Mia Szela ’17 already knows she wants to pursue medicine in college and she has credible experience to bring to her classroom work. Over spring break, she made her third trip to the African nation of Ghana to assist her father, Dr. Erwin Szela, an obstetrician and gynecologist from the Northwest suburbs.
“It was eye opening to have this kind of experience,” Mia says, “and to be in their community and immersed in their culture.”
Mia and her father returned to Barnor Hospital, located in the Accra district of Ghana. They partnered with team members from Medical Ministry International Canada, in Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada, whose mission is to serve the poorest of the poor.
Accra is located on the southern edge of Ghana, on the Atlantic coast. The area is one of the most densely populated regions of Ghana, with most residents living in two-room, mud huts.
While Dr. Szela has delivered babies on prior trips, he returns each year mainly to perform surgery, including myomectomies—which removes cancerous tumors from the uterus—and hysterectomies, removing the entire uterus.
“Women come from all over Ghana for these surgeries,” Mia says. “In some cases, they wait all year for him to come. They are always so thankful.”
Each time Mia has accompanied her father, she has taken on more responsibility. On this latest trip, she maintained patient charts and prepared equipment for the operating room, but she also helped with patients, both pre-op and post-op, and was able to observe some of the surgeries.
During their week, they also visited a local orphanage and helped deliver needed supplies provided by Medical Ministry International Canada. Mia said most of their days were spent working in the hospital, but during their few visits to the market, they met more local residents.
“The whole experience has made me learn to appreciate everything so much more, and want to give more,” Mia says. “I just consider it a privilege to go there.”