As I sit on my floor, simultaneously curating my first Ghana-themed Instagram and struggling to write this blog post (I’ve never done this before so bear with me), I look up at my clock only to realize that at this time tomorrow I’ll be boarding my flight to Accra, Ghana…I realize that I shouldn’t have said that because my flight will now undoubtedly be delayed. Anyways, I’d like to use my first blog post to explain my internship and what I’ll be doing in Ghana during my two and a half week stay.
If you knew me at all between the ages of nine and sixteen years old, you likely recall a lanky and jubilant Lara always enwrapped in or close to her scoliosis brace. My experience with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis is one that I am ever grateful for. My spinal curvature and its extensive treatment taught me many important lessons, like the insignificance of appearance and the value of discipline (wearing a piece of plastic around you for 20 hours a day ain’t easy). But most importantly, my scoliosis was my introduction to the world of medicine. Every minute in my back brace was worth it, as my struggle with scoliosis allowed me to uncover my love for medicine, especially orthopedics.
My doctor, Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, who at the time was the Chief of the Scoliosis Service at the world-renowned Hospital for Special Surgery, is the most humble and inspiring man I have ever had the honor of working with. Not only did Dr. B successfully treat my scoliosis, he mentored me in scoliosis research, which helped me decide to pursue pediatric orthopedic surgery (we’re talking long-term here, as I’m currently glaring at a stack of MCAT books). I am so fortunate that Dr. B introduced me to his organization, the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS). Through working with FOCOS and other similar organizations, I have decided to pursue a Master of Public Health in addition to medicine. Dr. B founded FOCOS after his own struggle with illness as a child in Ghana, and I encourage you to read more about his inspiring story and all that the foundation does here: FOCOS’s mission Great video about Dr. B’s story. There are more details on this blog’s “About FOCOS” page, as well.
FOCOS now owns and operates a comprehensive non-profit orthopedic hospital in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Patients from all over the world travel here to undergo extreme spinal and other orthopedic procedures, in addition to rehabilitation. These past two weeks I have interned at the FOCOS office in New York, learning about all that goes into building such a phenomenal organization, from raising funds to delivering supplies. However, I am most excited for the latter half of my internship that lies ahead. My 17 days in Ghana will involve shadowing surgeries, helping to prepare patients for surgery and rehabilitate them afterwards, and sharing special moments with the many children who live at the hospital for prolonged periods of time without any family. I am most excited to be immersed in the Ghanaian culture, teach and play with the pediatric patients, and study the many rare diseases and disabilities that Dr. B and his staff encounter. I will update this blog as often as possible with the unique stories and emotions that my time at the FOCOS Orthopedic Hospital will bring. And until my next post, nanteyie! (That means “bye” in Twi).