Helping Africa Hear: Ghana Educational Initiative

Learn more about this initiative on the Global Michigan website.

For more than 20 years, the University of Michigan has fostered the development and growth of its Ghana-Michigan Platform of Engagement. Through this program, U-M faculty members partner with Ghanaian colleagues to identify opportunities for collaboration that can serve both institutions and yield results greater than what could be achieved separately.
The U-M Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is part of this Ghana-Michigan Platform. It is working with partners at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana, to establish an otology program that will expand both training and clinical practice around chronic ear surgeries. KATH is the second-largest hospital in Ghana and the largest and busiest otolaryngology department in the country. It also serves as the country's training hub for otolaryngologists.
The U-M otolaryngology department first sent Mark E. Prince, M.D.; Jeff S. Moyer, M.D., FACS; and David J. Brown, M.D.; to visit Ghana in October 2013. They met with key otolaryngology leadership to conduct a needs assessment, which identified the following priority areas for collaboration:

  • A lack of otologic surgery capacity to manage acute and chronic surgical ear disease in central to northern Ghana
  • No capacity for minimal exposure surgery to the sinuses and skull base, as all sinus procedures are performed with open techniques
  • A lack of laryngeal microsurgery techniques, particularly minimally invasive laryngeal surgery

The root causes of these priorities boil down to a lack of equipment and infrastructure. Without the technology necessary to practice these surgical techniques, KATH’s otolaryngologists are unable to maintain these surgical skills. In turn, the surgeons do not train their residents or fellows in these techniques, further extending the gap.

Although the needs assessment identified gaps in otologic surgery, sinus and skull base surgery and laryngeal microsurgery, the group elected to focus first on otology. Chronic ear infections are common in the Ghana population, which leads to hearing loss, deafness and even fatalities, if the infections go untreated. By providing KATH surgeons with focused training in otologic surgery, the collaboration hopes to improve outcomes and morbidity and mortality.

The aim is to establish an otology program at KATH that will be self-sufficient in 36 months as defined by the faculty members' capacity to both perform the broad range of chronic ear surgeries and train their residents and fellows. Over the next three years, U-M faculty members will spend 5-6 days per quarter at KATH, training KATH’s faculty. U-M trainees will also join on occasion. This program will be enhanced by the creation of a KATH temporal bone lab that will allow for the development and maintenance of acquired otologic skill sets.
“It’s about teaching them to fish,” says Dr. Moyer. “We want to help KATH build a program that has longevity. They’re incredibly smart and skilled – they just need the equipment and training. That’s where U-M can help.”

To date, the team has purchased equipment for the KATH temporal bone lab and operating room. This hasn’t been without sacrifice; the team had to divert funds from travel to equipment in order to offset capital costs. As a result, their October travel expenses were entirely out-of-pocket.
But it’s worth it. As is often the case in collaborative relationships, this one is mutually beneficial. “We work in a resource-rich healthcare environment here in the U.S.,” says Dr. Moyer. “As a result, we become very reliant on technology. But at KATH, in the absence of high-tech imaging and instruments, physicians use more traditional methods, making them excellent diagnosticians and clinicians. I think we’ll learn more from them than they will from us.”

If you would like to make a donation to support our work in Ghana, please contact Jeff Guyton at 734-763-1756 or jeffguy@med.umich.edu.

 

Read more about the partnership here