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Humanitarian Teaching Mission Result of Continuing Partnership Between U of U and African Medical Schools

January 5, 2005-When a team of University of Utah physicians leave Africa 18 days from now, they plan to leave more behind than just the medical supplies and textbooks brought from Salt Lake City. The Utah doctors hope sharing their experience and knowledge will benefit the next generation of African health-care providers.

The trip is latest exchange between the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Kwame Nkrumah School of Medicine in Kumasi, Ghana. The trip will be one of four to Ghana this year by Utah medical school faculty and students.

“These trips are a tremendous opportunity for our doctors to make an impact in improving the quality of care in Ghana,” said DeVon Hale, M.D., assistant dean of the U’s medical school and a professor of infectious diseases.

He says the Utah doctors also will learn from the experience. “In Ghana, they don’t have access to the diagnostic resources and equipment we have in the United States. It’s a reminder to our physicians that the practice of medicine isn’t just technology-driven. It’s a good test of traditional clinical skills,” he said. The doctors and students also see many diseases that are rarely encountered in the U.S. including: malaria, sickle cell anemia, and typhoid.

This week’s trip will include both anesthesiologists and pediatricians who will spend part of the day teaching and the rest of the time rounding on patients in the 1,500-bed Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital. The group expects to make presentations to more than 300 Ghanaian health-care providers on a wide range of topics. Future trips will include faculty from additional University of Utah departments and specialties.

Hale, who has visited Ghana a number of times, says he sees improvements to the Ghanaian health-care system on every visit. “The first time you go, it’s overwhelming to see the conditions these doctors work in. However, with each trip I notice improvements, simple things being done that improve the quality of care. It’s an honor to participate in these improvements and to help make a difference in the lives of patients,” he said.

As the U’s partnership with the African medical school continues to expand, Hale expects to see more Utah doctors going to Africa, and African doctors coming to Utah. “It’s important that we learn from each other and experience how both countries practice medicine. It is a wonderful symbiotic relationship,” he said.