Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Surgery and post-operative care in Liberia with the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation, which supports brain and spinal medical care in West Africa.Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation/Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation

The organizer: Marjorie Ratel

The pitch: Creating the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation

The reason: To support brain and spinal medical care in West Africa

Marjorie Ratel still marvels at the dramatic twist her nursing career took more than 20 years ago after a casual conversation with a doctor from Ghana.

“You couldn’t have anticipated the journey,“ Ms. Ratel said from her home in Vancouver where she works as a senior neurosurgery nurse.

It all began in 2000 when Thomas Dakurah arrived from Ghana for a one-year fellowship at Vancouver General Hospital. Dr. Dakurah was among the first graduates of a newly established neurosurgery training program at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra. During his stay in Vancouver he worked closely with Ms. Ratel.

“In February of 2000, he approached me at the intensive care desk and said, ‘Marj, would you ever consider coming to Ghana to train my nurses?,’” Ms. Ratel recalled. “And my heart just went, ‘Oh, I think I’m supposed to do this.’ ”

With the help of fellow nurses, Ms. Ratel began organizing shipments of beds, intravenous units and other medical supplies to Ghana. They also sent educational material, video training sessions and procedural manuals.

In 2002 they created the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation and Ms. Ratel started making trips to Ghana along with surgeons and other specialists from Canada. When the Ghanaian government decided to build a neurosurgery centre, the foundation provided a range of experts, including architects, engineers and medical specialists, to design and equip the facility. “It was the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa built to Western standards,” Ms. Ratel said.

That led to work on similar projects in Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone as well as a second hospital in Ghana. Next year the foundation is planning to work on an even larger medical centre in Liberia called Hope City.

Ms. Ratel, 66, said the foundation raises around $500,000 annually, but she is hoping to double that amount in the next year or so to expand the non-profit’s reach.

She’s still working at VGH and oversees the foundation in her spare time as a volunteer. And her medical journey to Africa is far from over.

“You take the journey as far as you can go,” she said. “And then, when you get to that point, you see where the next leg is. You just step out and do what is asked of you.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe