A practicing Ghanaian doctor based in the United States, Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy, has said that despite being an alumnus of the University of Ghana Medical School (UGMS), he could not graduate. from school.
He said he was kicked out 6 months before graduation and has carried the disappointment of not graduating from UGMS with him since then.
In a post on the 60th anniversary of UGMS, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) stalwart said, “The University of Ghana Medical School is 60 years old and there is much justifiable pride in its incredible journey. .
“Before thinking about the great institution, allow me to make a confession. Although I am a proud alumnus of UGMS, I am not a graduate. I graduated from 4 universities with certificates from 2 others but not from UGMS. I was kicked out 6 months before graduation and have carried the disappointment of not graduating from UGMS with me ever since.
“I prefer reflections to celebrations because the latter tend to focus primarily on accomplishments. The reflections, in my opinion, are more complete.
“Surprisingly, I did not appreciate the exceptional quality of UGMS before moving to North America. Here, I found that my education was considered superior to that obtained in most other parts of the world. In the halls and in the classrooms here, I met professors who were elated in extracting from the students the details that were part of our travels in virtually every department of Korle-bu, and they loved a student who could provide them.
Below is his full article…
REFLECTIONS ON [email protected]
The University of Ghana Medical School is 60 years old and there is much justifiable pride in its incredible journey.
Before thinking about the great institution, allow me to make a confession. Although I am a proud alumnus of UGMS, I am not a graduate. I graduated from 4 universities with certificates from 2 others but not from UGMS. I was kicked out 6 months before graduation and have carried the disappointment of not graduating from UGMS with me ever since.
I prefer reflections to celebrations because the latter tend to focus primarily on accomplishments. The reflections, in my opinion, are more complete.
Surprisingly, I didn’t appreciate the exceptional quality of UGMS before moving to North America. Here, I found that my education was considered superior to that obtained in most other parts of the world. Here in the halls and in the classrooms I met teachers who elated themselves in extracting from the students the details which were the stuff of our travels in practically every department of Korle-bu. And they loved a student who could provide them.
At UGMS, I encountered a dizzying collection of teachers at all levels. Indeed, after training in many hospitals and schools, it would be difficult to identify a better collection of teachers than those I met at UGMS. And some of them were classmates. However, the cake for the best one-hour lecture of my life would go to Professor Nii Lomotey Engmann. It was 1982 and our classes had taken less time than usual when we returned from the student work group. Of these, perhaps none had baffled us more than neuroanatomy. During our review period, one morning Professor Engmann walked in. He casually announced that he had heard of our struggles and performed a spellbinding review conference that made all the gibberish weeks understandable.
Unfortunately, while our faculty passed the academic excellence part, the empathy and encouragement part fell a little short. UGMS was hierarchical and our lecturers were considered omnipotent gods who could destroy a student’s career for the slightest mistake. I remember once when a professor announced that we had to show up for lectures on Wednesday afternoons, I raised my hand and argued that we felt overwhelmed and needed of our Wednesday afternoons to catch up. He seemed surprised and irritated by my repression and announced, “You are going to show yourself! Many of my friends, who agreed with me, warned me to stop talking and attracting unnecessary attention from teachers! I also remember the day when a teacher said to the class: “There are some among you, even when you fail, you are surpassed. There are others, even when you are passing through, we will disappoint you”!
While there are sympathetic and compassionate teachers out there, a teacher should never say this to a class and such feelings ensured that most of us were mostly on eggshells. Such incidents have failed to model the habits of caring and empathy that are essential to the development of human doctors. Hopefully the passage of time has rendered these practices obsolete. But to the extent necessary, we must protect the students and make the UGMS, in addition to the place of excellence that it is, a place that nourishes the spirit in addition to the mind.
Ironically, it was a few weeks after the above incident that I had a conversation that profoundly changed my approach to medicine. I had gone to speak to Professor Andoh about a problem on behalf of my class when he asked me to sit down. He said he was concerned about training my generation.
“We train you to be medical technicians who can diagnose, write prescriptions and operate, but you can’t connect with people.” When I asked why, he said he believed that before becoming a doctor, people should be grounded in the great classics and languages. He explained that such training makes future doctors more mature, more compassionate and more rounded in their outlook.
Another shortcoming that I point out is our training in emergency care. I remember, as a junior orderly, having to resuscitate an unconscious patient with one of my colleagues who will remain anonymous. We lost the patient. Looking back, I am convinced that if more experienced providers had been present, this patient could have lived. I bring this up because years later a doctor collapsed in Korle-bu and died. Hopefully UGMS and Korle-bu can put together an emergency treatment system worthy of our illustrious reputation.
Before tackling the theme of this celebration, allow me to come back to my beginnings with the UGMS. I missed my interview announcement because I didn’t have access to the logs. Despite this and having no connection, I was admitted. This application of meritocracy, combined with its longstanding positive policy towards women and underrepresented schools, should make every Ghanaian proud of UGMS. Indeed, our founding president Nkrumah would be proud.
I note that the theme of this celebration is the role of medical technology in improving the quality of medical education. It’s a big theme. Since I spent 2 years teaching medicine at UCC, I have thought a lot about our medical education. While it’s a good thing that UGMS has about 5 times larger classes than when I was a student, the number of faculty, infrastructure and technology has not kept pace. At some point, I’m afraid it will start to affect the quality of our graduates. This concern is shared by many medical graduates and teachers. Technology, as the president has rightly pointed out, can make medical education more accessible to those who would otherwise be denied it. Additionally, technologies can be deployed to augment our faculty by having faculty/physicians in the provision teach our medical and postgraduate students, as well as assist in patient care.
Finally, we must redouble our efforts to engage our alumni. It would be great to have an alumni-supported foundation with an endowment that would help improve the quality of our medical education.
May UGMS grow more and more and continue to produce graduates who, in addition to doing no harm, will make our nation healthy and proud.
Arthur Kobina Kennedy (March 27, 2022)
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