By: Lauren Adolph, Dalhousie Medical Resident, PGY-3 OBGYN
Last year I had my first opportunity to travel to Cape Coast, Ghana after discovering the relationship between Dr. Heather Scott, the NGO Kybele, and Cape Coast Teaching Hospital (CCTH). These parties share a joint commitment to improve maternal and newborn health and respect for the expertise each party contributes to this goal. One unaddressed priority identified by CCTH caught my interest: obstetric triage. I had an interest in triage from prior research, and thus was born (no pun intended) my joint resident research project to evaluate the implementation of systematic obstetric triage at CCTH.
A proposal was completed, submitted and accepted to ethics. The only thing left to do was fly to Ghana, identify resident and staff OBGYN partners, and get to work collecting data. A big task for 5 days? Yes. But amazingly, we got it done.
The customs officer looked at my immigration card and asked, “Are you a doctor?” After my confirmation, he quietly added, “Your patients are very lucky to have you. Thank you for coming.” After an overnight in Accra, we boarded a bus for the 2-hour drive to Cape Coast. Jet lag cannot be a factor when you have limited time to reach such big goals. So, it was straight to the hospital for morning rounds, meetings, small group breakout sessions, furious manuscript writing, data gathering, re-writing quality improvement indicators and testing these in real time—while ensuring our local champions worked right alongside us and fully held the reins by the end of our week. These were our days at CCTH: long, full of new learning, productive and immensely fulfilling.
Our goal was to support change at the heart of the hospital, and that meant implementing policy and practice improvements while developing a system of collecting and analyzing institutional data on quality of care indicators that would inform the next round of self-sustaining change and improved care at CCTH.
And the overwhelming poverty and suffering? It would be hypocritical to say I was fully prepared to face the stark contrast between the healthcare at CCTH and what we take for granted in North America. What stood out as extraordinary then, was the dedicated and talented staff at CCTH who function in a system overrun and severely under resourced. Despite these constraints, these superheroes resolve to deliver the highest clinical standards. Their training is steadfast and resolute. These courageous leaders work daily to achieve the true vision of Global Health—equity in delivery of health care across the globe.
To learn more about global health experiences for Medical Residents please visit the resident section of our website.