Ghana Blog: Returning to Rural Georgia

July 15th, 2018

     Growing up in a small town is something I have always cherished and felt so blessed by. I love knowing every person I went to school with and almost every person in my community. Coming into college at the University of Georgia, I did not realize that my background was not common among my peers. Almost every single person I met was from metro Atlanta or bigger cities. I graduated with about eighty students, and the only traffic I ran into on the way to school were tractors. UGA was a cultural shock for me to say the least. It took me months to figure out that going two miles in Athens took fifteen minutes, not two minutes. Despite the shock, over the past three years the University as well as Athens have become my home. I am so thankful for of all the opportunities we have as students. I am so thankful for the incredible people that I have met along the way. If it weren’t for my fine institution I would have never made it to Ghana with this program, which has undoubtedly changed my outlook on life, especially medicine.

            I say all that to say that living in a city like Athens has become comfortable to me. In my hometown I have to drive pretty far to do anything. I did not think anything about it until I came to the big city and everything was in arm’s reach. I have always had plans to return to my small town and serve the people that have done so much for me. Recently, I have been wondering if I was meant to serve in a place like Athens, or even Athens itself. I do love it so much and even call it home. I love my family, and they keep me grounded so it’s really hard for me to be two and a half hours from home. This has been a decision I have thought about a lot and honestly, I used to be torn, well until this program.

            Week three of our program we shadowed in Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital (PML for short). It was not the most glamourous looking place. It lacked organization and did not look too inviting. Week four, this past week, we shadowed in Greater Accra Regional Hospital (Ridge Hospital) and it was so nice and modern. Resources and staff were more abundant. It was equivalent to a nicer hospital in the United States. After shadowing in both hospitals, I can say the people at both places were extremely skilled at what they do. The only difference between the two is PML has substantially less resources. They may lack resources and facilities, but none of the doctors or nurses lacked any skills. Patients were being saved, and because of the lack of resources the practitioners had to be even more skilled at their jobs. One of the best things PML does is malnutrition rehabilitation. Parents with children that suffer from malnutrition flock to that hospital to receive adequate care. 

            I talked with a parliamentarian during one of our clinic weeks. He told me he had received education in the States and even lived and worked there for a while. His family still lived there, Delaware to be exact. I asked him why he wanted to stay in Ghana since his wife and child were not there. He looked at me and said, “The states are so nice, a dream even. But here in Ghana I know I am making the most difference, more than I ever could in the states. My people need me.” I was taken aback. He had a comfortable life with his family but chose to leave it to serve the people he loved. Talking to him and being in such different hospitals showed me that rural medicine is my true calling. I want to make the most difference in my hometown. It gives me hope that one day I will be able to take care of the people that have taken such good care of me. Resources are not everything, and it may take a little creativity to get the job done, but believe me, the job gets done. I just pray that I will receive the honor of practicing medicine in my little community. It would be a true privilege. 

For the last time,

Michelle Simmons

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