McGill University 2012

Medical, Ghana Takoradi

I had always dreamed to doing a medical placement in Africa, and had predicted that it would be a life-changing experience.  Upon returning from my adventures in Ghana, I was happy to say that my predictions could not have been more true.  My four weeks in Ghana proved to be one of the most formative times in my medical school training.

I decided to travel with an organisation for peace of mind and security, and I had heard great things about Work the World prior to signing up with them.  It wasn’t until I arrived in Ghana that I truly appreciated everything that WTW did for us.  

The thought of attempting to plan everything on my own, integrate into the hospital, learn how to get around town and adapt to the local culture without the assistance of the WTW staff would have been utterly terrifying.  

On arrival to Accra, we were picked up from the airport without a hitch, and taken to a hotel for the night before traveling to Takoradi the next day.  The WTW house was very comfortable and safe, with a 24-hour security guard at the gate.  The food was also delicious (much better than any food at the local restaurants!), and there was a nice variety of local and international dishes.  Once a week they would prepare a BBQ for us in the courtyard, which always seemed to turn into a hilarious dance party!  The staffs at the house were extremely accommodating, and really started to feel like our family! One recommendation would be to bring loads of good reading material, and a headlamp, since there’s a lot of down time, and once the sun goes down the lighting in the house is pretty dim.

My placement was in Accident and Emergency for 3 weeks, which was an unbelievable experience.  Dr. Orish was a phenomenal supervisor, and an amazing teacher.  I saw many things I will never forget, and which have forever left an impact on the way I will practice medicine in the future, both at home and abroad.  Although a very interesting department with welcoming staff, students working in A & E need to be very motivated to get involved, as there isn’t much hand-holding! Yet for those who are motivated, the hands-on experience is incredible.  If you’re considering a rotation in A&E, bring your own gloves, and a pen light (there was never one available!).

We made good use of our week-ends to do some local traveling, and managed to see quite a bit along the coast. We visited the beach town of Axim and the canopy walk at Kakum.  The must-sees were the stilt village at Nzulezu, and Cape Coast castle.  While many of us brought Bradt’s travel guide, we found WTW staff to be a much more valuable source of information!  Ezekiel planned all of our weekend visits, creating itineraries for us and even estimated budgets!  This made traveling so much easier, we basically just had to follow the arrows!

Without a doubt, the highlight of my Ghanaian adventure was the village experience at Akwidaa.  This, I felt, was where I got a sense of true African culture.  In a place where there is absolutely no electricity or running water (not even at the clinic!), this week is not for the faint of heart! It was incredible to see how the locals managed so well without the basic amenities of the city that we typically depend on.  We learned to cook dinner in the dark, carry things on our head, and bathe using a pail of water.  

The clinic was a great experience; we were basically trusted to evaluate all the patients on our own! The nurses were a ton of fun, and had activities planned for us every afternoon, such as canoe rides, beach time and a bonfire on our last night.  Ezile beach was by far the most beautiful beach we had seen all month! Our home stay was quite comfortable, and Comfort (our host mother) was very sweet, although she spoke very little English.  A headlamp is a MUST around here! Also, while bringing donations for children and the hospital is always a nice idea, I found that donations were more high-yield at the village clinic, where supplies are even more limited than in the city.

My time in Ghana was truly incredible.  WTW made certain every one of us was enjoying our experience, and ensured that everything ran smoothly for the duration of our stay.  I could not speak more highly of them, it’s an experience of a lifetime!  

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