USAFE medics offer aid in Ghana

Story and photo by Capt. Jennifer Lovett
USAFE Public Affairs

***image2***Medics from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe arrived in Accra, Ghana, April 7 as part of a medical exchange initiative with the Ghana military and to help further a Naval research study on leishmaniasis, a parasite that causes skin sores.

The team is partnering with Ghana military physicians to conduct simultaneous humanitarian medical outreach for patients from Lake Volta villages, offering general dentistry, optometry and basic medical care as well as comparing and exchanging medical techniques with each other.

“It is an amazing opportunity to engage with our Ghananian counterparts and practice our specialties in a unique environment,” said Col. Paul Young, team lead deployed from the USAFE Surgeon General’s office at Ramstein.

After visiting with village elders, the team saw hundreds of patients per day at the local clinic in Taviefe, a village settled deep in the northern jungles of Ghana near Ho.

Tropical medicine involves unusual diseases or diseases that are not well researched or understood, including leishmaniasis, a skin disorder caused by parasitic bites from sandflies.

More than 1,500 cases have been reported by American soldiers in Iraq and 90 percent of the world’s cases are in the Middle East, which is why the U.S. Navy has made it the subject of a major study.

The team will also distribute more than 800 pairs of glasses to those who need them but will not treat illnesses that require long-term care due to a lack of appropriate follow-up care.

Preventive therapy and pain relief will be offered to the cases that can’t be treated due to extended follow-up care or lack of resources at the facility.

“We will provide whatever our resources and time allow for as many patients as we can see this week. Making someone’s life even a little more comfortable means a lot to their everyday function,” said Dr. Young “And as a provider, it means a lot to me.”