Akwaaba – Ghana welcomes students from Boise State and Charity Beyond Borders

Abbey teaching people in Ghana how to perform CPR

In an effort to deliver a healthcare practice and healthcare education that is uncommon, students visited Ghana for an experience that left them feeling renewed and passionate towards their future careers and global health.

Samantha Davis, clinical assistant professor for the Department of Respiratory Care, took two College of Health Sciences students to Ghana to join efforts with Charity Beyond Borders and the University of Kansas Medical Center in an effort to advance Respiratory Care, provide healthcare services and education to the citizens of Ghana, and also exchange healthcare knowledge and practices with providers.

Abbey with kids at a field day

Charity Beyond Borders is a non-profit organization that works to share healthcare services and healthcare education with the people of Ghana through volunteers. The organization, which has been traveling to Ghana for over ten years, started with Lisa Trujillo, director and clinical associate professor for the Department of Respiratory Care at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Trujillo established Charity Beyond Borders after visiting Ghana and realizing the need for such care and education as respiratory care was an uncommon practice. She now serves as the director for Charity Beyond Borders, which has made it possible for students and clinicians to donate their time and services to the people of Ghana every year. (Although the organization and trip has roots in respiratory care, all health professions are welcome to help provide services and education to communities in Ghana.)

As a result of the efforts made by Charity Beyond Borders and their partners, a bachelor degree program in respiratory care has been started at the University of Ghana. This program is the first ever respiratory care program in Africa and will soon graduate its first cohort in December, 2019. The program currently has three cohorts and has traveled to the University of Kansas Medical Center to visit U.S. hospitals, gain additional clinical experience, and take classes.

Abbey, Megan, and Davis posing for a picture in Ghana
From left to right, Megan Fodrea, Samantha Davis, and Abbey Sorenen.

Davis, along with Abbey Sorensen, undergraduate nursing student, and Megan Fodrea, undergraduate respiratory care student, all traveled to Africa on May 22 to spend 25 days in Ghana. Alongside 18 other students, faculty, and clinicians with Charity Beyond Borders, they were able to bring healthcare and healthcare education to over 1,000 patients in numerous communities and schools.

“During our time in Ghana we were able to visit five hospitals,” said Davis. “When in the hospital setting, we didn’t provide treatment but instead observed and shadowed the health professionals. We would often talk to patients about procedures and exchange practices and knowledge with the local healthcare providers to further understand and learn from the differences we saw compared to those in the States.”

Abbey Sorensen and a healthcare provider from Ghana.
Georgina, critical care nurse and Abbey Sorensen at Komfo Anokye teaching hospital in Ghana.

“Visiting the hospitals and clinics gave me some of the most eye opening experiences,” said Sorensen. “I found it so valuable to be able to exchange healthcare knowledge with providers in Ghana and learn from the way they perform certain practices, often with few and overused resources. I was also blown away by the nurses and how efficient and smart they were with their time because they were often understaffed and overflowing with patients needing care. And yet, they still managed to keep a calm composure and level head while providing care.”

Davis, Sorensen, and Fodrea were also able to visit many communities throughout the country to perform clinics. Clinics allowed them to provide communities with health assessments, first-aid, and care for wounds. During these clinics, they would also provide education about personal healthcare and health precautions.

Abbey providing basic care to a ghana citizen

“As is customary in Ghana, when we arrived in a new community, we would greet the elders and provide healthcare assessments. The elders specified the type of education their communities needed most,” said Davis. “We would typically provide education on wound care, oral care, hand hygiene, and sexually transmitted infections – including proper use of personal protection, such as condoms. We also spent time at the local schools where we would bring games and do activities similar to a field day.”

Davis, who had been on the trip the previous year, found the work and learning experience to be one of the most unique and fulfilling ones yet.

“We keep in touch with community leaders throughout the year which leads to more impactful and sustainable work.As a student, getting an inside view of the healthcare system in Ghana is an extremely rich learning experience,” said Davis. “Some of the students’ greatest learning experiences came from the healthcare providers they met throughout their journey. In speaking with the students from the respiratory care program from Ghana who had visited the States in November 2018, we were able to learn from them how our own healthcare system is perceived. For students to have the opportunity to hear the different perspectives of our own healthcare system furthered their knowledge in a way that is typically unachievable.”

abbey and megan posing

“Spending time in Ghana, I was able to understand the culture and world of healthcare from a perspective completely different from the one I’ve always known,” said Sorensen. “To say it was a privilege to offer the most basic kind of healthcare and health education to the people of Ghana would be an understatement. Many of them don’t have the time to leave work and visit a clinic or hospital to receive care, so having the chance to bring the healthcare directly to them and see the gratitude in their eyes and the smiles on their faces when we gave them simple self-care items like first aid kits and toothbrushes, touched my heart in ways I’ve never experienced before. This experience was one that overwhelms me with emotion. Coming from a first world country and immersing myself in one of the least developed countries I’ve ever seen, was a shock to say the least. And yet, without so many of the comforts we enjoy in our daily lives in America, I met many people who were happier than anyone I’ve ever met before.I will never forget the time I spent in the beautiful country of Ghana and the astonishing people I was able to meet and care for.”

Students who traveled to Ghana were able to receive a total of six credits for their trip from the rich learning experience it provided. College of Health Sciences students who are interested in attending next year’s trip, Summer of 2020, can contact Davis at (208) 426-3318 or samanthadavis170@boisestate.edu.