By Lisa M. Trujillo, DHSc, RRT, and Karen S. Schell, DHSc, RRT-NPS, RRT-SDS, RPFT, FAARC
In conjunction with Weber State University (WSU) and the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC), and under the direction of the authors, Drs. Lisa Trujillo (WSU) and Karen Schell (KUMC), Charity Beyond Borders has been providing medical and humanitarian education and assistance throughout Ghana for 11 years.
After working in the country for several years, we recognized the need to establish the respiratory therapy profession in Ghana. During the past six years, we have focused specifically on the development and implementation of a respiratory therapy bachelor degree program at the University of Ghana (UG). This is the first bachelor degree in respiratory therapy in Africa.
The University of Ghana RT program currently has nine respiratory students enrolled in their 3rd semester and a new cohort of students is being interviewed to begin the program in the fall of 2017. These pioneer students have the wonderful opportunity to be taught by physicians from the University of Ghana Medical School and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
Since there are no formally trained respiratory therapy faculty in the country, the curriculum is presented by a mix of anesthesiologists, pulmonary and internal medicine physicians, pediatricians, perfusionists, and others.
During our visits to Ghana throughout the years, we have organized the teaching/learning time to include lectures and lab experiences, as well as side-by-side clinical interactions. Those who travel to Ghana with us, including respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy students, also have the opportunity to interact with and engage in valuable learning opportunities with the students.
Combining U.S. trained RTs with the University of Ghana RT students creates a very dynamic and rich learning environment.
Ecobank Foundation of Ghana has partnered with Charity Beyond Borders, WSU and the KUMC respiratory care education department to provide sponsorship and resources in the development of the respiratory therapy program at UG in the city of Accra.
Future program development at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science of Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi is also underway.
Ecobank Foundation committed $30,000 over five years to provide scholarships for respiratory therapy students at a media event on June 9, 2017, at the Alisa Hotel in Accra. This event was sponsored by Charity Beyond Borders, WSU, and the KUMC. In attendance was Julie Essiam, CEO of the Ecobank Foundation, who noted that due to Ecobank’s commitment “lives will be saved and knowledge of respiratory therapy will be a national asset to be passed on to future generations.”
Through the support of many physicians and other health care professionals in Ghana, the excitement of the respiratory therapy profession has spread to the Kumasi area. Following meetings with the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) CEO and department directors, discussions are underway and steps are being taken to expand the education of respiratory therapists to KNUST.
This university also houses a medical school affiliated with KATH, which positions it very well to support the development of a bachelor degree in respiratory therapy program, similar to the one established at UG.
Following our recent visit to Ghana, Dr. Alfred Aidoo, an anesthesiologist from KATH and a strong advocate for respiratory therapy development in Ghana applied to be an International Fellow and was selected as such. He will be joining the AARC International Congress in Indianapolis after visiting clinical sites and educational institutions with Dr. Schell in Kansas and Dr. Trujillo in Utah.