Respiratory Therapy student conducts smoking study in Ghana

SUNY Upstate medical mission Ghana

Upstate Respiratory Therapy student Adlin Noel, far right in front row, with the group that went on a medical mission to Ghana this year. Adlin was part of a team seeing patients in rural villages, and also conducted a study on villagers' knowledge of smoking and second-hand smoke risks.

Adlin Noel, a student in Upstate’s Respiratory Therapy program, followed up on a two-week medical mission trip to Nicaragua in 2013 with a 10-day trip to Ghana this year. Here are excerpts of his report on his trip with the Americans Serving Abroad Projects (ASAP) led by Lauri Rupracht, RN, of Upstate University Hospital.

By Adlin Noel

Our 12-person team in Ghana included two nurse practitioners, a physician assistant, four registered nurses, an audiologist, a lawyer, a social worker, a dental hygienist and me, a respiratory therapy student.

We were able to provide medical care for about 800 patients by setting up different stations for: vital signs, patient history, general care, breast cancer screening, dental hygiene, hearing, cuts, worm infestation, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol testing.

During this trip, I was allowed to conduct a study on smoking. At Upstate, I have been fortunate to gain experience working with the research team in the Cardiopulmonary and Critical Care Laboratory in the Department of Surgery headed by Gary Nieman.  I have been assisting their research team in the investigation of the benefits of Airway Pressure Release Ventilation (APRV) for critically ill patients.

This experience has given me an excellent introduction to the skills, knowledge and attitudes needed for excellence in research. Beyond this, it has enhanced my interest to conduct research related to smoking and tobacco use.

The prevalence of smoking in Ghana is relatively low, but the country currently has no legislation to prevent smoking in public areas. Targeting this area may be an important preventive health measure to help the citizens avoid secondhand smoke exposure by restricting areas where smoking is allowed.

The study’s primary objective was to investigate how well-educated rural Ghanaians are about the detrimental effects of smoking. Prevalence of tobacco smoking and understanding of secondhand smoke was investigated as a secondary objective.

A questionnaire adapted and modified from the Global Tobacco Surveillance System was used with 240 subjects, 18 and older, living in four villages. Results have shown a significant lack of education and knowledge regarding the detrimental effects of smoking, highlighting the need for effective teaching and learning.

SUNY Upstate Ghana Adlin Noel

Upstate Respiratory Therapy student Adlin Noel with children in Ghana.

This experience has renewed my purpose as a future health professional to respond to the medical needs of those less fortunate. Although I was born in Haiti, I was glad to hear many in Ghana saying, “Welcome home, brother from another mother!” on my arrival to those villages with the understanding that my roots truly traced back to Africa.

I seek to continue my work through future research studies and personally assisting people in the poorest of countries so that they, too, may receive basic health care services.


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