Andrea Mendelsohn, MD, MPH: Ghana

Ghana: July 2009

 I spent three weeks this summer working with a team of five other physicians at the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu, Northern Ghana. I rounded on the pediatric, adult medicine, and obstetrical wards each day, seeing up to sixty children a day on quinine drips for cerebral malaria. An unresponsive baby would be carried on foot for hours to the hospital, after multiple seizures at home, and then a few hours later, after the quinine decreased the parasitic burden clouding their brain, they'd be smiling and breastfeeding again. Other children would be brought in with rigid bellies, bodies stiff with pain, only to be rushed to the operating room for a typhoid perforation.

 We treated wound infections, malaria, typhoid, pneumonia, meningitis, and dysentery. We operated on perforated bowels and ulcers, hernias, removed a ruptured uterus after an obstructed labor, and managed to save an eclamptic mother and her child with a timely caesarean section. In the outpatient clinic, I saw up to sixty patients a day, triaging those that were sick and needed to stay from those that could go home with simple medication. I learned how to do D&Cs for miscarriage management, remove lipomas, debride large wounds, perform skin grafts, and tap distended bellies in order to give end-stage liver disease patients some much need palliation.

 My experience in Ghana was an invaluable part of my clinical training. Now I feel much more comfortable treating tropical diseases which I would not have otherwise seen at home. What's more, it further reinforced my passion to return to sub-Saharan Africa and work to improve the public health infrastructure of countries such as Ghana. I'd like to thank the Benjamin H Josephson Fund for helping to make this trip possible. It most certainly will help me be better physician and public health practitioner in the future.