Hello blog followers and Akwaaba, or welcome to Ghana. I am currently interning in Accra, Ghana (the capital city) as a member of the National Institute of Health funded Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program or NIH-MHIRT for short. Every year my home university, Howard University, selects a few students to travel to different regions in Africa and collaborate with researchers from local institutions on biomedical projects geared towards eradicating tropical diseases that cause health disparities. A few of my colleagues are in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and right here in Ghana with me this summer.
I am ecstatic to be here, and extremely blessed to be able to learn and experience all that I have/will in this beautiful country. As of today I have been in Accra a week and a half. This time has been the most mind-blowing, life-altering, eye-opening week of my life; and I have had a pretty eventful life.
From the moment I touched down I was intrigued! The Ghanians looked so exotic and beautiful to me, and they most of them were extremely nice and welcoming.
My longtime friend Talha came to meet me at the airport and we headed to our place of residence. He is a brilliant mathematician and scientist who is also a part of the program and I am so glad to have him here.... It's nice to know someone from home in a new place.
We spent the evening at a Ghanian wedding that was hosted on the beautiful grounds of the estate we are staying on. The people invited us in, fed us, and even took our pictures for the bride and groom. The experience was awesome, and it felt nice to be invited!!
He spent most of last week showing me around, teaching me things he had already learned about the culture, area, people, food, etc. I spent all last week getting my bearings and soaking in this amazing experience. My favorite things to eat and drink here are the mangoes and the coconuts respectively. The mangoes here are really sweet, perfectly ripe, and huge! I eat them almost everyday. As for the coconuts, it just isn't a great day without one. They taste amazing, and they are also very medicinal so they make me feel rejuvenated. The coconut vendors here have a very unique way of opening the coconuts. They take a machete and scale it down, and then slice the top open in the gentlest of ways. Then they hand it to you ready to drink. The way they do it is so beautiful and skilled that I consider it an art.
The local dishes taste very good too. I really enjoy the jollof rice and fried plantains.
Also, one of my best friends from Howard, Ayana, is taking classes at the University of Ghana. Ayana and I have known each other since the first day I arrived at Howard. She was my suite-mate in the Annex, and in no time became one of my favorite people. You can imagine the joy I felt seeing her this week. The people in the mall probably thought we were crazy because we screamed so loud and hugged each other forever! Talha and I met up with her and a few of her friends from the university for dinner. It was such a great evening! We sat back and caught up and told stories and laughed all night. I enjoyed hearing all of their tales about there time here in Accra. It truly made my week!
Today I visited the Kwame Nkrumah memorial park. Kwame Nkrumah was the first president and prime minister of Ghana (formally know as the Gold Coast). He fought for the country to gain its independence from Britain, and unified the northern and southern regions of the countries. He also advocated for pan-Africanism and founded the Organization of African Unity. He is the most celebrated figure in Ghana!
I know you are all probably thinking this girl is there for work and she hasn't said a thing about it. No worries, I have been hard at work all this week too; well, with the exception of July 1st because that is Ghana's National Republic Day, and national holidays equate to free days :). Nonetheless, I have been trying my hand in a number of different areas.
I am doing clinical and laboratory rotations at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, researching malaria, and studying for the MCAT and GRE exams in the fall.
So far I have done rotations in the polyclinic and the hematology department. The polyclinic is the segue to the main hospital. Patients come there to get blood, urine, and fecal analysis done. Based on the appearance and content of the samples, we can usually identify the pathology that is plaguing the patients. From there, the patient is prescribed a prescription to combat the ailment. If the symptoms, the patients samples are taken for further analysis and a specialist is recommended.
In the polyclinic I typically conduct urine analysis and cd4 counts in order to detect abnormalities in urine and blood content respectively. In the hematology department, I do blood separations, and smears in order to prepare the blood samples for further analysis. I predominately work with blood samples from patients with malaria because the mechanisms of that parasitic disease are my current research interest. Malaria, is one of the most prevalent diseases in sub-Saharan African, and the number of deaths annually are devastating.
All in all, I am truly enjoying my time here. It is drastically different than anywhere I have been; but it is oddly familiar as well. I will keep you all updated on my travels.
With love always,