University of New England Strengthens Partnership in Ghana With Hands-On Outreach and Research and Education Symposium

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When University of New England (UNE) students, faculty and staff members depart Logan Airport on July 29 for Ghana, they will embark on much more than a transatlantic health exchange; they will be strengthening an important health, research and academic collaboration between two countries and two universities.

UNE Doctor of Physical Therapy student Megan Wyand checks the weight of donated medical supplies bound for Ghana

The Ghana Health Partnership was established to improve the health of the people of western Ghana through development and implementation of collaborative research, education and training programs with local and international partners.

The Ghana Health Partnership (GHP) was established as a formal program in spring 2010 to improve the health of the people of western Ghana through development and implementation of collaborative research, education and training programs with local and international partners. Its partners include the University of New England, University of Cape Coast (UCC), Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Health Mission, Inc. (GHM) and the Institute for Public Health and Water Research (IPWR).

The partnership grew out of a long-established health outreach program between UNE’s Westbrook College of Health Professions and the U.S.-based Ghana Health Mission, Inc. Close to 100 students and faculty from across all UNE Colleges have participated in five exchanges since 2008, providing direct care services, community health education and other unique programs in urban and rural communities in the Sekondi/Takoradi regions of western Ghana.

The UNE Center for Community and Public Health (CCPH), which conducts research, demonstration and planning studies throughout the U.S. and abroad, houses the partnership at UNE. The partnership through CCPH submitted three research grants over the past year—one on chronic disease and two on maternal and child health-system strengthening.

The 21 UNE students and faculty participating this summer comprise an interprofessional group of physicians, physician assistants (PA), pharmacists, nurses, physical therapists and dental hygienists, as well as undergraduate medical biology majors. Also joining the group is UNE alum Kathleen Keller, PA-C, a 2009 PA graduate who says, “I had the extreme honor of going to Ghana as a PA student, and it continues to shape my daily practice. I am very much looking forward to going again. I found the experience quite humbling and full of valuable learning experiences.”

The Ghana Health Service Western Region Director, Dr. Linda Vanotoo, as well as three GHM nurses, a dentist and an ophthalmologist, will join the team in August. Cataracts, river blindness and trachoma are common eye conditions in the region.

UNE volunteers have gathered 225 pounds of medical supplies donated by Portland-based Partners for World Health, which the team will use and distribute at the health mission in Sekondi.

In November 2010, leaders from the University of Cape Coast and Ghana Health Partnership traveled to Portland, Maine to participate in Ghana Health Week, a week of informative meetings, presentations, and faculty/student exchanges, combined with cultural events such as African drumming and dancing. On August 10-11, they are collaborating once again for an academic symposium, but this year will gather in Ghana at the University of Cape Coast’s oceanfront campus.

The 2011 symposium will focus on research and educational strategies that advance the work of the partnership, and the plenary session is entitled, “Excellence in Higher Education Across Borders.” Additional topics include:

  •     Sustainability of Chronic Disease Practice Innovations in Low Resource Communities
  •     Models of Change for Improving Maternal and Child Health in Rural Communities
  •     Water and Sanitation – Advancing Water Research That Impacts Health Status
  •     Sharing Evidence-Based Strategies for the Care of Rheumatologic Disorders
  •     Problem-based, Case-based Learning Teaching Methodologies – Lessons Learned and Shared from the University of Cape Coast
  •     Simulation Strategies to Introduce, Model and Educate Complex Health Situations
  •     Collaborative Strategies for Teaching, Implementing and Sustaining Cultural Understanding Within a Cross-Cultural Partnership
  •     Student Presentation on the Ghana Health Mission

About University of New England

The University of New England is a top-ranked independent university with two distinctive campuses located in the coastal communities of Biddeford and Portland, Maine. Named one of the best regional universities in America by US News & Report, UNE is a leader in health sciences education, biomedical research, and the liberal arts, offering student-centered, interdisciplinary programs in the College of Osteopathic Medicine, Westbrook College of Health Professions, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Pharmacy, and College of Graduate Studies. UNE is the leading provider of health care professionals in Maine; it offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs and has internationally recognized scholars in the liberal arts, sciences, health and medicine. For more information, visit http://www.une.edu.

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Kathleen Taggersell
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