October 17, 2023

Welcoming visiting students from Ghana

Two Ghanaian medical students observing in the Women’s Hospital Birth Center are the first from Africa to visit Michigan Medicine since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Esther Odjer and Puumaya Yakubu
Esther Odjer (left) and Puumaya Yakubu, in Ann Arbor for clinical rotations with the Ob-Gyn Department, are the first medical students from Ghana to visit the Michigan Medicine since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Puumaya Yakubu and Esther Odjer, both University of Ghana students with one year remaining in their six-year training program, arrived in Ann Arbor in late September for their one-month rotations. For both, the visit marks their first time to U-M and the US.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to come here,” Odjer said. “It’s a chance to see how medicine is practiced in the United States and hopefully learn some new skills and techniques that I can take back. Particularly, I hope to see how laparoscopy is used for minimally invasive procedures. In Ghana, these surgeries are still rare but becoming more prevalent.”

UMMS enjoys international exchange agreements with 24 medical schools around the world, including the University of Ghana. Prior to the pandemic, Michigan Medicine hosted up to 40 international students each year in clinical spaces, and sent a similar number of UMMS students abroad for electives. Travel restrictions and staffing issues related to the pandemic saw those numbers fall dramatically.

Outgoing student travel volumes normalized late last year. Earlier this year, Michigan Medicine began welcoming international students back into clinical spaces, although not yet in numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels. Since March, students from Japan, Ireland, Israel and Ghana have visited UMMS.

“We are firm believers in fostering equitable partnerships with our collaborating institutions, and reciprocity is a vital aspect of that commitment,” said Joseph Kolars, MD, MACP Professor of Internal Medicine, Health Professions Education, and the Director of Global REACH at UMMS as well as the U-M Center for Global Health Equity.

“Our partner institutions, often pressed for resources to begin with, are gracious to accept our learners and make meaningful contributions to their medical education,” Kolars said. “It is likewise an honor for us to welcome their students.”

Partner institutions like the University of Ghana select their top medical students for rotations at Michigan Medicine. Global REACH facilitates many aspects of their visit, helping to secure housing, providing a campus orientation, administering training, and more. Two more Ghanaian students are expected in December for observerships in Neurosurgery and Pediatrics. Because of the long history of UMMS collaborations in Ghana around maternal health, many of the visiting Ghanaian students have rotated in the Ob-Gyn Department.

“While this is changing, most of the providers in Ghana are still men,” said Yakubu. “I was interested in going into obstetrics because of this—having more women at the center of the care team is important to our expectant mothers. We can elevate their voices.”