In this blog post I want to explain what a normal day as a global health intern in Ghana looks like. I am stationed at the Friends Eye Center in Kumasi. On a normal day we wake up at 5:30 am and get ready for the day. Our driver Frances comes and picks us up at 6 AM. We leave and make our way through traffic and pick up the other staff members and the optometrist. We will then drive another 30 minutes to an hour to where we will set up our outreach. It depends on the day where we go. Sometimes we go to the city, other times we go to small villages or schools. Once we get there around 7:45 AM, we set up the tables and the shades where the doctor gives exams. One of us will usually fill out the record book and prepare for patients. Around 8 AM we play the speaker to announce the service we are providing. People start showing up and we first register them and charge them 3 cedis for the exam. They then take the visual acuity in both eyes. If they score less than a 6/12 we then use the refraction and retest their eyes. They can score anywhere from 6/60 to 6/6, counting fingers from the meters seen, hand motion or not, and perception of light or not. Usually if they receive hand motion or less they have cataracts. If they score perception of light that have very dense cataracts or are blind. After we record the score we send them to the doctor, where some days you can get the opportunity to shadow him. He then begins by asking what is bothering their eyes and then examines the back of their eye. Each patient is treated differently to their needs, but depending on their evaluation he prescribes them medication. Once they have their prescription they come to the distribution table where we help them understand the medicine they need and how to use it. You then hackle about price for a little until they finally understand we don’t lower the prices. After they have bought the eye drops or glasses you write the prescription and instructions on the packaging. You then record in the book what they bought, their name, age, and gender. You work at one of these stations for about six hours. Some days are really busy and some are slow. Around 1 or 2 pm you begin to pack up everything into the van. How the outreaches work are different for each eye clinic. How Friends Eye Center runs is very different than Crystal, but all are great!
Once you drop off the rest of the staff members we usually eat lunch with Dr. Wanyes family. He has three kids and a niece who are our friends so it’s fun to hang out with them. Their cook makes all kind of food from Ghanaian recipes like fufu, banku, or jollof rice, to normal American food. My favorite is the fruit salad or mango we have daily! Eating with Dr. Wayne’s family is very nice and you don’t get an opportunity like this in Accra so we really enjoy it!
After lunch we usually shower or rest. Then later in the evening we are free to do whatever we want. In Kumasi you can go to a really nice mall near by and grocery shop, or get dinner. We usually eat chicken and rice because that’s the best thing around! You can attend the culture center or even see a movie at the mall! This week on Tuesday we saw the new Avengers! So the mall is a really nice place to go to feel at home. We don’t go out every night since the driver has to take us and taxis are expensive, so some nights we stay in. In the guesthouse there’s not really a TV or enough WiFi to watch movies so we play cards, read, or listen to music. You get really close with the other students you are staying with since you have to entertain yourself! If you are in Ghana around the months of June it’s the rainy season, so expect the power to go out daily! It’s normal and I highly suggest a battery operated fan to sleep with in front of your face! Most days are pretty relaxed and you have time to build relationships with the staff members and the other students. Ghana’s culture is very relaxed and layed back, so don’t expect the hustle and bustle we have in America. You have to except things are slow paced and just reading a book or waiting around is okay. This was VERY difficult for me, since I like to keep myself busy, but I’m getting used to it, and practicing patience. Oh and expect about an hour wait for any food at a restaurant and your order to be wrong! Haha don’t get me wrong it’s amazing. At the end of the day you feel accomplished and were able to help lots of people! Being a global health intern is a great experience and I highly suggest it!