Marj Ratel in Ghana – Blog Post 1

Well, my brother Danny Moe, VP KBF and I arrived in Accra yesterday evening, and were greeted by balmy weather. In fact, it was so lovely, that air conditioning was simply not needed. It was a light moment when upon touchdown, cheers erupted from throughout the plane. Considering there were 480 passengers, it was quite a cheer! Once disembarked, we were greeted by a wonderful group of friends, including Prof’s Afua and Adukwei Hesse, Samuel Ampen-Asare, Dr. Hannah Ayettey and a police escort. Our bags packed in vehicles, I was quickly on my way to visit the Ayettey’s, as Cecilia celebrated her birthday. So I arrived to a wonderful meal prepared for us all!

Naakai Ayettey, Seth and Cecilia’s 8-year-old daughter is particularly excited, as her aunty Marjorie has brought a load of things to transform her bedroom into a princess room. Included in my suitcases are paint rollers, brushes, and castle mural. So we’ll be sure to have lots of fun towards the end of the visit, decorating her room.

Our Nigerian contingent arrived this evening from Lagos, and are now settled into the Crystal Palm Hotel. Included are Priscilla Uabor, Head Sister of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital’s Neurosurgery Unit, Christine and Justina, neurosurgery nurses, along with Drs. Dsazuwa and Sampson, anesthesiologist and neurosurgery resident. We will expect UBTH Neurosurgeon Prof. David Udoh and his family Monday, along with KBNF Research Chair Prof. Lisa Cain, from Galveston, Texas.

Today, Profs. Paul King, KBNF neurosurgeon, from Atlanta, Georgia and Education and Training Chair Jocelyne Lapointe, KBNF neuroradiologist, arrive along with VGH neurosurgeon Chris Honey and his son Michael. Others arriving include KBNF member Prof. Bill Galloway, conducting research on KBNF proposed Guggisberg film as well as seeing many Ghanaian sites with his sister. Bill’s granddad worked with Gov. Gordon Guggisberg, as a construction owner/developer in the 1920’s and had a part in Korle-Bu. We are also expecting Dawn MacDonald from Coquitlam, President of the Palliative Care Association, who will be joining our conference and various meetings and introducing palliative care initiatives set for Ghana.

Much of our mission work this visit involves teaching and workshops. We are part of the CME Conference August 1 – 5 for West African doctors, providing the neuroscience teaching for the conference, as well as co-hosting our first KBTH-KBNF Neuroscience Conference for Ghanaian doctors and nurses at KBTH August 3 & 4. We are so very excited by this opportunity and hope it will only be the beginning of great things to come. We have many presentations being given by our team, including Chris Honey and Paul King, teaching on various aspects of neurosurgery care and management, Jocelyne teaching on neuroradiology issues, and Lisa Cain introducing the neuro research developments. We also have Danny Moe teaching on personal and professional growth, something that I am sure, will be transformative for many.

I am also working with members of the Critical Care Association of Ghana, our Nigerian neurosurgery team, and others, in developing the first computerized documentation system for health care delivery. Included in this will be flowsheets such as neurovital sign assessment, other assessment tools as well as critical care flow pathways, automated doctors orders, standards and protocols. It will be a wonderful opportunity to introduce standardized charting to West African hospitals. I understand from Prof. Hesse that Internet access is being introduced in many nursing units, so we will help in anyway we can to leapfrog our teams in West Africa to North American standards in the years to come. I anticipate that we will have a trial period with one or two units including UBTH’s neurosurgery unit, trialing these documents, so we can determine what works best for their staff and patient population. I’ll keep you all posted. Suffice to say, there’s much enthusiasm for chart documentation developments.

Much more to tell, but I must close for now and get some rest, before beginning a full Sunday. Trust you are all well!


A Note to Inspire

I awoke this morning to a wonderful encouragement — from our neurosurgery staff in Benin City, Nigeria. I forward on their personal notes of thanks.

I am so very honoured to have a part in this serving foundation. As Danny so aptly shares, we are Dream Carriers for a divine dream being fulfilled that is far greater than ourselves, even beyond our imagination and that is so awesome…

I honour our precious neurosurgery team in Benin City, Nigeria. Without their sacrificial investment in the lives of their people, there wouldn’t be a neurosurgery unit at all! That took faith and fortitude and perseverance.

Well done, everyone! May this only be the beginning of blessings for our Nigerian family. Members of the team will join us in Ghana in August. It will be wonderful!

Love to all!



A Story of Vision and Passion

The following was written by Prof. Seth Ayettey, Brenda MacLeod and myself. KBNF’s vision for the Neuroscience Hospital Centre of Excellence is following in the footsteps of the passion of Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg.


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.



2011 President’s Message

Danny Moe, an international motivational speaker and my brother, has been profoundly impacting many lives in his KBNF Dare to Dream Academy seminars of recent months. He teaches that Mission, Vision, Passion are core values mutually and concurrently required for achieving ultimate significance in life. Mission — Everyone born is born on purpose and it’s beautiful, but we’re not only born ON purpose but FOR A purpose. To determine our purpose, it is really important to know our gifts. It is our gifts that will help confirm our purpose and vice versa. Beyond that, our gifts are so phenomenal that they are not for us to keep but are gifted to us to serve the people who need our gifts. That is what our Mission is all about. There are people who will never be what they should be in life without our gifts.

Our Vision is our seeing what is in our spirit and our heart. We can’t visualize what we have not already determined. We have to begin to see it, to visualize it — seeing the end from the beginning. The only way we can keep encouraged and make it through the problems is to see the end like we have already arrived. Whatever our dream is, when it actually happens, it will be bigger and better than what we ever dreamed. And that’s what we want. We want to live with Passion. When it comes to work, we want to WORK our passions.

These qualities emanate from our KBNF family. KBNF was established out of a need FOR a specific purpose and our mission is our project assignment. Why neuroscience?  Because that is our gifting. KBNF’s mission expanded when the concept of building a neuroscience centre of excellence for Ghana and West Africa at Korle-Bu on donated land was suggested by Provost Seth Ayettey in 2002. This was our inaugural trip and it instantly witnessed with my spirit that this was what we were to do all along. From that moment in time, we have never looked back. Challenges, some seemingly insurmountable, have come our way, but our vision for what will be on the campus of Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital has not wavered. In fact, it has broadened and widened, as the concept, master plan and program of a West African regional Emergency and Clinical Specialties Centre, hotel and conference centre has evolved into being by our multinational Project Management [PM] team.

Our passion for a world-class centre gripped the hearts and imaginations of our Ghanaian leaders and fully embracing it, they took their rightful role in pursuing major funding for the $450 million facility. But not only for Korle-Bu, the significance of our now mutual vision meant that another hospital center and schools at the University of Ghana College of Health Sciences site needed to be planned for and our team again had the wonderful opportunity to birth that concept. The President of Ghana broke ground on that site earlier this year. Don Jenion, KBNF Project Manager and a visionary, is recommending that a national master plan and program for all hospital developments be considered for viability, sustainability, and collaboration of resources and is offering KBNF project management support. And this is just one of our foundation objectives.

Don and his team — along with Builders without Borders — are in preplanning for the refurbishment of the current KBNF neurosurgery unit in the Surgical Block. The need is so great and the unit will continue to be used for patients once neuroscience relocates. Initially planning to repair walls, plumbing and electricity, we are now contemplating total renovations and redevelopment of the unit as a tangible example of North American standard design, efficiency, and safety. And not just the structure, but to also restore the beds, tables and equipment chairs that are in need of repair and a coat of fresh paint. The vision has gripped my heart for how it can set new standards, not just for neurosurgery but other nursing units as well. So as Don says, “we’re going for broke!” and a $300,000 fundraising campaign is beginning in earnest. Having decided on a direction, now we must find the solutions to achieve our vision. And we’re passionate about it.

With our limited budget over the years, how on earth have we been able to accomplish our many concomitant goals? The answer lies in the fact that we are rich in mission, vision and definitely passion within our membership and supremely rich in gifted human resources — you — our KBNF family. Ghana recognizes our genuineness, transparency and our altruistic desire to partner and support their infrastructure developments that will lead the continent of Africa on how to expertly deliver world-class sustainable care and demonstrate to potential investors that supporting health care developments CAN make a lasting difference.

We are only as strong as our members, and our members are passionate in their desire to advance the cause of health care in West Africa, whether in sending off a container lovingly filled with equipment and supplies to Nigeria while crossing fingers and toes and taking a leap of faith that it actually gets there . . .it does . . .  Whether establishing the very first neuro research unit for West Africa and feeling fully alive when working on these various first of a kind developments, spending mammoth hours refining contact and donor lists and uploading to new software for launching an improved communications network or planning medical missions and neuro university program development . . . I could go on and on.

Mission + Vision with Passion has lead KBNF to achieve significance, as we partner with Ghana and West Africa. Jocelyne Lapointe, Brenda MacLeod and various volunteers spent laborious hours travelling back and forth to the Diamond Delivery warehouse collecting, categorizing and packing hospital supplies and equipment, then washing beds and furniture covered in soot from the open doors, wrapping in saran and with wonderful contributions donated by Compassionate Warehouse in Victoria, filling a 40 ft container. This incredible effort was the culmination of many unsung heroes behind the scenes. We learn that “the Chief Medical Director has been so elated about the shipment . . . There was so much for everybody. I haven’t seen so much joy here in a loooong while.”

To hear it in David Udoh’s own words, sole neurosurgeon for 12 million Nigerians:

To you, all the brothers and sisters at KBNF, all the volunteers and other wonderful people we may never meet — may the Lord whisper your name.

Meeting you and your kind of love so radically affected my life, my practice and my aspirations. I no longer wonder why the Lord brought me to this town. You are helping me to fulfill purpose. Indeed, you have all been to me like “Helpers of Destiny.”

May you find help in the time of need.

Ever thankful,


That one container is making a significant impact that is a source of encouragement for the staff, the administrators, patients and families. Our dreams in action — fulfilling a mission.


Update from Korle-Bu Neuroscience Clubs

The 2010-2011 year was a year of progress for KBNF especially in areas of fundraising, collaboration, promotion and strategies for future success.

In summary, KBNC was able to fundraise $1500, undertake promotional activities, Neurology books donation from Dr. Riopelle, renew its website domain for the next three years, initiate a raffle project to be run in selected school and collaborated with Dickinson College Neuroscience students to raise funds and promote KBNF.


AHA Creative Strategies revised the KBNC logo to resemble that of KBNF logo. This is to continue the efforts of keeping the message and image of KBNF and KBNC on the same page and ensure consistency and uniformity.


Promotions were done in the two KBNC chapter universities: UBC and McGill University. Our collaboration with Dickinson College Neuroscience Society also yielded some promotional activities including an invitation of Dr. Lisa Cain to be guest speaker of a Neuroscience conference. We also gave a presentation of the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Project during the BRAIN SYMPHONY Cafe as part of our partnership with Brain Awareness Week. During the Independence Day in Montreal, KBNF was also promoted at the event.


Dr. Richard Riopelle, Chief of Neurology and Neurosurgery, donated about 20 neurology/neuroscience textbooks to help in the KBNF cause. This will be added to the equipment inventory and sent to Ghana Medical department with the next shipment.

Andrew Barszczyk (Web Manager) of KBNC also renewed its website domain for the next 3 years. This was renewed for $300.


KBNC plans to hold raffles in selected schools this coming academic year (September-May). Legal inquiries have been initiated by Afua Cobbina and myself to verify the extent of scope, award and duration of raffle. This raffle will be the main fundraiser that can be run by our chapters as well as our partners.


The clinical Volunteer Project was handed to two McGill Undergraduates under the directive of Nicole Wu (Co Director of Project) to draft a proposal. Work is ongoing in this regards and will be one of our main areas of focus in the coming year.


The McGill KBNC chapter, led by Hon Yang, kicked of the year by hosting an activities night and recruiting new students to facilitate their agenda for the year. A chocolate fountain and KBNF band fundraisers were hosted throughout the year. Capping the year was a date auction event, which was held on International Women’s Day.

UBC chapter, led by President Ash Shamsian, was more engaged in promotional activities this year, but really came through for KBNF when their time and energy was called upon. They helped in the packaging of equipment for shipments, brainstorming workshops and some cookie fundraising on campus.


Dickinson College is our first official partner as they have been spearheading fundraising and promotional events for KBNC. Led by Marianne Hutt, Dickinson College Neuroscience Society organized ice cream fundraisers, promotions at symposiums, selling of T-shirts and KBNF bands, and eventually inviting Dr. Lisa Cain to be the main speaker at a neuroscience symposium.

The main theme we have heard from students over and over again is they want to go to Africa. The beginning of the volunteer project was supposed to address this problem, but it has been slow in the making. As a result KBNC will make it a major emphasis in the next academic year. Our raffle project, which will initially involve only selected schools and will be our main source of fundraising, will give students that win the opportunity to go to Ghana or Nigeria and be involved in research, clinical shadowing or cultural experience. We will also move to form an advisory board of professors from various universities and set some objectives to be met. We will look to have an organized coin box program, increase our partnership with other neuroscience entities, solidify our membership and beat our fundraising total for this year.


2011 Equipment & Shipping Update

Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation (KBNF) members had the opportunity to partner with Pro Health International (Nigeria) and DrUMM (Johns Hopkins Hospital) November 2009 on a Medical Mission to the Neurosurgery Unit at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) in Benin, Nigeria and the Neurosurgery and Intensive Care Unit at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra, Ghana.

While KBNF members had visited KBTH in the past, it was their first time at the UBTH. It became apparent early on in the visit to the UBTH Neurosurgery department that while they had wonderful, passionate, caring, eager to learn and skilled doctors and nurses, there was a huge lack of some very basic medical/hospital items including secure hospital beds. The team was particularly distressed to discover that the majority of beds did not have side rails and seizure patients in particular were at serious risk of injury. The neurosurgery staff had done the best they could do with their personal resources, procuring their own equipment, bedding, and supplies to establish the neurosurgery unit a few years ago. It was an easy decision by the equipment committee that UBTH would benefit greatly from a donation of medical supplies and equipment.

In the following months medical supplies and equipment were collected from Vancouver General Hospital and Broadway Lodge. Other items, including mattresses, were also received from the Compassionate Resource Warehouse in Victoria.  A couple of anaesthesia machines, replicates of machines they already use at UBTH, were refurbished by biomedical technicians at Lions Gate Hospital. In 2010, with the assistance of the Universal Aide Society of BC, we were able to facilitate the shipment of a 40-foot container of medical supplies and equipment to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Southern Nigeria.

The items were received and greatly appreciated by the entire Neurosurgery Unit at the UBTH. Dr. David Udoh, the sole Neurosurgeon for 12 million people, shared: “The nurses were ecstatic. I could scarcely bear it!  I went into the container myself and the nurses joined. We did all the offloading ourselves!  Until dusk. The nurses shocked everyone. As I walked through the container, I could feel the warm embrace of the love which donated so sacrificially, which lifted and loaded every heavy equipment without a wince or groan, which so delicately packaged every box and watched their labour of love shipped to an uncertain destination (as ours can be).”

While the Equipment Acquisition and Shipping Committee, along with many KBNF volunteers, have been responsible for the shipment of over 13 containers, KBNF is looking at relocating its resources from the actual procurement, storing, and shipping of medical equipment and supplies, and partner with other agencies in facilitating the shipment of medical equipment and supplies in the coming years.  We will also pursue the possibility of sponsoring the purchase of specific equipment for Neuroscience Units in West Africa.

We wish to thank Diamond Delivery once again for their generous donation of warehouse space and access to their delivery trucks. Without their investment freely given, we could not have sustained this level of giving in recent years. We wish to also thank all of our caring volunteers that have helped with the sorting, packing and shipping of recycled and refurbished quality equipment and supplies. They have arrived in the arms of appreciative West African health care workers, patients and families. This living investment will truly make a difference for years to come.

2011 – 2012 Goals/Objectives

  1. Direct shipment from Vancouver of a 20-foot container with lab supplies from UBC for pathology students at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.
  2. Awaiting confirmation of opportunity to partner in the procurement and shipment of hospital equipment from an imminently closing U.S. military hospital with the mutual goal of fully furnishing two North American-standard neurosurgery operating rooms for the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. Additional equipment is being earmarked for other West African tertiary centers including Liberia.


Container Arrives at UBTH – Nigeria

Below is an email sent to me from David Udoh. He was on hand for the delivery of a container to the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Benin City, Nigeria.

Dear Marj,

In the images (please see the Image Gallery), I was presenting the two anaesthetic machines and other things – on behalf of KBNF – to Dr. Alfred Ogbemudia, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon and the Hospital’s Chairman, Medical Advisory Comittee (who received the container on arrival in the absence of Prof. Michael Ibadin, Consultant Paediatrician, the hospital’s CMD).

Dr. Tudjegbe, Consultant Anaesthesiologist, was available to receive all the items for his department the same day. He is in that picture (in glasses) with the CMAC (in suit) and I (in white overall) as we stood with the anaesthetic machines.

Same way, I invited consultants and nurse managers working with them and gave all items to them according to departments on behalf of KBNF. Boxes of supplies went to all operating rooms, Urology, Radiology (several boxes of books), Neurosurgery (including beds, furniture, uniforms, gift items, etc.), CTU, Plastic, Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy, Orthopedics, Accidents and Emergency, Anesthesiology, ENT.

Wow! They couldn’t exhaust the tracheostomy tubes even if they tried in a long while, office equip and on and on and on. The operating table (oh, what a beauty that was), the heaviest single item in that container has been mounted in the OR suite.

To you, all the brothers and sisters at KBNF, all the volunteers and other wonderful people we may never meet.

May the Lord whisper your name.

Meeting you and your kind of love so radically affected my life, my practice and my aspirations . I no longer wonder why the Lord brought me to this town. You are helping me to fulfill purpose. Indeed, you have all been to me like “Helpers of Destiny”.

May you find help in the time of need.

Ever thankful,


Global Health Care

This blog post was my presentation for the Simon Fraser University’s “Engaging Diaspora in Development” symposium.

Health care could be defined as the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in humans. The health care system requires a robust financing mechanism; a well-trained and adequately paid workforce; reliable information on which to base decisions and policies; and well-maintained facilities, equipment and logistics to deliver quality medical care and technologies.

Health care delivery in the developing world is crucial and its impact on the socio-economic conditions of these countries cannot be over-emphasized. If this important area were left alone to these nations where resources — especially financial resources — are limited and are also competing with other necessities like infrastructural development, food, education, environmental issues, safety and security, there would be a high risk of lack of health care needs.

In Ghana, the majority of health care is provided by the government; however, hospitals and clinics run by religious groups also play an important role. Some for-profit clinics exist, but they provide less than 2% of health services. The major urban centres are well served, yet rural areas often have no modern health care. Patients in these areas either rely on traditional medicine or they travel great distances for care.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) statistical information system, in 2006, government expenditure on health as a percentage of total government expenditure was 6.8% in Ghana compared to 17.9% in Canada and 19.1% in the United States.

From the same source, adult mortality rate (possibility of dying between the ages of 15 to 60 years per 1000 people) in Ghana was 272 in the year 1990 compared to 102 in Canada; 298 in 2000 compared to 81 in Canada; and 331 in 2006 compared to 72 in Canada.

The number of physicians in Ghana in 2004 was 3,240, compared to 62,307 in Canada and 730,801 in the States in 2000.

British Columbia has 22 physicians per 10,000 people while Ghana has 2 per 10,000 people.

From these statistics, it cannot be over-emphasized that there is an urgent need for health care provision in Ghana and the rest of Africa. For that reason, the Diaspora and other foreign individuals, nations and organizations are encouraged to help in the provision of health care in the developing world.

Some of the areas in which the Diaspora could provide support are the following:
– Provision of medical professionals
– Provision of technology
– Provision of financial support
– Provision of research and training
– Provision of infrastructural development and master plan
– Partnering with the developing country to engage in health related developmental activities.

The above-mentioned supports are what the Korle-Bu Neuroscience project seeks and continues to provide for Ghana and other African countries.

Being part of the Korle-Bu Neuroscience project and currently the Vice President of the project and the President of Excellence in Africa Neuroscience and Health — Canada has been a personal dream come true. Thanks to Marjorie Ratel for such a vision and a mission.

Since leaving Ghana in 1994 to study accountancy and with the commencement of my employment with The University of British Columbia as an Administrator at Vancouver General Hospital in October 2002, I have been searching for a way that I could give back to Africa and better utilize the knowledge I have acquired in health care, financial reporting and administration. After a casual invitation by one of our founding members, Dr. Felix Durity, who is a renowned and retired Neurosurgeon, I joined the project in 2003 as the Chair of Finance; and in 2009, during a stay in Ghana for a year, I became the Canada/Ghana liaison. I took on the role as the Vice President of the project after my return to Canada in July 2009 and the President of Excellence in Africa Neuroscience and Health — Canada.

Excellence in Africa is the operating arm of the project and has been designated to use the funds received from the Korle-Bu Foundation to help with the provision of the health care infrastructure, medical missions, and equipment in Ghana and its sub-region.

My role as the Chair of Finance for five years involved the accurate periodic banking of donations and other receipts, recording of our revenues and expenditures in our financial system, issuing of tax receipts and thank you letters to donors, chairing the finance subcommittee, advising the Executive Board on financial matters, working with our internal auditor to audit the books, presenting our financial report at our Annual General Meetings and liaising with our legal advisory to file our financial report with Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency. These responsibilities took a lot of my time and effort but were very rewarding — to see the organization moving from strength to strength and achieving some major successes, which Ms. Marjorie Ratel has shared in her presentation.

There have also been other non-financial duties such as loading container shipments to Ghana and Nigeria, having garage sales and making presentations in Toronto and Regina to create awareness of the project among the Diasporas.

I must say that it has been a challenging experience to raise funds, but it is also encouraging to see committed executives and other members helping out and sacrificing their time and money to make a difference in the developing world.

My passion to join the project stems from the following reasons:

1. To contribute to the health care delivery in Ghana and other African countries — I was fortunate to attain my first degree in business administration in Ghana on a scholarship, which I believe influenced my professional studies and an MBA program at McGill University. I thought the country had invested in my development and hence it was time for me to give back.
2. Inspiring the youth — If there are specialist doctors and researchers in neuroscience, I strongly believe that the youth will be greatly inspired and motivated to work hard in order to attain such an ambition.
3. Halt the brain drain — Nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals and providers have moved to the developed nations for greener pastures. A centre of excellence will help to halt or reduce such a drain of human capital and the talents and knowledge will be retained in the country.
4. Economic benefits — The few Ghanaians who can afford health care in the developed world spend the limited foreign earnings abroad, rather than spending it in the country where it could contribute to the Gross Domestic Product of the nation.
5. Creation of employment — Retention of trained professionals and employment opportunities will attract health care professionals from other countries.

Challenges in Ghana:

– One of such challenges is the lack of finances due to low salary and income. This potentially reduces the chances of financial support from individuals in the country.

– Bureaucracy presents a frequent challenge in Ghana and may result in the frustration of many people who are willing to help the country.

– Lack of biomedical engineers to repair the equipment. This is another challenge and the Foundation is raising funds to send a biomedical engineer to Ghana this year to help repair the equipment and also to train other people to be able to help.

I would like to conclude my presentation by stressing the fact that developing countries need help to find their feet and to grow. Technologically, we are behind and will probably not catch up for decades, but we need help in teaching and training professionals and technical support staff. This needs to be continuous and ongoing to build the confidence and performance of those in the developing nations. Capacity building would make us less dependent and then we could turn our knowledge inwards to research the conditions and solutions that are relevant to us. When we are able to function effectively in our societies, there will be fewer tendencies for people to abandon their posts and constitute economic refugees. We need corporate technical support for basic technologies that can survive in harsh, low resource-driven societies.

My plan is to move to Ghana permanently in December this year. I believe this is a good opportunity to continue the excellent partnering work done by the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation. With a possible new position as the Ghana/Canada liaison, I hope to develop this relationship and partnership further; and most importantly, to facilitate the transfer of knowledge and health care delivery in Ghana.

A Thank You Letter From Dr. David Udoh

Below is a heart-felt thank you letter that I received from Dr. David Udoh, our neurosurgeon in Benin City, Nigeria.

Dear Marj,

Today, I “breathe” for the first time since 3rd December . . .

You should have been here, Marj. Container shipment was driven into UBTH and parked at the Neurosurgical Ward 1st March at 1100 hours Nigerian time. The nurses were ecstatic. I could scarcely bear it!

I went into the container myself and the nurses joined. We did all the offloading ourselves! Until dusk. The nurses shocked everyone.

As I walked through the container, I could feel the warm embrace of the love which donated so sacrificially, which lifted and loaded every heavy equipment without a wince or groan, which so delicately packaged every box and watched their labour of love shipped to an uncertain destination (as ours can be).

I saw, beyond the container, an eternal testimonial unto those men and women who would never give that which cost them nothing.

That’s where I want to be. Where giving becomes you, to beneficiaries who would never ever know you or you know them.

Without prior planning, needing to be part of this, the Neurosurgical team (men, women, and some of their children) took the container on and did everything ourselves. No one even thought of recruiting volunteers. That’s the part you need to see. We were overcome by love.

. . . Thank you

Dr. David Udoh

Neurosurgery Dept Head

University of Benin Teaching Hospital

Equipment and Shipping News

KBNF’s 14th container shipment filled with hospital equipment and supplies sent to Benin City, Nigeria for their neurosurgery department at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, has arrived in Lagos and is in the process of being cleared from port, reports Dr. David Udoh, Neurosurgery Department Head, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH).

KBNF is pleased to report that $800 in funds raised this past fall provided for the complete refurbishment of two superb ventilators by our KBNF biomedical engineers. These ventilators are replicate models of the UBTH surgery department ventilators that are currently in disrepair.  As a result, UBTH biomedical technicians and anaesthesiologists familiar with these models will put these fully functioning ventilators into operation immediately upon arrival. This will enable patients to be ventilated safely during their surgeries and post-operative period.