Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD
The value of service to others and loyalty to one’s homeland was instilled in Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, MD, at a very young age. As an eight-year-old in the city of Kumasi, Ghana, Boachi-Adjei nearly died from a severe gastric illness. When the herbal remedy prescribed by a local healer did little to help, extreme dehydration began to take its toll on the young boy, who grew weaker by the day.
“People were dying next to me,” Dr. Boachie-Adjei says. “I was lucky to have a pediatrician who decided to come home.”
All surgery is provided for free or at a nominal cost to cover hospital expenses; there is never a charge for physicians’ services or for any services or products provided by FOCOS. The Foundation’s Web site can be found at www.orthofocos.org.
Offering hope, higher self esteem
Services provided by FOCOS not only offer huge cost savings to the local governments, they give people “the intangibles of hope and higher self esteem,” Dr. Boachie-Adjei says. “Many patients have resumed gainful employment following treatment through FOCOS auspices, and children have resumed academic and unrestricted recreational activities.”
In its six years, a variety of volunteer professionals have joined the FOCOS clinical mission, including surgeons, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, prosthetists and orthotists, as well as a neurophysiologist, an anesthesiologist and a physiatrist.
“It is the leadership of Dr. Boachie-Adjei that has motivated other people like me to try to make a difference in the lives of people in Ghana and Barbados,” says Bettye Wright, a physician assistant who first joined Dr. Boachie-Adjei on a trip to Ghana in 1997. “We always work very long hours, but at that the conclusion of each trip, when we are exhausted and boarding our flights home, the same question is asked. ‘When is the next trip?’”
With an ever-increasing stream of patients, both new and follow-up, being seen in its outpatient clinics, FOCOS is backlogged with surgical candidates for its two-week trips, which typically take place every six months.
Permanent clinic opens in Ghana
A permanent infrastructure for FOCOS outpatient clinic activities in Ghana recently opened in Accra, Ghana. Full-time ancillary personnel and part-time orthopaedic support at the clinic will provide continuity of care for FOCOS patients.
The clinic is due, in large part, to a generous donation from one of Dr. Boachie-Adjei’s private patients. With this seed money in place, other donors added to the fund and soon the FOCOS clinic became a reality.
“Dr. Boachie-Adjei’s vision is truly staggering,” says Marc A. Asher, MD, a spine surgeon at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “In spite of all his accomplishments, he exudes spirituality and is truly a humble human being.”
Dr. Boachie-Adjei “gives of himself and he energizes those around him,” says Thomas P. Sculco, MD, surgeon-in-chief at HSS in New York. “He is charismatic and effective, but most of all, he is dedicated to helping his native people find a better life.”
Life has “a purpose and a reason”
On May 29, 2003, Brooklyn College honored Dr. Boachie-Adjei for his academic work and philanthropic activities with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, and requested that he deliver the commencement speech to the 2003 graduating class.
At his own graduation in 1976, Dr. Boachie-Adjei was a married graduate with a baby. “Renting a cap and gown was a luxury I could not afford,” he says. It was, therefore, “quite an irony” to be the focus of an event he regretted missing 27 years earlier.
In his address, Dr. Boachie-Adjei challenged the graduates to become productive members of society by being “determined, resourceful and persistent,” and by taking charge of their own affairs. These qualities had contributed to his confidence and buoyed his will to succeed, he emphasized.
“Remember that wherever life may lead you,” he told the crowd, “there is a purpose and a reason.”