Frequently Asked Questions
Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF) is a registered charity with a global reach. KBNF is focused on providing medical support for brain and spinal injuries and diseases to the people of Ghana and West Africa.
Started in 2000 by Vancouver-based neuroscience nurse Marj Ratel, KBNF is a volunteer-based organization that has earned the support and respect of medical professionals, government officials and caring people from all over the world. All KBNF work is accomplished through volunteers, consultants, donations, contributions, sponsorships and partnerships.
KBNF is focused on saving the lives of people that are dying needlessly from brain and spinal injuries and diseases in Ghana and West Africa. Many of these injuries and diseases are ones that we, in North America, consider treatable and even preventable.
The story of how KBNF got its start goes back more than a decade.
After Neurosurgeon Dr. David Fairholm visited Ghana in the 1990s and saw the urgent and immense need, he developed a needs assessment for neurosurgery and helped facilitate a year long fellowship for Dr. Thomas Dakurah in Vancouver. Dr. Dakurah was the first Ghanaian to train as a neurosurgeon in Ghana and be certified by the West African College of Surgeons. In 1999, he was given the opportunity to complete his fellowship under the direction of the University of BC Neurosurgery Division and its chief Dr. Felix Durity.
Over the course of that year, it became apparent that Dr. Dakurah had a tremendous heart for his people and a deep commitment to becoming the best that he could be, in spite of scant resources at home in Ghana. It was in 2000, when Dr. Dakurah met Marjorie Ratel, a neuroscience nurse, that the true magic and hard work that is KBNF really began.
Nurse Ratel was asked by Dr. Dakurah to assist in educating and training his nurses and to help provide equipment and supplies for his work in Ghana. Upon Dr. Dakruah’s return to Ghana, nurse Ratel and a small group of like-minded nurses with big hearts and smart minds began to pursue tangible support for his neurosurgery team. This small team quickly expanded to include surgeons, health administrators, Ghanaian leaders and community supporters, engineers, health planners and members of the construction community.
In 2002, at the Canadian High Commission in Accra, Dr. Dakurah and nurse Ratel hosted a Ghanaian national launch for the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Project. This special event included an endorsement by the current President of Ghana, Dr. John Atta Mills and Canadian High Commissioner – His Excellency Mr. Jean-Pierre Bolduc.
A great deal has happened since the moment that Dr. Fairholm saw the urgent and immense need for neurological health care in Ghana. KBNF has developed, grown and evolved into a registered charitable organization which is recognized and respected internationally. The one thing that has remained constant is the passion and commitment of the people that volunteer their time, their energy and their knowledge to helping those suffering and dying of neurological disorders and disease in Ghana and West Africa.
Currently in Ghana and West Africa, there are people dying of neurological injury and disease that we, in North America, consider treatable and even preventable.
With a transitional economy hoping to reach middle-income status by 2015, Ghana (population estimated at 24 million in 2008; next census in 2010) and the Economic Community of West African States region (with a population estimate of 275 million) recognize the significant impact of non-communicable diseases on the population. The regional governments are beginning to pay attention to the incidence and prevalence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and illnesses affecting the nervous system (such as stroke, epilepsy, trauma, tumours, brain and spinal abscesses, meningitis, the all too common degenerative spinal conditions, and congenital illness, to name a few) which combined, debilitate their young and otherwise productive citizens.
At the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), about 10% of all admissions (according to 2003 data – we’re working on more current data) are for conditions affecting the nervous system. We recognize that these figures represent only the “tip of the iceberg” as many patient statistics are not captured due to local misdiagnosis and non-referral to the tertiary centre. A very basic neuroscience service already exists at KBTH, but it is in need of support for further development at all levels.
Here are some stats and facts that we urgently need to decrease and change.
- The reality in Ghana is that there is approximately one neurologist for every 4 million people, one neurosurgeon for every 2.7 million people and a dire lack of equipment and trained personnel.
- 30% of deaths in the medical unit at the KBTH hospital are due to stroke.
- 30% of HIV-AIDS patients develop severe complications of the brain and spinal cord. Spinal cord compression from tuberculosis is the second most common cause of paraplegia and 10% of patients with malaria develop cerebral complications.
- Seizures are a common disorder and are poorly addressed, even at the most basic treatment level.
- Fully removable benign brain tumours often grow undeterred until irreversible impairment and/or premature death is the outcome.
The need for urgent care and long-term planning and support in the area of neuroscience is critical in Ghana and West Africa. People – men, women and children – are suffering and dying needlessly. This is the reason that we are focused on the area of neuroscience.
There is a wide range of people and organizations involved with KBNF. From volunteers
to our Board of Directors to government officials to health care professionals to the
individuals that donate $5, $10 or $20 here on the site.
Marj Ratel is KBNF’s President, learn more about the dynamic force behind KBNF.
Responsible for the vision and direction of KBNF is our Board of Directors.
- Marjorie Ratel, RN, BSN, President KBNF / KBF, Neuroscience Nurse, Consultant
- Derek Agyapong-Poku, BSc, MBA, FCCA, Vice President KBNF; President, Excellence in Africa Neuroscience and Health [EANH]; Canada-Ghana Liaison, Business Manager
- Jocelyne Lapointe, MD, FRCPC, Secretary, Neuro-radiologist
- Alfred Lutterodt, MSc, MB, Ch.B, FRCPC, FACP, Internal Medical Specialist
- Lisa Cain, Ph.D., Neuro-anatomist
- Paul King, MD, Neurosurgeon
- Brenda MacLeod, RN CNN (C), Neuroscience Nurse
- Danny Moe, Rev., Motivational Speaker, VP KBF
- Monica King, Business Manager
- Ross Dickinson, Businessman
The Directors Emeritus are:
- Kwadwo Ohene Asante, MSM, LLD (Hon), MD, FRCPC, Director
- Felix Durity, BA, MD, FRCSC, OBC, Professor Emeritus, Neurosurgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia
The Executive Committee is a tireless bunch. They are the heart and soul of KBNF.
- Marjorie Ratel, RN BSN, Project Chair; Chair Volunteer and Promotions, Interim Chair Communications
- Derek Agyapong-Poku, BSc, MBA, FCCA, VP KBNF, President EANH
- Jocelyne Lapointe, MD, FRCPC, Chair Education and Training
- Brenda MacLeod, RN CNN (C), Chair Equipment Acquisition and Shipping
- Lisa Cain, Ph.D., Chair Research
- Danny Moe, Vice President Korle-Bu Foundation
- Don Jenion, P.Eng., Chair Project Management (ex-official)
- Bernard Osei, President, Korle-Bu Neuroscience Clubs, Teacher
- Alfred Lutterodt, MSc, MB, ChB, FRCPC, FACP, Director, Internal Medical Specialist
- Paul King, MD, Neurosurgeon
- Charles Quist-Adade, Professor in Sociology, GCABC – KBNF Executive Board Liaison
- Monica King, Director
- Ross Dickinson, Director
Our legal counsel consists of:
Our advisor is:
- Rev. Prof. Seth Ayettey, MD; Ph.D.; Chairman of the Board, KBTH
Our Project Management Committee consists of:
- Don Jenion, P.Eng., Chair Project Management (ex-official)
- Kaien Shimizu, Health Planner and Architect
- Lynn Webster, Hospital Architect
- Rev. Prof. Seth Ayettey, MD, Ph.D.; Chairman of the Board, KBTH
- Prof. Nii Otu Nartey, Chief Administrator, KBTH
- Prof. Aaron Lawson, MB, ChB, Ph.D.; Provost, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana
- Marj Ratel, Project Chair
- Jocelyne Lapointe, Education Chair
The KBNF Neurosurgeons are:
- Felix Durity, MD, FRCSC, Professor Emeritus, UBC
- Paul King, MD, Metro, Atlanta, Georgia
- Estrada Bernard, MD, Anchorage, Alaska
- David Udoh, MD, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria
- Gary Redekop, MD, FRCSC, VGH / UBC
- Thomas Zwimpfer, MD, FRCSC, VGH / UBC
- Ryojo Akagami, MD, FRCSC, VGH / UBC
- Chris Honey, Ph.D., MD FRCSC, VGH / UBC
- Thomas Dakurah, MD, Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra, Ghana
The KBNF Neurologists are:
- Gordon Robinson, MD, FRCP, VGH / UBC, Clinical Professor, Director of Undergraduate Education, Division of Neurology, Medical Director, Rehabilitation, Arthritis, Spine and Neurosciences, Vancouver Acute
- Phillip Teal, MD, FRCP, VGH / UBC Professor of Clinical Stroke Research / Clinical Professor of Neurology, Division of Neurology, Medicine Faculty of Medicine, UBC
- Mano Javidan, MD, MSc, FRCP(C), Medical Director EEG Lab
- Martinson Arnan, MD, Neurology Fellow, Johns Hopkins University
At KBNF, we always have several projects on the go and others in planning stages. Learn about our Projects.
There are many reasons that KBNF is focused on Ghana. One of the major reasons
is that right now, people in Ghana and West Africa are dying needlessly of injuries
and diseases that we in North America consider treatable and even preventable.
Along with providing immediate and urgent care in this area, KBNF has a long-term
focus on creating an effective health care infrastructure in Ghana. There are a range of
reasons why there is a focus on the long-term and creating a sustainable health care
system here. They include that Ghana:
- Is considered the gateway to the West Africa region. Ghana is a progressive and democratic society, situated in the middle of West Africa.
- Has free press.
- Has been peaceful for two decades.
- Is English-speaking, with several local dialects.
- Has gender equity for opportunity.
- Uses an open-business and free enterprise model.
- Has a range of multinational companies already operating here and this is beginning to make a positive economic impact.
- Is favored by the G8 nations and has received debt forgiveness because of its demonstrating accountability, transparency and credibility internationally.
A great deal has been accomplished by KBNF to date, and we know that all of the successes we have achieved are thanks to generous people like you, who donate what they can – whether that is $5, $50, $500, $5,000 or $50,000.
Some of what we have achieved to date includes:
- We have sent an estimated $5 million worth of equipment and supplies to Ghana.
- In 2002, 2003 and 2004 Canadian team members travelled to Ghana at their own expense to mentor and support health care professionals in West Africa, both in neurosurgery, nursing and biomedical engineering. Neurosurgery and neurology needs assessments are completed, in preparation for advanced program development.
- Educational upgrading with hands-on training in Vancouver of four Ghanaian nurses in 2004. (Along with the medical training and hands on experience, the nurses also took home a new disciplined approach to their work.)
- In 2005, KBNF developed a professional Project Brief, outlining the need and plan of action for establishing a West African regional neuroscience centre of excellence at KBTH.
- In 2006, KBNF prepared a Sustainability Program, showing the viability of a neuroscience centre in Ghana.
- In 2007, KBNF developed a Functional Program, to ensure functional requirements for delivery of neuroscience care are met.
(These last three components are the planning building blocks required to proceed in a professional and effective approach to develop the planned world-class hospital.)
- In 2008, KBNF developed a Facility Program, to maximize utilization of the land, effectively integrating the specialized medical departments.
- In 2008, KBNF completed the KBTH Master Site Planning Report and it was approved by KBTH.
- In 2008, the College of Health Sciences (CHS) Master Site Planning Report was completed and approved by the University of Ghana Council.
- In 2008, the Master Site Plan Development was reviewed with the Ghana government, KBTH authorities, presented by Vancouver consultants Don Jenion (Vancouver Coastal Health) & Kaien Shimizu (RPG), to integrate the Korle-Bu Centre of Excellence into the overall plans for the KBTH and its other specialist centres (Ophthalmology, Urology, Emergency, etc.) in order to coordinate with these other projects, increase efficiencies and improve long-term sustainability.
- In 2009, KBNF completed the KBTH and CHS Master Programs and business case development. KBTH and the Ghana government prepared for an international funding partner commitment.
- In 2009, KBNF partnered with DrUMM and Pro-Health International, conducting the inaugural West African Medical Mission. The mission was represented by team members from Canada, USA, Nigeria and Ghana, and cared for Nigerians, Ghanaians and Liberians.
Korle-Bu Neuroscience Clubs (KBNC) provide support and help us raise awareness at the high school, college and university level. We understand the importance of engaging our youth – they are our future, after all. KBNC clubs partner with KBNF and are an important part of our community.
The current KBNF fundraising goal is to raise $8 million over the next four years. In order to meet this goal, our target is $2 million per year.
KBNF partners are located all over the world. Our partners are crucial to the success of KBNF and are a driving force in the development of the neuroscience hospital. They include:
Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) – Situated in Accra, Ghana, the nation’s capital, is Korle Bu Teaching Hospital – the national university hospital for Ghana and regional resource hospital for neighbouring West African countries. Neurosurgery and neurology services are not available in many African countries. Founded in 1923 by Canadian born and revered British foreign governor, Sir Gordon Guggisberg, KBTH serves West African nations as a regional centre of care, education and training, and research.
- Korle-Bu Neuroscience Clubs – With students now on the frontiers for the project, the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Clubs has been established with various committees structured to target the educational, promotional and fundraising arm in spearheading the project. Clubs currently active include University of British Columbia, University of Toronto, and McGill University.
- Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation – Ghana – The Ghana sister organization was established in 2002 in Accra, Ghana. It partners with KBNF Canada in establishing a high quality neuroscience centre of excellence at KBTH.
- John Hopkins University & Hospital – Supporting education and training, including neurosurgeon skill development at John Hopkins Hospital. They collaborate with KBNF in equipment acquisition and patient support.
- Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – A medical centre dedicated to neuroscience, they are committed to supporting neurology education and training as well as research developments in conjunction with KBNF. Multidisciplinary teams of basic and clinical scientists generate fundamental information about the nervous system and apply that knowledge to understanding and treating neurological diseases.
- University of Texas Medical Branch – Galveston, Texas – Dr. Lisa Cain, PhD, KBNF Research Chair, Director, Medical School Enrichment Program, leads the Research Committee and supporters at UTMB and in the southern U.S.
- University of British Columbia – Schools of Nursing, Medicine and Biomedical Research, partner with KBNF in providing educational and equipment support for Ghanaian nationals.
- University of Ghana, College of Health Sciences – Situated at KBTH and on them main university campus in East Legon, the College of Health Sciences serves core competencies in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, public health, allied health sciences, and biomedical research.
- Vancouver General Hospital – VGH has had a “Friendship/Sister” relationship with KBTH in place since 2001. The two hospitals agree that wide ranging exchanges and cooperation of various forms are undertaken to promote further educational and technological programs, cooperation in investigational programs, and evaluation and transfer of technology and equipment for the benefit of the two hospitals.
- Ghana Canada Association of British Columbia – A Memorandum of Understanding (2006) exists with the Ghana Canada Association of British Columbia that recognizes the collaboration in improving the delivery of medical care and specifically neuroscience to the people of Ghana and West Africa.
- Doctors for United Medical Missions (DrUMM) – DrUMM is KBNF’s American affiliate, providing tax receipts for American donations to KBNF (Canada). President Dr. John Sampson, Neuro-anesthesiologist, John Hopkins Hospital. DrUMM partners with KBNF in medical missions, education and training, and equipment acquisition for KBTH and West Africa.
- Ghana Canada Nurses Association of British Columbia – The association began partnering with KBNF in 2010, volunteering in nursing advisory support. Many members were trained at KBTH.
- Sonubtha International – Nursing Alumni consisting of graduates from the University of Benin Teaching Hospital School of Nursing, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria and are living abroad. The association began partnering with KBNF in 2010, volunteering in nursing advisory support, including documentation development. The University of Benin Teaching Hospital neurosurgery department is a designated KBNF medical mission hospital support project.
- Canadian High Commission – Accra, Ghana – Providing liaison and networking support for KBNF and KBTH within Ghana, West Africa and Canada.
- Ghanaian High Commission – Ottawa, Canada – Since 2001, the Ghanaian High Commission has partnered with KBNF in project developments, including personal financial support by staff members and High Commissioners. Washington, D.C. Ghana Embassy joined project fundraising 2007.
- World Bank – The World Bank prepared a 2010 comprehensive report on West African health care infrastructure status and needs for development. Advisory support was provided by KBTH and College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana.
- Diamond Group of Companies – A major corporate sponsor since 2007, Diamond Delivery contributions include supporting equipment acquisition, warehousing, shipping, promotions, and sponsoring fundraising events including the KBNF 2007 Table Tournament and the 2010 Charity Fair and Garage Sale.
- Builders without Borders – Builders without Borders spearheaded and funded the original 2004 Project Brief Neuroscience Centre of Exellence architectural development. Currently, Builders without Borders is partnering with KBNF in the proposed refurbishing of the current KBTH neurosurgery department.
Preliminary preparations have been completed. Funding for the Emergency and Clinical Specialties Centre of which the neuroscience unit is a major part of first phase, is currently being pursued with committed international investors by KBTH and the Government of Ghana. Once funding is confirmed, design and construction will begin.
- Centre design – immediately upon funding
- Construction – 1.5 – 2 years
Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg
Canadian Born, British Governor 1919 – 1927
Founder of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital
The Korle Bu Teaching Hospital is one of several monuments in Ghana representing the outstanding contributions of Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg (1869 – 1930). A Canadian born, British colonial administrator, he served as Governor of the Gold Coast from 1919 – 1927. Sir Gordon Guggisberg invested his life fully to lay a solid foundation upon which Ghana has been built. His contribution to the economic development of Ghana is unparalleled in the history of Ghana; in this he stands tall and without equals. His vision and passion for Africa inspires all who seek to be a part of the crusade to rebuild the continent of Africa. For this reason, we share with you a brief account of his life and work, as we also invite you to become part of the Neuroscience Centre of Excellence Project for Ghana and West Africa, bringing life and hope to many.
Gordon Guggisberg was born in Preston, Ontario, Canada. At the age of nine his widowed mother remarried and his stepfather, English Admiral Ramsey Dennis moved the family to Great Britain. Guggisberg was subsequently educated in Britain and served in the colonial administration, rising from the rank of Second Lieutenant of the Royal Engineers to that of Brigadier General. While having served in Singapore, Nigeria and Guiana, his greatest achievements of historic importance and international relevance were in the 14 years he worked in the Gold Coast (Ghana), including first as a Surveyor (1902 – 1908) and then as Governor (1919 – 1927).
As a surveyor, Guggisberg bequeathed the country and the world with an accurate map of Ghana. This arduous and treacherous assignment required extensive travel throughout the length and breadth of the country bringing him in close contact with the chiefs and indigenous people and therefore to the culture of the African.
Returning to Ghana as Governor 11 years later, Guggisberg focused upon building an infrastructure that would promote growth of the economy and give Ghana a competitive advantage in the world market especially in the area of the cocoa trade. He consequently invested resources in the building of a seaport, in the construction of extensive networks of roads and railways, in the strengthening of education, in improving the health of the people and in the advancement of the African people, through a 10–year development plan. In 1925, he was privileged to welcome, also for the first time to the Gold Coast, an heir to the throne of Great Britain, the Prince of Wales, sharing his vision for this colony.
In retrospect, as the country developed economically, the focus of government power gradually shifted from the hands of the Governor and his officials into those of Ghanaians. This transition resulted from the gradual development of a strong spirit of nationalism and was to result eventually in this the first African nation to gain independence.
Major A. H. Selormey, Commissioner for Health in 1973, recalls that at a time when few Europeans would recognize the worth of the African, reducing the African to the worst of servitude, denying him the basic things of life and showing him as incapable of looking after himself, Sir Guggisberg created conditions for the African to acquire some confidence in himself. He was considered a rare breed of colonialists who, even though essentially serving the interests of Britain, operated in such a way as to bestow benefit upon the people of the region. Guggisberg believed that the interests of British colonialism would be better served by promoting better social services for the nationals ultimately strengthening a greater sense of loyalty to the British Crown. Pursuing a policy, which was essentially revolutionary from most of his administrative cohorts, he created a situation that worked to the utmost benefit of the people of Ghana and West Africa. The release of Nana Edward Prempeh Kweku Duah (Paramount Chief of Ashanti) in 1924 after 28 years of exile under the British administration exemplifies Governor Guggisberg’s love for the people and his belief in their traditional systems and their abilities.
To improve public health, Guggisberg focused on sanitation and on a pipe-borne water supply for Accra, Sekondi, Winneba and Kumasi. The population of Ghana at that time was 2.3 million people with 44,000 people living in Accra. Guggisberg extended medical services to other areas to provide care for the indigenous population, but concomitantly recognized the primary need for a large, modern hospital fully equipped for the care of the sick and for training of local health personnel for the health services. The outcome of this need was the building in 1923 of the Korle Bu Hospital then known as the Gold Coast Hospital. The new hospital claimed to be the finest in Africa with room for 200 inpatients. Before Guggisberg, the few hospitals in the country were located in the bigger towns having substantial European populations. Indeed, some of these were built exclusively for European patients, and right up to the eve of Ghana’s independence were referred to as “European Hospitals.”
Korle Bu became the “general” and model hospital for the entire nation, to which very serious cases needing skilled, specialist treatment were referred. It brought so much relief to the sick that for many years the people expressed their appreciation in this improvised song in Ga:
“Korle-Bu, Korle-Bu, Korle-Bu Oyiwala donn”
Meaning: “Korle-Bu, Korle-Bu, Korle-Bu how grateful I am to you!”
Guggisberg envisioned that Korle Bu Hospital would one day become a foremost medical school training young men and women as doctors in their own land, instead of going abroad. Nearly 160 acres of land in the vicinity were subsequently secured for future expansion. After gaining national independence in 1957, the Medical School and other health institutions would be established at the Korle-Bu site.
At the 50th anniversary of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in 1973, the Health Commissioner shared that: “It is appropriate that at this juncture we should pay tribute to those men and women through whose vision, determination and efforts these improvements in the health service have been made possible… the greatest tribute we can pay… therefore is to make Korle Bu truly the greatest medical institution in Africa and one of the greatest in the world… It should be our aim to make anyone entering this hospital feel that he is within the confines of a unique and historic institution. We must create a new confidence in our people that in Korle-Bu we have the finest source for the restoration of good health to our sick people.”
With the strong foundations laid by Guggisberg, 80 years later Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (now 1,300 in-patient beds) continues to expand its services with the establishment of institutions for specialist care. These include the National Cardio Thoracic Centre built by Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng and the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery as well as the Radiotherapy Center established by the former government. The addition of a Dental School, a School of Public Health and a School of Allied Health Sciences expanded the resources of the hospital, while also establishing a University for Development Studies including a Medical School in the northern sector of the country. As a teaching hospital with research culture, Korle Bu is linked to the University of Ghana through the College of Health Sciences that comprises the Medical and Dental schools, School of Nursing, School of Allied Health Sciences, School of Public Health and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research.
One man’s vision and deep passion for Africa has made a lasting impact in the building of a nation. Sir Gordon Guggisberg was, and still is, much loved by the people of Ghana and his memory is deeply cherished. Two memorials erected in his honour by chiefs express the debt that Ghana owes to Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg. One is located at the Joint-Provincial Council of Chiefs assembly hall at Dodowa, near Accra and a marble headstone marks the Governor’s grave at Bexhill, England.
A new vision has been birthed by fellow Canadians, igniting the passion of many worldwide. Since 2002, a group of Canadians and Ghanaians have explored opportunities to strengthen the foundation of health services in Ghana and West Africa with plans to establish an 80-bed Neuroscience Hospital Centre of Excellence at Korle Bu Hospital delivering world-class neuroscience care. Through the Neuroscience project, there is opportunity today for you to fulfill Governor Guggisberg’s dream of giving the people of Ghana a hope and a future.
Donations are a very valuable way to help us save lives, build the hospital and develop a long-term health care infrastructure. If you can, please donate now. Your contribution is greatly appreciated and crucial to saving lives in Ghana today and for the future.
There are numerous other ways in which you can assist KBNF as well. To find out more, please visit the Get Involved page.