When first-year MSIH student Wentiirim Annankra went on a medical mission to Ghana during her summer break this year, she had no idea what lay in store for her. Annankra, known as “Wentii” to her classmates, had been participating in missions with her father’s Texas-partnered NGO since she was nine years old. In the past, she’d helped in the pharmacy, counting off medicines and placing them in small packages for distribution. With a year of medical education behind her, this year she hoped to shadow a doctor.
Annankra had just completed her first year of studies at the Medical School for International Health (MSIH) at Ben-Gurion University. MSIH, established 18 years ago, has already graduated more than 500 physicians who have gone on to work in Global Health scenarios across the world. The school offers a four-year American-style MD degree taught in English with a focus on Global Health. It’s the only medical school in the world where global health studies are integrated into all four years of study.
“When we got to the villages in the volta region of Southeastern Ghana,” explains Annankra, “we discovered there weren’t enough doctors for this mission. To my surprise, instead of being assigned to shadow a doctor, I was given a doctor’s seat!”
Wentii – who is hearing-impaired – is a native of Ghana. She took her undergraduate degree at Calvin College – a Christian liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and chose MSIH because of its Global Health curriculum and small class size. “MSIH offered everything I wanted. With just 30 students in my class my hearing difficulties are much more manageable”.
Graduates Around the World
“Wentii’s story is fairly typical of our students,” says MSIH dean, Dr. Mark Clarfield, a gerontologist who graduated from the University of Toronto. “All of our students get excellent medical training, but at the same time, we teach them how to function in a global environment. Today we have practicing physicians all over the world, from Papua New Guinea to Ethiopia, from Kenya to Tanzania, and from Jordan to Uganda. Even those that don’t practice internationally, wherever they go – even in North American hospitals – their special skills are constantly in need.”
MISH’s Global Health Curriculum includes a 50-hour introductory course in first year that levels the field and makes sure all students understand what GH is about. Second year continues the thread, giving students tools to study and understand foreign medical systems. Clinical third year incorporates elements of Global Health in all core clinical disciplines and fourth year culminates in an eight-week clinical experience in one of several resource-scarce countries.
“By the time our students receive their degrees,” says Clarfield, “they’re able to function anywhere in the world, often with minimal resources.”
Wentii Annankra feels MSIH is giving her the education she needs. “At first I felt woefully inadequate when they put me in the doctor’s seat – even under the supervision of the head physician in the team,” she explains. “But in first year, MSIH taught us the essence of history taking – emphasizing interpersonal skills with patients. I set to work applying what I had been taught – maintaining eye contact, not interrupting too much, asking open-ended questions, and just taking time to really listen. By the fourth day, I was enjoying myself so much just listening to patients, learning about new diseases and watching the other doctors teach me how to perform a physical exam.”
MSIH graduates have gained an excellent reputation among North American hospitals and have no trouble finding residency placements. Because of their Global Health knowledge and experience, a significant proportion go on to become Chief Resident before entering their specialized field.
Photos courtesy of Apagstudios.com.
We just received word that Wentii is a recipient this year of a scholarship from the Alexander Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing – awarded to those possessing outstanding leadership qualities and a commitment to serve.