Dear Martin

Dear Martin,

Happy Birthday!

You would have been 88 today had it not been for that day in Memphis….well, today is special so I won’t dwell on that.
Are you having a party up there? Did Coretta throw you one? Whatever you are doing today, have fun!

I hate to bother you with this but things are not going so well down here. The nation is divided more than ever. There is so much divisiveness and rancor. We cannot see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. People are still judged by the color of their skin with disastrous consequences. The poor keep getting poorer and injustices are rampant.
You know that Valley of Despair you asked us not to wallow in? Well, some of are living there now!.
If I may borrow your words and change them to reflect how things are:
In spite of our faith, we are unable to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. In spite of this faith, we are not be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. Even with this faith, we cannot work together, pray together, struggle together, go to jail together, stand up for freedom together….we are broken!
So on this day, do pray for this great nation. This nation that you loved so much. Pray for us because we need it!
Enjoy the rest of your wonderful day!

Sincerely,

Nanadadzie

Do it Well

“Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”
― Vince Lombardi Jr.

My friend, the Rev Albert Ocran, has a radio show on Joy 99.7 FM in Accra on Sundays called “Springboard”. He usually dwells on motivational and educational themes. Sometime last year, he did a series titled “10 Critical Success Factors”. Over a period of like 8 weeks, he talked to a string of thought leaders and entrepreneurs about what they saw as their 10 critical success factors.
One Sunday whilst listening, I thought of my own journey to figure out this puzzle called life. It started actively back in 1995, during a period of broken dreams. In the process I realized that unlike getting a formal education, life lessons are not taught formally as we grow from childhood into young adulthood. They are imparted loosely by parents and other family members. Sometimes by teachers, even friends or at church. In a period marked by working hard to attain a professional degree or learn a trade, life lessons take the back bench. That is until life rears it’s ugly head.
So I wondered if I could tease out 10 lessons from all that I had leant since I started on my journey of figuring things out. Over the next fews days, memories came rushing back and in that torrent, I was able to tease out 10 lessons – my critical factors.
Recent events have reminded me of one of these lessons. It is the one lesson that guides me most in my professional life. I am not always successful at letting it guide but I try.
It is a lesson gleaned from a story my mum told me as a boy. The story stuck with me and as I got older, it always seem to prove itself.
The lesson is: DO IT WELL!
It is the notion that whatever you do in life, do it well. Do it like you were doing it for yourself. Aim for excellence. Do that procedure well. Nurse that patient well. Defend that case well. Run that business well. Sell those goods well. Treat your wife or husband well. Raise your kids well. Preach that sermon well. Teach those kids well.
Now let me see if I can tell the story mum told me well:
In a city far away lived a very wealthy man. He loved new mansions. Every so often he had his favorite builder build him a mansion. He would live in there a few months or maybe a year and then get the builder to build him another. He had mansions dotting the city.
Then a major recession hit the city. For all that time, the builder never heard from his wealthy client. Things were hard for the builder but he managed. Then the economy recovered and business started to pick up again. The builder was busy again. After almost 2 years, the wealthy man contacted the builder. He wanted another mansion. This time, the wealthy man wanted the builder to use the most expensive marble, wood and stones. It was to be a masterpiece. The builder however was bitter. He felt the wealthy man should have reached out during the recession. He also felt the wealthy man never paid him enough for all the good work he did. He agreed to build the mansion but instead of using the best materials, he fudged. He used the cheapest marble and stones. The foundation wasn’t well-laid and the walls were weak. The roof shook when the wind blew and the windows clattered. It was his worst work.
The day arrived when the builder invited the wealthy man to take ownership of the mansion. The wealthy man met him in front of the mansion all smiles. The builder handed him the keys.
Then the wealthy man said:
“All these years, you have built me one great mansion after the next. I have been unwell these last few years and had to travel for treatment. I couldn’t help you during the recession. Now I am back and want to say thank you. This mansion is my gift to you for always doing things so well. You are the epitome of excellence”
With that he handed the shocked builder the keys to the mansion. Even as the builder took the keys, all he could think of was, “I should have built this well!”.
He should have.
Do it well!

Where I’m from

I can’t stop writing when I get emotional…I’m filled with so much pride and joy now….teary, really…

You ask me where I’m from
I’ll tell you in a moment
Within pride beats like a drum
Choking off all comment.
The land is far away
Between desert and sea
The sun shines each day
On people who are free.
On a continent full of strife
They seek the way of peace
Fighting for a better life
That struggle will never cease.
Ghana, that great nation on the hill.
Ghana, where the light shines still.

Rise

A Dedication to the Inauguration of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
5th President of the 4th Republic of Ghana
On January 7, 2017

Deep discontent covers the land
The winds are empty and bland
Hollow are the echoes of song
From voices that are not strong.
They seek from the depths to rise
Their fates for better to revise
Blessed with life, wisdom and gold
Their true story needs to be told.

From the fire of their zeal
And desire this nation to heal
Arises a great and mighty Spirit
A strong reminder of their merit.
She criss-crosses the land
Her intentions quite grand
A new beginning to spark
The start of a rebirth to mark.

“Rise Up!”, she calls,
“You’ve been asleep too long.
In slumber you do not belong
Then your destiny you must craft
In you all is already a draft.
You Fantis, Tafis and Akyems
Hear me you Gas and Akuapems
Listen you of Kumasi and Lolobi
The Krobo, Buno and Mossi.”

“Rise Up!”, she calls
“You galamsey in the pits
You who in Makola sits.
The farmer in the field
Toiling for a great yield.
The policeman and the teacher
The nurse and the preacher
The doctor and the lawyer
Each has something to offer.”

“Rise up!”, she calls
“From Axim to Bawku
From Sampa to Kpandu
Rise up and be amazed
As your Ghana is raised
By your work and passion
Your love and compassion
To sit atop that destined hill
It’s light a testament of will.

The Day the Soldiers Came – A Christmas Story

She crept cautiously out of the forest after the gunfire and explosions ceased.
One couldn’t be too careful. At the edge was a large Mahogany tree. From behind it, she peered out towards the village or what was left of it. Smoke rose steadily from some homes still on fire and there was that pungent smell. It reminded her of the fire crackers from last Christmas.
There was no one in sight. She had lost the kids in the melee after the attack started and now she didn’t know even if they were still alive. She crept forward.
As she made her way towards the remnants of the first home, she did so with bated breath, not knowing whether there still attackers out there. 
She made her way to the charred remains of a the big hut. Then she stopped as tears slowly welled up in her eyes. There were dead bodies as far as she could see. Men, women, children. Even dogs. The tears kept coming.
She crept further, carefully stepping over bodies. 
The wind blew steadily, creating an eerie tone as it whistled through the trees. 
She crept further.
Besides the wind was nothing else – just an eerie silence. Not even a moan.
In the distance, she heard a voice call out;
”Islah!”
”Momolu!”
It kept calling, a terrified screaming quality to the voice.
Then it dawned on her – she was standing in front of the remnants of her home yelling for her kids who were no where to be found.
The tears kept falling!
That is when she felt the touch and a small voice say “Mama”.
She spun around.
Before her stood a little girl, covered in blood and soot. She was holding her arms and saying “Mama” over and over. She wasn’t hers but did it matter?
She dropped to her knees, took the child in her arms and pressed her close as she sobbed.

Islay and Momolu ran as fast as their legs could carry them. Behind them, they could still hear sporadic gunshots. In the melee, they had lost their mother. So they ran like everybody else, away for the gunshots. They stayed close to each other, Momolu leading the way. He wasn’t sure but it looked like they were all running towards the church. He looked to his side and realized Islay was starting to lag. Momolu slowed down till she caught up. Soon they could see the church. Just then he heard Islay yell and as he turned, she had vanished. He stopped, looking all around him. The he heard her:
“Momolu! Momolu! I am in here!”
He ran back towards the sound of her voice and soon came to the edge of a pit. He stopped. Looking down, he saw his sister in there. She must have slipped and fallen in there. Momolu looked around. He saw a long tree branch lying at the other side of the pit. He ran to get it. Then he lowered it into the pit, hoping that he could pull his sister out of it with it.
That is when the gunshots erupted. Momolu swung around and was terrified at what he saw. From the church had appeared a lot of armed men who were shooting down the people heading for that building. He slid into the pit and lay the branch across the entrance. He cowered down, covering Islay who was crying silently.
The woman and the little girl kept walking. Everywhere were dead bodies. It was truly a terrible sight. She carried the child till she tired and then she set her down and made her walk a bit.
When they got to the next village, the same gory sight met them. That was when something seem to snap in the woman. She just sat down and starting weeping uncontrollably. The little girls stood next to her repeating “Mama” endlessly. Suddenly a gunshot interrupted the weeping. And then several more. Sadness had now changed to terror as the woman wondered what to do. Looking around, she saw a small pile of dead bodies. She picked up the child, gently asked her to be quiet and crept towards the dead bodies. With the child in her left arm, she burrowed into the bodies and soon looked like one of them. She prayed that the child would not make a sound. The gunshots came closer. Then she heard them – the rebel soldiers, speaking in their dialect. They were arguing over whether to set all the villages on fire or not. One argued that it would hide the carnage. Another argued against it. he thought it would draw more attention. He explained that the UN forces were not that far and that they needed to get away. After what seems like forever, the second soldier won the argument and she heard them walk away. The woman waited a little while longer and then slowly burrowed out, covered by blood. She retched and vomited all over the dead bodies.

A soldier from the UN Peacekeeping Force found Islah and Momolu hiding in the pit as they looked for survivors the next day. Together with a few other survivors, they were taken to the UN Camp about 60 miles away. The soldiers wondered how the survivors had even made it. The rebel soldiers had killed everything moving and seemingly breathing.

Another battalion of UN soldiers found the woman with the child among the dead bodies, about 5 miles from where her kids, Islay and Momolu were found. She was incoherent and kept muttering “Islay, Momolu, Islay, Momolu…”. She was taken together with the child to a camp run by the USAID about 45 miles away.

 
SIX YEARS LATER
Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Kiki’s Afro Shop on Southland had become a meeting place of people who were far from home – Africans, Asians, South Americans and even the occasional Eastern European. In her very well-stocked store with groceries and meats from around the world, these immigrants were often reminded of the smells and tastes of homes they had left behind.
Kiki, herself an immigrant, ran a great outfit. Even more commendable was her always-welcoming smile and willingness to help each customer find what they wanted, recommend alternatives and discuss recipes. In the 18 months that she had been in business, she had supplanted some of the earlier ethnic stores not only because of how well-stocked her store was but because of her biggest asset – her listening ear. To many of these immigrants, she had become that shoulder they could lean on and someone they could turn to for advice about everything. Surprisingly even if she didn’t have the answer, she always knew who one could call for help.

Richard and Amber Richter were so happy to discover Kiki’s. When they returned form Liberia with the two children they adopted a year earlier, they had some challenges. The kids had a hard time adapting to the American diet. Then was the issue of the girl’s hair. They wanted it braided beautifully but they really didn’t know where to start. Unfortunately, there were no African-Americans in their little church in Danville where they lived.
One day after church, Amber Richter was talking to a church member about this. This member worked in Lexington and remarked that he had heard of an Afroshop where they might be able to find African groceries and recipes. He was able to get them the address and phone number by the next Sunday.
The next Saturday, the Richters drove to Lexington with the children. They found the store easily using their GPS system.
Kiki welcomed them warmly. The Richters introduced themselves and the two children – Islay and Momolu. Kiki noticed how protective Momolu was of his sister. Kiki recommend several simple West African dishes they could make, and helped them to get the ingredients for them.
Just before they left, Amber Richter asked:
“Kiki, do you know anyone who could braid Islay hair like yours?’
“Yes! The lady who braided mine is also from Liberia. She comes quite here often. When you are here next, I will arrange so you meet her”, Kiki said.
The Richter’s thanked her and left.

Lisa Mulbah had come a long way. Very far from that day when she had to burrow into dead bodies to escape certain death. She sat in class trying to concentrate on the lecture about the immune system. Eighteen months ago, she arrived in the US as a refugee and was sent to Lexington. The city had become a home away from home. Everyone has been most welcoming and she still could not believe how lucky she was sometimes. Now she was in nursing school and had a life ahead of her. She missed her kids, Islay and Momolu, greatly. She often wondered what had happened to them. The mother in her told her that they were still alive and that one day she would find them again. She sighed, her eyes misting over. Then she thought of Japlo, her little girl. The little girl who had called her ‘Mama” among all the carnage that fateful day. He parents had never been found and Lisa was allowed to adopt her. She had named her Japlo, meaning “Beautiful”. She was beautiful and had brought beauty into her life which would have been otherwise empty and arid. Besides providing a life for Japlo, she was driven by the hope that one day, she would find her children again.
The lecture ended mercifully and as she packed up her books, her phone buzzed. It was Kiki. She picked up.

It was two weeks before Christmas and the winter had arrived in full force. It was really cold that Friday afternoon as Lisa made her way down Southland to Kiki’s. From the first day they met, she and Kiki had become friends and what a great friend she was. She had been of the utmost assistance as she settled in, guiding her every inch of the way.
Lisa was great at braiding hair and she was known among both the African as well as African-American women in town as the go-to person for the best hair-dos. Before she started nursing school, she took on any client. With a lot less time these days, she had restricted her services to a few clients, number one being Kiki. Earlier in the week, Kiki had called about a possible client she highly recommended. She was going to the Afroshop to meet them.
The kids had no school that Friday so Amber was driving with them to Lexington to meet the lady who might be able to braid Islay’s hair. They were meeting at Kiki’s. It would be great if she could get it done before Christmas Day.

Amber Richter and the kids opened the door to Kiki’s store, rushing in to escape the cold wind whipping through Lexington. As usual, Kiki was behind the counter and came around when she saw them. She hugged each to them.
“Well, is she here?”, Amber Richter asked.
“She is at the back”, Kiki answered.
“Lisa, they are here”, Kiki called.
Lisa was using the restroom when she heard Kiki call. She washed her hands and headed towards the front of the shop. She could see Kiki, who had he back to her. She was talking to an older white lady. Lisa walked up and stood beside Kiki.
“There you are. Lisa. Meet Mrs Richter”, Kiki said as she did the introductions.
“Amber”, Mrs Richer said as she stuck out her right hand.
“Lisa Mulbah”, Lisa said as she shook Amber’s hand.
Even as she shook Amber’s hand, her attention was riveted on the two children who stood before her. There was something about them. As she starred at them, she noticed the boy also starring at her.
“Momulu?’, she ventured tentatively.
“Mama? Is that you?”, the boy replied.
“Momolu Mulbah! Is that you? And Islay?”, Lisa screamed.
“Mama!”, Islay screamed.
Kiki and Amber looked on shocked as Lisa embraced her kids and they began to weep.
After a while, Romulu turned to Amber and said:
“Mama Amber, this is our mother that we lost that day the soldiers came”.
It has been six years but the bond between a mother and her children is unbreakable.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

They were at all Kiki’s home for Christmas dinner. Amber and Joseph Richter, Momolu and Islay, Lisa, Japlo, Kiki, her husband and their two kids. The house was filled with the smell of goat meat soup, grilled fish and fried red plantain. There was cake in the oven.
The last weeks had been nothing short of crazy. What were the odds that a mother would lose her children in the heat of war and find them years later at the other side of the world but that is exactly what had happened.
The last time Lisa saw her kids, Momolu was seven and Islay was six. Now Momolu was taller than her and Islay was as tall as she was. Life, she thought.
The Richters were an older couple who already had grown children. They were doing missionary work in Liberia, saw the kids at an orphanage and felt an urge to adopt them. Little did they know that that they were the vehicle for a much higher purpose. Richard Richter thought it was poignant that it happened the reunion occurred during the holiday season. As he watched Lisa talking to her kids, his heart swelled with love, pride and faith. Even though a DNA test was pending, he didn’t need that to see that they had helped to bring a family together again. He turned to look at his wife. Amber was sitting quietly with a smile on her face watching Lisa and the kids. Somehow Richard knew that Amber felt the same..
Just then Kiki swept into the family room where they were all waiting to announce that dinner was ready. They all got up and headed towards the dining room.

Later that evening, Kofi, Kiki’s husband, proposed a toast:
“This is to life and all it’s trials and tribulations. This is to love, compassion and empathy. Qualities that made Richard and Amber reach out to Islay and Momolu…made Lisa find Japlo. This to Providence, a power that sustains us and guides us in ways we cannot even fathom. This is to all who tonight are afflicted, lost and suffering. This is to hope that the world will care more. Merry Christmas!”

Outside, a cold wind blew but in that home that night it was warm. Even warmer than that day when the soldiers came….

Lean On Me

Many years ago, while spending some time in the lab, I had a part-time job in home healthcare. I had three patients. They were all over 85 years old. The only male patient among the three had had a stroke and his loving wife needed help taking care of him. She was an extremely loving woman but of a slight build so it was really hard for her to do all she had to do for her sick husband. They didn’t have kids but the love they had for each other filled the home.
The other patients – two women – provided an interesting case study. They were both in their 90s. One was a widower while the other never married. The widower had spent her life working with the homeless and needy the other used to be an attorney. They both never had children. However, the home of the widower was always warm and welcoming. The other not so. The widower got visits constantly from nephews and nieces. In the year that I took care of them, I met only one relative of the old attorney – a young nephew. He visited once. I gathered there was more family out there but they never visited. The widower was spry, active, witty and sharp. The old attorney not so much. Somehow, she was always ill even though she really had no debilitating chronic ailment.
Over time I wondered what role the family of lack thereof played a role in the health of these patients. The man who had had a stroke was sick but mending nicely from all the care from his loving wife. The widower was was always looking forward to a nephew or niece visiting and looked great for her age in spite of several chronic conditions. The attorney, well…
That year made me think of family a lot. It made me think of the support that family brings. It made me wonder about the warmth it can create and the health benefits.

Years later, I found myself in Kentucky. Now Kentuckians are very family-oriented people. Having my extended family in Ghana, they make me miss them everyday. Each morning in the preoperative area in the hospital, one can see several children and grandchildren waiting to give a grandma a kiss before she goes off for her new valve, fathers surrounded by kids before that knee replacement, mothers with sisters before that mastectomy – all celebrating family and the art of support.
Imagine my surprise one morning when I went to see a patient preoperatively and did not see a soul with him. Of course I had to bore. The man was in his mid-60s. I found out that he was divorced and not in contact with his former wife. He had no children but had one living brother who lived in another state. I asked if the brother was going to be there. He said no. The nurse asked if he had the brother’s number so she could call him and keep him up to date (During surgeries, there is one family member who is kept up to date on the progress of the procedure). He said he didn’t have a number and that they communicated by email! I was stunned. By email?
He went on to have his surgery and did well but all day that day, I couldn’t get him out of my mind. It made me think of family and support….again!
Facing surgery and anesthesia is a very intimidating prospect for most patients. Even tough men who have been through the rigors of war show cracks preoperatively. Having loved ones around helps one greatly through this time. The immediate expression of love and support reassures and raises one’s spirits. To imagine a patient going through this period alone boggled my mind.

Now sometimes family can be a hindrance. Family members can be disruptive and delay decisions on important procedures. Everyone in OB knows of the husband who passes out at the sight of the epidural needle, gets a concussion and unintentionally delays his wife’s care. In all however, family support in times of illness is indispensable.

It is not only in the perioperative period that family support is advantageous. Another important instance where family matters is in the care of people with chronic diseases. Patients with diabetes, cystic fibrosis, mental health problems and even addiction all do better when there is support at home. Several studies show that this support prolongs lives and decreases the incidence of complications. Family helps patient keep their medical appointments, monitor parameters like their blood sugar and blood pressure and take their prescribed medications. They provide the emotional support that is often so direly needed.
Even though the overriding theme in this piece seems to be about family, it is really about support in the time of illness and need. After all those years, I kept seeing the importance of support. Support through the tough times help emotionally but also seem to translate into more stable vital signs, faster healing and better outcomes. Even though it comes easier and more readily from family, in the absence of one, good friends can offer that support. It reminds me of the refrain from the old Bill Withers’ song:

“Lean on me when you’re not strong,
I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on.
For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on.”

Over the years one thing is become rather clear – that in the art of healing, support may be the part we physicians cannot control but is direly needed.

The Rant

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”.
– an Old saying of controversial origin.

Somewhere in Middle America….

What the heck is going on here?
I can hardly recognize this place anymore! Everywhere I go, I hear and see strange people! Where did they come from? Walk down Main Street. Half the stores have names I cannot even pronounce.
Thirty years ago, we were 85% of the population. Now we are only 60%! Let that sink in – 60%. At this rate, we will be an endangered species in 50 years!
They are coming from everywhere, taking our jobs here and shipping the rest out. Look at our towns – deserted landscapes of boarded-up homes and factories!
Together with those bleeding hearts, they even made one of them President and he wasn’t even born here. Consider that! Even worse, I hear he worships differently! And he is President!
He wants to take our money and our guns. He wants to weaken us so he can rule forever.
Now they march around openly claiming they matter more than we do. The nerve! The absolute nerve!
Even scarier are those who want to kill us off, change how we worship and replace our laws. I say, stop them all from coming in. We need some law and order now!
We built this country with our sweat and blood. We fought for it. Our ideas made it what it is. It is ours. We want it back! We need to take it back! We used to be the greatest. Now, we are but a shadow of who we are. I say, we need that greatness back now!
I sit and listen to all theses clowns wanting to be president and wonder if any of them sees things the ways I do and has the guts to say what needs to be said!
I wonder, I really do…

Thoughts from the 2016 DNC

I’ve long been guided by this saying by George Bernard Shaw:
“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”
I guess the Obamas believe in the same thong and that’s why the FLOTUS said:
“…How we explain that when someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is, when they go low, we go high.”

Michelle

I’ve always sought to reconcile how this country was founded and the ideals she was founded on. Monday night, Sen Cory Booker of NJ said these words that got me thinking:
“But our founding documents weren’t genius because they were perfect. They were saddled with the imperfections and even the bigotry of the past…
But those facts and ugly parts of our history don’t distract from our nation’s greatness. In fact, I believe we are an even greater nation, not because we started perfect, but because every generation has successfully labored to make us a more perfect union.”

The US is a great nation not only for what she has been, what she is now but the potential she still holds. Change and progress have come in fits and starts but come they have. I look at how divided the nation is now and wonder if it is a fit or a start. I hear the vitriol and rancor and wonder if we can really get it right this time!
History is an interesting thing. If it is not revised, it is a great tool….
After Michelle Obama’s speech on Monday, there was a claim by Bill O’Reilly of Fox that the slaves who worked on the White House were “well-fed”.
Well, there is actually a first hand account that disputes this claim and is from no other than Abigail Adams, the wife of the John Adams, the 2nd President of the US. She moved into the WH while it was still under construction. David Graham has a piece in the Atlantic about this so I pulled up the reference, which is a letter Abigail Adams wrote. It can be found in the National Archives.

“In the letter to her uncle, a Dr Cotton Tufts, she writes:
From Abigail Smith Adams to Cotton Tufts,
28 November 1800
Columbia City of Washington Novbr 28 1800
Dear Sir
…. The effects of Slavery are visible every where; and I have amused myself from day to day in looking at the labour of 12 negroes from my window, who are employd with four small Horse Carts to remove some dirt in front of the house. the four carts are all loaded at the same time, and whilst four carry this rubish about half a mile, the remaining eight rest upon their Shovels, Two of our hardy N England men would do as much work in a day as the whole 12, but it is true Republicanism that drive the Slaves half fed, and destitute of clothing…whilst the owner waches about Idle, tho his one Slave is all the property he can boast, Such is the case of many of the inhabitants of this place…”

I guess they were not that well-fed after all!

In all, I thought the black man who had more reason to be cynical and dark rather exuded more brightness and hope than the billionaire who exuded darkness and cynicism a week ago in Cleveland. Question is, who will the people listen to?

What Do You Have to Offer?

It was around 1996 and the specter of the Clinton Health Plan was scaring US doctors and medical students alike. A lot of programs in specialties like Anesthesiology and Internal Medicine, couldn’t find residents to fill the needed slots. So several top US programs got together and headed to Europe to find young doctors.
I had finished medical school in Germany two years earlier and after my internship, couldn’t find a job. No one wanted to hire an African! Returning to Ghana was not yet an option as I wanted to finish residency.

One winter night, as I left the Genetics lab where I was working on a project, I saw a flyer. It offered the chance to doctors to go work in the US if one had passed the USMLEs. There was a meeting scheduled for the next evening in an auditorium in the building where the lab was. I made it to the meeting. I met the head of the agency who was organizing the search by the top US programs for residents in Europe. I registered for the interview.

Sometime in the summer of 1996, I headed to Munich for the interview. It was an overnight trip from Berlin. I changed into my only suit in a restroom stall at the train station when I got to Munich. I headed to the venue.
I entered a large hall with lots of people. Each program had it’s table. I registered again, got my name badge and headed to the first table.
For the last two years, I had traveled over Germany begging and groveling for a job. Somehow, my transcript from medical school was just not enough. Somehow what I had to offer was not good enough.
I stood there at the first table, hopeless and expecting disappointment. The words I heard changed everything.
“Dr Ghansah, what do you have to offer our program? Sell yourself!”, the gentleman behind the table said.
I was dumbstruck!
Me? What did I have to offer? Me? A poor African doctor no one wanted but who had a thousand dreams? I was dumbstruck!
“Dr Ghansah, we are waiting!”
Right then, I knew the US was different. Right there, I got hopeful.

I’ve been thinking of this a lot lately as I listen to two very distinct depictions of this country. One is dark and cynical. The other is bright and hopeful.
This country is different. The US hasn’t always done right by all, but man, is this an amazing experiment!
It is a given that there are many for whom life is a daily struggle. It is a given that there are many who are shut out from reaping the opportunities this country has to offer. It cannot be denied that racial bias is still an impediment to some.
In spite of all that, I’ll go with the vision of hope then no other country offers it in spades like the US does. I’ll go with hope because cynicism and darkness never helped anyone.

As an immigrant, I am always grateful for what this country has given me and I can say that about all the immigrants I know. Like me, they all heard that question:
“What do you have to offer?”
That day in Munich, my answer was: “Hard work”.
That is the answer of all immigrants – Hard work. You see, when you offer hope and opportunity, you get a lot back. Hard work, perseverance, creativity, new businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and on and on.

Maybe Americans born and bred here in the US do not see what I see. Maybe they expect more. Maybe their standards are higher. That is fine. However, if you would indulge me, I would like to ask a few questions:
“What does cynicism and darkness get you?
What do they have to offer?”