The Scope E-Newsletter
From the Dean's Office
In the Spotlight
Physicians Take Medical Training to Ghana
For four weeks, UT Graduate School of Medicine physicians in Family Medicine and Surgery provided medical care and medical training in northern Ghana, located in West Africa. David Stockton, MD, MPH, Professor of Family Medicine, first joined a mission trip to the Baptist Medical Center in Nalerigu in 2007 and has returned several times. This year, Gregory Blake, MD, Professor and Chair; second-year residents Jonathan Laymance, MD, and Michael Martin, MD; and Hobart Akin, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, also participated in the medical mission.
Working out of sparsely equipped operating, procedure and clinic rooms and using antiquated techniques, the physicians were able to treat patients for a variety of conditions including general wound care, skin grafts, suture of lacerations, abscess drainage, cesarean sections, exploration of tumors and more.
"We had to treat patients based on the ability to do physical diagnosis," Dr. Akin said. "We could take x-rays, but we had no other imaging equipment available. If a patient had abdominal pain, the only option was to open him up."
Dr. Laymance, who said he has a passion for mission work and has previously been to Brazil, Honduras and Costa Rica, said they were exposed to pathology rarely seen in the United States, including cases of mumps, leprosy and elephantiasis. He said he also enjoyed the opportunity to learn surgical technique, assisting Dr. Akin on cases including hernia repair and exploratory laparotomies with repair of bowel perforation due to typhoid.
Dr. Akin said his main goal during the trip was to train not only visiting residents but also local medical staff on surgical techniques as the staff at the hospital, including an obstetrics and gynecology physician and a pediatrician, had not been formally trained in surgery.
The GSM physicians noted the biggest hurdle in treating patients was the language barrier. Although many of the people speak English, there are about 100 dialects in Ghana. They also said one of the hardest things to see was the infant mortality, usually from malaria.
"Death is accepted there," Dr. Akin said. "You don't see grieving. The infant mortality may be as high as fifty percent."
Dr. Martin said, "The time in Ghana showed me how lucky we are to have our homes and health. It also helped me to realize I do have the training to know how to handle the patient that has an emergency, urgency or critical illness."
Baptist Medical Center was established more than 50 years ago and is the only hospital in the region. It has two full-time American physicians and is partially staffed by more than 150 volunteer practitioners each year. Dr. Stockton said UTGSM has a long history of faculty and resident physicians volunteering in Ghana. Jon Parham, DO, MPH, Associate Professor, Family Medicine is currently serving a two-week mission in Ghana through March 29.
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