In June 2011, while still a relatively inexperienced physician, I elected to help establish a medical clinic in northern Ghana’s rural district of Kpandai. The five-bed clinic was staffed by only one midwife, one physician’s assistant, one technician and a handful of lab workers; a doctor was needed to lead this team. I had chosen to fill this role despite feeling both overwhelmed and scared. Just two months after my arrival, tragedy struck the district. In August, the Oti River burst its banks and displaced many people. Cholera broke out, and my team and I organized medical outreach to the displaced communities. Because of flooding, we had to travel to these communities via boat. On one such trip, my boat capsized. Unable to swim, I nearly drowned, but fortunately I was wearing a life jacket. In the aftermath of that event, I said to myself, “I have been saved; there is something important I must do with my life. I have to do more for people.” I was no longer scared. My team brought the outbreak under control within one week and recorded no fatalities. Leveraging the health challenges our district faced after the floods, I lobbied government authorities to help my team meet the hospital's most critical needs. Among my goals was to increase the region's in-hospital maternal deliveries, which were at only 17 percent. Many mothers-to-be delivered at home, and maternal or infant deaths were common. I initiated a health education campaign and mobile phone call program that increased the region's institutional delivery rate to 90 percent within two years. My passion for public health was sparked.
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