Articles and Case Studies

My DIY Elective in Ghana

16 Mar 2015

by Dr Kieran Gillick

Stethoscope heart

Dr Kieran Gillick gives us an account of his elective in Ghana, and how he enjoyed planning and organising his visit through information he obtained from The Electives Network.

MaryEkubahEwooMemorialClinic300x263jpg

In May 2014, I came to the Mary Ekubah Ewoo Memorial Clinic in Akwidaa, Ghana. It was my final year medical elective and I had an absolutely incredible time! I had discovered the clinic via an article on The Electives Network website which gave the contact details of a nearby guest house (the clinic has no computers or telephones!) and was able to organise my visit through them.

Akwidaa is a small fishing village on the South coast of Ghana – it’s really remote and isolated, so you get the chance to see and manage a whole range of conditions. The staff were incredibly welcoming and friendly, and always on hand to help with interpreting when needed. As resources are limited, nothing too complex is done on site, but you do get the chance to really improve your clinical skills and you can always accompany patients to the secondary and tertiary referral centres if you want to see how they’re followed up. I was given the opportunity to do as little or as much as I wanted – on some days I was there from 9am until 6pm, running every consultation myself. On others, if there was not much going on, I’d come in for a couple of hours in the morning and then spend the rest of the day on the beach.

Ambulance Ghana

Akwidaa is pretty isolated (1.5 hours down a dirt road), so if you really need your creature comforts this is probably not the place for you! On the other hand, if you’re looking to experience first-hand the realities of an African village life, really want to get to know a bit about the realities of rural medicine in a resource-poor setting, and enjoy the challenge of working somewhere a bit off the beaten track,  then this should suit you down to the ground.

My accommodation was in a wooden hut on a pristine white sand beach, perfect for sunbathing and surfing in your time off. The local food is amazing and there are lots of places to explore nearby. Everyone I spoke to was incredibly friendly and interesting to talk to. If you ever get bored or fancy a change of pace, the city of Takoradi is about 2.5 hours away and makes a good base for weekend trips to the rest of the country.

I’m definitely glad I organised the elective myself, not just because of the cash I saved but also because it made the experience feel a bit more worthwhile. It also allowed me to tailor my trip exactly how I wanted it. The local guest house was happy to approach the clinic on my behalf and check that it would be okay for me to come. They also gave me the contact details of the clinic administrator based in Takoradi who was able to complete all the paperwork required by my medical school, and I had the opportunity to meet him in person when I passed through Takoradi on my way to the clinic.

Kieren with 2 nurses

I was responsible for organising all my transport, but Ghana is a relatively easy country to travel around – once you figure out the way the mini-bus taxis (tro-tros) work – and I didn’t have too much trouble finding my way to Akwidaa. I also had to organise my own visa, accommodation and food, but I had no problems doing this. The staff at the clinic even invited me to stay with them for a few days, which was a great way to experience genuine Ghanaian life (and cooking!). I wanted to take some medical supplies to Ghana with me and the charity, International Health Partners, was able to help me organise this. They put together a bespoke package of medication and equipment donated by drug companies and hospitals, and their contribution was hugely appreciated by the clinic when I arrived.

All in all, organising your own trip does require a bit more effort than letting a company take care of everything, but nothing was particularly difficult. I welcomed the flexibility it offered me and saved an absolute fortune. I’d highly recommend to anyone planning their elective to consider doing it the DIY way!

Dr Kieran Gillick
Bristol Royal Infirmary, UK

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