Alex Boulos, Healthcare & Public Health Intern from the U.S.A.

I am a first year Masters of Public Health student at George Washington University. I interned with Cheerful Hearts Foundation (CHF) from Mid-July to August 20, 2011. My time in Ghana with CHF was both rewarding and educational. It allowed me the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of subjects while also gaining hands-on experience.

One of the reasons my trip was so successful was the fact that I was able to identify with CHF’s mission of improving people’s lives. Eric, CHF’s director, is truly concerned about the issues that plague Ghana’s rural communities and hinder development.

My work in Ghana was divided between the UN Liberia refugee camp hospital (St. Gregory Catholic Clinic) and the Kasoa government hospital. At the Liberia camp, my mornings were spent shadowing the doctor as he did rounds, which proved to be extremely educational as Dr. Boadum was an eager teacher. Afterwards I worked in the severely understaffed emergency room with one nurse. Duties in the emergency room included giving injections, taking vital signs, setting lines for incoming patients, suturing, and cleaning and redressing wounds. While I had some practice in this field, this opportunity allowed me unprecedented hands-on experience. The best part of my job in the emergency room was the opportunity to interact with patients or their relatives, through whom you learn so much.

I spent the majority of my time at the St. Gregory Catholic Clinic at the UN Liberia Refugee Camp. However, on the weekends (Saturday overnight shift) and occasionally in the afternoon, I worked at the Kasoa government hospital. My work there was primarily in the maternity ward where I worked as a midwife. I had learned how to deliver from a previous work experience in Haiti, however, my time at Kasoa hospital allowed me to gain invaluable hands-on experience in the delivery room. On my first night on duty, I met with a midwife named Cecilia who patiently taught me everything I needed to know. When 3 women simultaneously started delivering, I was forced to conduct a delivery on my own for the first time. After that experience, I felt comfortable attending to deliveries without any assistance and continued to do so throughout my time in Ghana.

Another aspect of my work at the St. Gregory Catholic Clinic was more public health focused. While at the hospital, I observed several behaviors, which put both the patients and the health care staff at increased risk. At the Liberia camp, I worked with the Medical Director and held a meeting to discuss the proper use of personal protective equipment and proper isolation from a patient’s body fluids. I also held a small training session on the proper handling of sharps and other invasive tools. At the Kasoa hospital, another intern (Eliza Mette) and I went to a medical supply store and purchased several items to help protect both the staff and the mothers in the maternity ward.

Finally, on the weekends, Eric and Bright took us around Ghana, where we got to see some interesting monuments and visited Kakum National Park. I immersed myself in the culture, tasting all the delicious meals prepared by our amazing host, Angie. We got to eat local foods like Kelewele, which quickly became my favorite!

Our accommodation was very comfortable and after dinner, we would often sit with Eric in his living room and play music or talk about a variety of topics.

Overall, this was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to make some great friends, learn about a country, its culture and its people, and help those in need, all while gaining an immense amount of experience in the health care field. Interning with CHF is more than just volunteering; it’s an experience that combines your desire to help people and the educational opportunity of a lifetime.

Thank you, Eric, Bright, Angie and all of the CHF staff for a great summer!