I have been in Ghana for almost a solid month come this Friday. A lot has happened since, both in terms of my research and adapting to life in rural Ghana. Our research at St. Michael’s Hospital in Pramso was slow to take off. My research partner and I had to figure out a lot of the ins and outs of the hospital to start our data collection for our retrospective study. However, with the help of eager and friendly medical staff at the hospital (Shoutout to Nurse Anna!), we were able to get a hold of very important medical records that allowed us to complete data collection in two weeks time. We are now done with the first phase of the research, the retrospective data collection and coding of labor outcomes. Now, we await the completion of the set up of the fetal assessment center room in the maternity ward, which is the first of its kind in a district hospital in Ghana. Once this room is completely set up, Dr. Eric Quarshie, a physician from a nearby teaching hospital, KATH, will be coming to St. Michael’s to train the nurses, midwives, and other professionals to run the fetal monitoring machines, or the CTG’s. This will enable us to continue the second part of our research, the prospective study. The prospective study entails us looking at the effect of the fetal monitoring on birth outcomes, ultimately hoping to see neonatal mortality rates decrease as a result of the implementation. One of us will be referring expecting mothers from the prenatal clinic, and the other will be performing data collection while a trained medical professional conducts the fetal monitoring, looking for high risk patients specifically. This prospective stage will last the rest of our research internship here, and upon return to the United States, we will compile the data to contribute to the overarching research of Dr. Anderson, our principal investigator.
That is pretty much the summary of what we will and have been doing this summer. Adapting to this research and living environment, has challenged me personally. The hot, humid days where highs can extend beyond 90 degrees Fahrenheit have been difficult, especially with a AC not being available during my commute, while wearing business casual. Additionally, my homestay does not have AC either, and so it has been difficult adjusting to being perpetually sticky from the humidity and sweaty. However, it has been raining more and more, which has helped tremendously with the heat. Another challenge of adjusting to life here has been the dietary restrictions. It is difficult to find access to healthy, clean foods, unless I want to snack on fruit all day. The food, while delicious, is often drenched and cooked in oil, and is very carb heavy. Pair this with a lack of a gym or facility to work out in, and one finds themselves in a difficult situation. The last majore challenge of living in Ghana has been the attention of everywhere we go. People make it very clear to us that we do not belong here, based on the stares that we receive. I try to remain unbothered, as I AM a foreigner and someone they probably don’t see on a daily basis, but at times it can get it a bit much. Aside from these challenges, I feel I have adjusted well to the culture and environment here!
Beyond research, our MHIRT group spends our weekends away from our work towns. Most weekends, we stay at Kumasi at a guest house (with free WiFi!!!). Other weekends, we have found ourselves in Cape Coast to explore the Elmina Slave Castle, the Kakum National Park, and beaches, where we met a Croatian woman who moved from Croatia to start her own beachfront bar and restaurant! Other weeks we have found ourselves poolside, at a Ghana vs. Ethiopia national soccer match, or exploring the museum of the Ashante King palace. We have found ways to keep ourselves busy and entertained here in Ghana, but we have to be honest in saying that we miss home, and all of the luxuries that we take for granted. However, we are quick to remind ourselves of the wonderful, engaging work that we are participating in, and why we decided to spend three months in this beautiful country. We still have seven weeks left in the country, and with development in our research and upcoming trips like Mole National Park, a Monkey sanctuary, and a beach resort stay coming up, I have a feeling this summer will fly by!