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Healing Hands Abroad: Mount Nittany Health’s 2023 Medical Mission with Ghana Medical Relief

Healing Hands Abroad: Mount Nittany Health’s 2023 Medical Mission with Ghana Medical Relief

Mount Nittany Health is fortunate to have a wonderful team of medical professionals who have extended their services beyond our community to provide comprehensive care, medical services and supplies to villages in Ghana. In 2011, Samuel Owusu, MD, OB/GYN, Chair of Obstetrics, Mount Nittany Medical Center, and his wife, Belinda Owusu, RN, founded the nonprofit Ghana Medical Relief to provide healthcare to underserved communities in Ghana, West Africa.

“Since 2018, Ghana Medical Relief has provided free health care to over 22,500 residents in Ghana,” said Owusu. “The initial goal of the organization was to provide medical supplies and equipment to healthcare institutions. We donated hospital beds, ultrasound machines, examination tables, cardiac defibrillators, and operating room equipment to help many hospitals in Ghana. We recognized the additional need for medical personnel and started medical missions in 2018.”

Over the years, the medical missions have been extremely successful and have grown significantly. During the first mission to Asiakwa, Ghana in 2018, there were 31 volunteers and five different service lines represented (medicine, pediatrics, dentistry, OB/GYN, and urology), providing care to 2,300 patients. This year, Ghana Medical Relief visited Tamale with 100 volunteers, and provided care to 7,103 patients. The team has expanded their service lines to include ophthalmology, ENT, general surgery, wound care, and pain management. This year, the team also dispensed over 10,000 prescriptions and performed 621 surgeries during their time in Tamale. They also visited an orphanage where they gave out hundreds of pairs of sneakers donated by Rapid Transit Sports in State College, Pa.

As part of its services, Ghana Medical Relief also provided about 2,000 patients with one year of free health insurance coverage that allows them to have follow-up appointments, and refills on their prescriptions. This gesture is part of the organization’s commitment to providing free healthcare services to those who cannot afford it.

“I got a lot more out of the experience than I gave,” said Fred Doucette, MD, Mount Nittany Health OB/GYN. “I learned so much about the people of Ghana. They have many of the same needs we do. They want to know what is going on with their bodies, and they want to have physicians who will listen to them and take them seriously. They were so appreciative of what we could do.”

Doucette shared some memorable experiences from the trip. “On the first day, we saw a patient who had very advanced ovarian cancer, so it was extremely important for us to help her. We also had another patient who had been trying to get pregnant for three years, and after giving her an ultrasound, we were able to share the news with her that she was pregnant. Another patient we treated was just happy to have her story listened to.”

Betty Getz, RN, Women and Children’s Services provided medical care in Ghana for the second time. She explained that this trip was slightly more challenging because Ghana Medical Relief had to rely on interpreters because of the language barrier. “The children were amazing,” said Getz. “There was one boy who helped us with translation, filled out paperwork, and by the end of our time there, was able to perform pulse oximeter checks on the other children. Although he was sick, he assisted us for two full days.”

Getz also shared a memorable experience about a boy who was seeking treatment for a dangerously high fever. “I touched his arm, and he was really hot so I rechecked his temperature and it was 106.8. A temperature that high puts a patient at risk for seizures, cardiac arrest, or death. I took him to one of the Ghana Medical Relief doctors who instructed him to get to the hospital right away. I found water, provided him with Tylenol and found a midwife who helped assist me in getting him to the hospital where he could be treated.”

The patients treated by Ghana Medical Relief were grateful. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Linda Solano, RN, Women and Children’s Services. “There is an Arabic greeting, ‘As-Salaam-Alaikum,’ that means ‘peace be unto you.’ The people were so appreciative that we learned that phrase as we helped address their pains and provide them with solutions.”

“I went on this trip to find the joy in medicine again,” said Doucette. “It was nice to rediscover my passion for sitting with people and listening to them. It didn’t seem like work to me.”

“We have no doubt our presence in these communities makes a profound difference in the lives of the residents,” said Owusu. “These are communities that would otherwise have little or no healthcare. And we welcome new volunteers each year. If you would like to become involved, please contact me or visit our website.”

Please join us in applauding the following team members of Ghana Medical Relief who provide compassionate and excellent care locally and globally:

  • Samuel Owusu, MD, OB/GYN, Chair of Obstetrics, Mount Nittany Medical Center, and family
  • Frederick Doucette, MD, OB/GYN, Mount Nittany Health, and family
  • Amy Frantz, RN, Women and Children’s Services
  • Linda Solano, RN, Women and Children’s Services
  • Laura Strauss, RN, Women and Children’s Services, and family
  • Betty Getz, RN, Women and Children’s Services

We are grateful for all you do and for contributing to our mission of “Healthier people, stronger community.”