experience that includes direct services, community health education, and exchanges with the Ghana Health Service and the University of Cape Coast. UNE’s partnership with the Ghana Health Mission, Inc has now evolved into a biannual experience with all colleges. GHM, was originally established by Leda McKenry, RN, PhD, FAAN of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Reverend Robert Andoh of the International Mission.  This unlikely partnership evolved into Ghana Health mission 14 years ago.

Jennifer Morton, DNP, MPH, RN will be joined by Shelley Cohen Konrad, PhD, John Schloss PhD, Marietta Schloss, Steev Sutton PdD, Andrew Tenenbaum, DO, Emily Dornblaser PharmD, Jessica Taylor, PA-C (alum ’09), Brenda Connell (alum ’10), RN, BSN, Jennifer Stenberg (WCHP ’11, nursing), DeAnne Start (WCHP ’11, social work), Casey Toombs (CAS, ’12, pre PA).  This student and faculty group is comprised of an interprofessional team that includes nursing, social work, medicine, physician assistant, pharmacy practice and science.

This experience will introduce the students to health care as it is delivered in a developing country while they provide valuable healthcare services and community health education to the people of Sekondi and Takoradi. This type of experience assists students and faculty in recognizing and heightening their skills as culturally sensitive health professionals through self reflection prior to, during and after the immersion experience.

Students will participate in activities that include:

  • Participation in the delivery of direct patient care
  • Community health education as a partnership with community health workers, Ghana Health Service nurse and lab workers, UCC students
  • Becoming versed in the use of interpreters

All of the students and faculty have been working hard to collect needed medical supplies for the trip.

This year’s students and faculty group will participate in learning exchanges with Ghana Health Service personnel both at the GHM clinic as well as the Effia Nkwanta hospital and Social Welfare office.  Additionally, after an extensive interview with a rural chief in Pumba, we will offer health education services as we prepare for an expansion of services with our GHS partners in August ’11 to this new site.

Lastly, the group will spend two days at the University of Cape Coast engaging in educational and clinical exchanges.  Dr. Kofi Awusabo-Asare (who visited UNE in Nov) has worked diligently to prepare a program that offers a rich bi-cultural exchange. We are confident that this exchange will place solid roots into a longstanding, collaborative relationship.