When Rockefeller (Rocky) Oteng was a child living in Ghana, he noticed that people who went to Europe or the United States for their education often didn’t come back home. Instead, they stayed in those other countries to work, live and thrive. This made him wonder – Why did Ghanians have to go someplace else to become somebody?
When he was 9, Rocky and his family left Ghana and moved to Northern Virginia. He went on to earn a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College Of Medicine and then joined the University of Michigan as a resident in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Rocky always believed that there would come a time when he could help make a difference in the world. One of the reasons he chose to study emergency medicine was because it would give him knowledge and skills to help the greatest number of people. Throughout his training, the question of why Ghanians needed to leave home to be “somebody” remained on his mind, and in 2009 he decided to dedicate his work to bringing emergency medicine to Ghana.
According to Rocky, prior to 2009 the state of emergency medicine in Ghana was dismal. There were terrifying stories within the Ghanaian community of family members presenting to the hospital and dying from easily preventable causes. There were studies that showed that the acutely ill and injured people were dying at a higher rate in Ghana than in other developed nations. Rocky dreamed of doing something to change this, starting with creating an in-country emergency medicine training program.
Of course, every dream requires support and for Rocky this help came in two forms: a pilot grant from the Medical Education Partnership Initiative http://www.mepinetwork.org/, which funds medical education and research in Sub-Saharan African institutions, and matching funds provided Dr. William Barsan, who was chair of Emergency Medicine at the time.
Thus, the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative was born.
Rocky is a man of great compassion, vision and ambition. But, to build a successful Collaborative, you need partners. Fortunately, Rocky also is a Michigan (Health System) man and therefore has access to incredible mentors like Drs. Barsan, Robert Neumar, Joe Kolars and Terry Kowalenko, as well as like-minded and like-hearted colleagues, such as Sue Ann Bell, MSN, FNP-BC. Working with partners from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, the Ghana Ministry of Health and the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, Oteng, Bell and the rest of the team have made great progress with the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative through exchange and in-country training programs. To date, they have graduated seven Ghanaian physicians from the residency program, with 15 more physicians and 27 nurses currently in training. Additionally, they have been engaged in efforts to continue to build an academic department and local emergency response systems. It is impressive work that will serve the people of Ghana for decades to come. Take a look:
When we talk about our Health System’s global impact, we mean more than just going into other countries to help, though that is certainly an important part. We also mean creating programs like the Ghana Emergency Medicine Collaborative and partnering with in-country agencies, universities and governments to build sustainable and culturally-appropriate local health infrastructures and medical training programs. In doing so, we help bolster the health and productivity of citizens, communities and economies.
Today, as we celebrate Earth Day, let’s reflect on our role as global citizens.
What is/will be your global impact?