Monday, January 11, 2010

Dr. Alex Dodoo

So, I have been consciously avoiding talking about my work in Ghana and instead discussing everyday experiences about the people and the place that highlight cultural similarities and differences which I think people will find more interesting. I have mainly been doing this because who wants to read about what other people do at work? Honestly. I have also been doing this, because it would force me to use and explain A LOT of acronyms. And I hate acronyms. However, it seems like you are a fickle bunch; what used to entertain no longer does, and you want to know what I'm actually doing with my days. So, I thought I would ease into the work stuff with an introduction of my boss, Alex Dodoo, and a quick gist of what I’m doing. We can get into the weeds of global health and development in Ghana in later posts.

Alex is a pretty awesome guy, in most senses of the word. A pharmacist by training, he holds a PhD in Pharmacology from Kings College in the UK. And now, by his early 40s (I think), he is simultaneously: a lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, the president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana, the chairman of the Food and Drugs Board (Ghana’s FDA), and has just been the first African elected president of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance, amongst other things. Very articulate with a commanding presence, Alex can often be seen and heard on TV and radio programs here, informing the public on all things pharmacy and representing some of the many organizations to which he belongs.

poor quality picture of Alex from a google image search

In addition to his professional accolades, he is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Knowing that I’m new in town and living with a pastor (because he's the one who made the arrangements), he has gone out of his way to invite me to parties and get-togethers with his closest friends and family: most of which have been great fun. I don’t want to get him in trouble, but let’s just say that he works VERY hard but is also intimately knowledgeable about how to have a good time.

Alex on our TV via a morning talk-show, discussing the H1N1 virus

I first met Alex through my previous job at the Center for Global Development, where he was a member of the working group we convened for a project on the immensely complex topic of drug resistance. A pharmacist with a passion for pharmacovigilance*, he was a great contributor to the work during my time there. Then, when I decided that I had done enough policy research in DC and wanted to get out into the field, he was one of the first ones I spoke to. And here I am.

I am working with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH): a professional association consisting of every single registered pharmacist in the country. In developing countries where doctors are few and waiting rooms at hospitals are never-ending, pharmacists have a much greater role in the provision of health services than we think of them in the US. For better or worse, pharmacists are often the first health workers patients see, especially for certain common disease types like diarrhea and malaria, so they often have clinician duties on top of their drug dispensing ones.

a bow-tie clad Alex relaxing with friends at a party to which he invited me

In addition to representing all Ghanaian pharmacists in public and private sector matters, over the years, the PSGH has also run several public health projects: Hepatitis B vaccination campaigns, bed net distributions, public information programs on TV and radio, etc. PSGH’s mandate also includes running yearly mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) training modules to keep all members up to snuff on the latest developments in the profession. Put generally, my job with PSGH is to help them develop, fund and implement more of these public health projects and CPD trainings. I probably have the most experience in malaria, and since it is by far the number one disease in the country on most lists, Alex is very happy with me focusing on that. Put simply, he wants me to bring home the bacon in the form of donor funding. It’s the first explicitly results-based job I’ve ever had, so we’ll see how it goes. So far so good.

But that’s that, enough work talk for today and definitely enough acronyms.

*Pharmacovigilance (PV) is defined by WHO as “the science and activities relating to the detection, assessment, understanding and prevention of adverse effects or any other possible drug‐related problems.” Such problems might include drug interactions, off‐label uses, and the presence of substandard or counterfeit products on the market, as well as reported lack of efficacy. In practice, it is mainly two-fold: monitoring patients’ relationships with the drugs they consume and surveillance of pharmaceutical quality of those products on the shelves.

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I've just arrived in Accra (here for 5 weeks, Cdn student) and enjoyed reading your blog. I've yet to venture into Osu - the talk of sushi is VERY tempting!