Anesthesiology launches collaboration with hospital in Ghana

The Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has established a partnership with the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital and faculty of the University of Ghana Medical School to help improve medical care in that African nation while providing training opportunities for anesthesiology residents and fellows.

The partnership is sending anesthesiology subspecialty teams to work at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. It is the only full-service teaching hospital in the southern part of the country and one of the largest teaching hospitals in West Africa. In addition to being the only hospital in the country with surgical cardiac services, including open-heart procedures, more than 10,000 babies are born at Korle Bu each year. The hospital also trains general and subspecialty physicians from all over Ghana and other countries in West Africa.

The project has been established to honor the memory of Jennifer Wray Cole, MD, who was an associate professor of anesthesiology and a pediatric anesthesiologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Cole died July 2, 2011, from injuries sustained in a bicycling accident. She was 52.

“As a department, we had been trying to think of ways to honor Jennifer Cole since her death two years ago,” said Thomas E. Cox, MD, associate professor and vice chairman of education in the Department of Anesthesiology. “Jennifer had a personal interest in international health and medical education, so this international program was a wonderful way to remember her.”

Cox explained that Ghana is an attractive destination for Washington University faculty and trainees because it is an English-speaking country with a stable, democratic government and a warm, receptive culture. And because Korle Bu Teaching Hospital attracts some of the top students in West Africa, he believes the partnership can have an impact that will reach beyond Ghana.

Cox and David J. Murray, MD, the Carol B. and Jerome T. Loeb Professor and chief of pediatric anesthesiology at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, were the first faculty members on the Washington University team that worked at the hospital earlier this year. The pediatric team also included Jessica Crawford, MD, a pediatric anesthesiology fellow, and Deborah Trigg, MD, a senior anesthesiology resident. They spent four weeks in the African country developing education and quality-improvement programs in collaboration with the residents and faculty of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

“We want to develop a long-term partnership, which provides our trainees rewarding opportunities to collaborate with their Ghanaian colleagues on projects that benefit both groups,” Cox said. “Dr. Crawford and Dr. Trigg were able to bond with their Ghanaian counterparts while we were there, and that was wonderful to witness. Our hope is that the programs we develop will enable our Ghanaian colleagues to better care for their patients between our visits. We were pleased that on our first rotation in Ghana, we were able to get three new quality-improvement projects up and running.”

Ellen Lockhart, MD, associate professor of anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine, works alongside Divine Kwami, MD, a faculty member at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

In addition, all of the Washington University specialists delivered lectures and provided bedside teaching for trainees. And more rotations are scheduled. Following this visit from the pediatric anesthesiology group, anesthesiologists and trainees from the Divisions of Obstetric Anesthesiology and of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology will be traveling to Ghana for four-week rotations in January and April. In the future, physicians and trainees from critical care, pain management and other specialties also may rotate to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.

“Our hope is that each of our subspecialty groups can return on a regular basis to continue building relationships and developing programs,” he said. “In the future, we also may wish to explore the development of exchange programs, as well as joint training programs such as fellowships. Of course, there will be licensing and accreditation issues that will need to be addressed.”

Support for the Ghana program comes from the Jennifer Cole International Education Initiative Endowment Fund. Cox explained that as the Cole endowment grows, it may be possible to explore expansion of the international education initiative. Soon an application will be submitted to have Korle Bu Teaching Hospital approved as a permanent, international teaching site for the Department of Anesthesiology.

For more information about the Jennifer Cole International Education Initiative, follow this link.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.