Opportunity for Greater Impact
One of the major principles that differentiates the GHI from other efforts is the belief that:
- education is more beneficial than providing individual patient care and
- education is more beneficial than providing supplies, equipment or medications.
In 1998, Dr. DeVon Hale and Dean David Bjorkman observed the growing number of University of Utah students and faculty participating in a diffuse group of international programs. They thought that if they could focus this interest and energy they would have a chance to make a much larger impact for participants from the University and for their partners at the sites where they would be working. They studied many models and chose to join with Indiana University and their project at Moi Medical School in Kenya, East Africa. They continue to work at this partner site today.
From Kenya to Ghana
Soon after they started their work in Kenya, Dr. Hale and Dr. Steve Alder traveled to Ghana, West Africa and started working with Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi. The initial work was focused on medical education and supporting local medical care.
One Child’s Life
Understanding that in villages across Africa, many children die of malaria, diarrhea, measles and malnutrition Dr. Hale and Dr. Alder were impressed when they heard the story of Dr. Daniel Ansong, at KATH, who treated one of these infants with severe splenomegaly, secondary to malaria, from the nearby village of Barekuma. Dr. Ansong saved the baby’s life. The village was so grateful they created a celebration in his honor. Dr. Ansong was so moved that he and two of his colleagues, with the help of the KATH hospital, began to study the village of Barekuma to evaluate how to improve health conditions in rural communities. These overworked, overwhelmed, doctors then adopted this village as their own.
Invitation to the Village
In our work in Africa, we learned very quickly that public health problems contribute to the poor health and welfare of many struggling populations. Public health faculty and principles are extremely important parts of successful global health programs. – DeVon Hale, MD, Assistant Dean, International Medical Education
In the third year of the medical education partnership in Ghana, as the GHI team was leaving, they asked their traditional question: “what more can we do to help you?” Instead of the usual reply of “nothing, just come back,” this time, Dr Ansong invited them to “his” village. They thought he was talking about the village where he grew up. When they learned it was the village he had adopted they were deeply moved.
Just the idea that these doctors who were doing so much, already, in the hospital were also willing to try to do the impossible to help a local village was amazing and the mere invitation for the GHI members to join them was an incredible statement of trust – and hope--- that together the teams could do even more.
Formation of the Team
In 2002, Dr. Ansong created a team consisting of local leaders of Barekuma village, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Kwame Nkrumak University of Science and Technology (KNUST), and the local district of health.
The team formulated plans to conduct a Demographic and Health Surveillance Site (DHSS) census in Barekuma and surrounding communities in the Ashanti region comprising about 30,000 individuals. The researchers had the support of members of the Barekuma Unit Committee, who recognized that findings from the census could lead to significant health benefits for their communities. [Draft manuscript, S. Alder et.al.]
A New Partnership
GHI collaborated with the local partners on the census and other health promotion projects in the Barekese sub-district. This was further evidence of the mutual trust and commitment already established between the Utah and Ghanaian teams.
In 2004 the partnership was formalized and called the Barekuma Collaborative Community Development Project (BCCDP) that would later be referred to as the Ghana-Utah Connection (GhUC).
Since that time, the partnership has expanded its medical education into student exchange and has implemented a wide range of programs including maternal family and infant care; building village infrastructure; tracking and screening of malaria; medical school teaching in over a dozen specialties; and physician assistant education.
Building upon their ongoing experiences in Kenya and Ghana, Drs. Hale and Alder created a model for global involvement, which is at the core of the GHI today.