Akwaaba again!!

5 August 2013

This is our 6th day in Ghana!

On Monday morning, we took a taxi to the University of Ghana, the oldest and best-known university in the country. The University is in an incredible location up a hill in Legon, about twelve kilometers away from the centre of Accra. Francis, our contact from the Ghana Society for Medical Physics, invited us to meet the Society at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, home to the Graduate School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences. The University of Ghana is one of the few universities in Africa offering programmes in Nuclear Physics and Nuclear Engineering, and the only one offering an M. Phil in Medical Physics.

Meeting the Ghana Society for Medical Physics was a truly unbelievable experience. All our expectations were surpassed. The president of the Society, Prof. Amuasi, warmly welcomed us in one of their conference rooms. Our presentation was followed by a 2-hour Q&A session and an informal chat with nibbles. What we thought would be a 30-min presentation, became a 4-hour informative session where we learnt from them as much as we hope they did from us. The professors invited ten of their current M. Phil students to attend the talk, and to our surprise, most of their questions regarded the process of becoming an accredited Medical Physicist in the UK and applying for PhDs in the UK. They were eager for us to give them insight into whether we thought their syllabus, resources and way of training students is comparable to the UK equivalent. During our discussions, we developed an action plan for us to support the student’s development and the work of the Society:

  • Increase the number of Medical Physics journals the department is subscribed to and improve student’s access to new online resources.
  • Gather information on the international PhD application process and possible sources of funding for Ghanaian Medical Physics students.  We will be delivering one more informative session to M.Phil graduates next week.
  • Upon return to the UK, initiate the process of filming an interactive training video where radiotherapists and specialists are filmed using a LINAC, CT, MRI and SPECT-CT system.

Due to the fact that the radiotherapy unit at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra is usually fully booked and treating patients daily, students barely get access to practical experience during their studies. Especially since the hospital will soon be receiving a new LINAC machine, there is a need to ease student’s transition from theory to practice with minimal hours spent at the hospital.

Before leaving the university campus, we were lucky enough to be able to privately interview Prof. Kwame Kyere, Head of the Medical Physics Department. Prof. Kyere obtained his PhD in 1975 at the University of Leeds and was the first person to introduce Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy in West Africa. He gave us great insight into the biggest challenges the country faces in treating cancer patients. He also emphasized the benefits of providing their students with an interactive practical training video (action point 3). Although it was certainly hard to identify the steps to follow in such a challenging and political environment, we believe something very positive came out of our first meeting with the Medical Physics Department.

For the past two days, and along with several other volunteers from the Dream Africa Foundation, we have been teaching GCSE-level students Maths and Science at a local school in the mornings, a fishermen’s village in the evenings. Children at the village come from low-income families that don’t tend to prioritize their education. These evening support lessons are meant to help students that lag behind their same-age classmates. Although most volunteers are struggling to adapt to the lack of structure in Ghanaian schools, we are finding it extremely rewarding to teach such an eager group of young students.

Tomorrow morning one of the professors from the Medical Physics Society will be showing us the Radiotherapy department at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital. We look forward to seeing Radiotherapy from a clinical perspective!

After our long and busy day today, we are both ready for our daily bucket shower and a good night’s sleep.

We will update you all soon!