26 October, 2007

Global Citizenship Award: Marjorie Ratel

A Neuroscience staff nurse at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) since 1978, Ms Marjorie Ratel is a strong advocate for access to quality healthcare in developing countries and is spearheading a project to help improve healthcare in West Africa. She possesses a tenacious drive to improve the lot of others, and a natural aptitude for inspiring key figures and organizations to support her vision.

For the past seven years, she has been working with colleagues in Vancouver and at the University of Ghana's College of Health Sciences in Accra to improve the skill base of the local Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital's (KBTH) neurosurgery unit. The ultimate goal is to establish a Centre of Excellence in Neurosurgery and Clinical Neurosciences that will provide high quality health service and conduct contextually relevant teaching and research. Ms Ratel has been a driving force in turning these ambitious aspirations into results and opening up channels for a fruitful exchange of expertise between KBTH and VGH.

Collaboration with Ghana began when Ms Ratel met Dr. Thomas Dakurah, a young neurosurgeon from Ghana taking advanced training at VGH. She learned of severe shortages in medical and educational resources in his country, and became deeply committed to assisting her Ghanaian counterparts. She founded the Korle-Bu Neuroscience Project in 2000, and by the following year she and colleagues began organizing the shipment of good-quality used medical equipment together with new medical supplies to KBTH. Over the past six years, 11 containers have been shipped to Ghana with an estimated value of more than $5 million.

In Vancouver, she established (and chairs) the non-profit Korle-Bu Neuroscience Foundation, and two accompanying fundraising charities. A sister Board in Ghana was also launched in 2002 under her leadership. Since then, she has been instrumental in establishing teams in Los Angeles, New York and across Canada to help promote the project and raise funds. The first phase of the neuro-hospital building project will focus on the Ambulatory Care Center, an international house for visiting professionals and a Nursing / Paramedical residence for local personnel of the neuro-hospital.

The project has attracted the interest and support of key players including the Vice President of Ghana, the Ministry of Health, the University of Ghana, KBTH itself, the Canadian High Commission, academic bodies and major corporate bodies. In 2003, Ms Ratel headed a team of Canadians and Ghanaians that met with Ghana's Vice President, winning his support and gaining the project high profile attention. A sisterhood Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by The Ghana High Commissioner for Canada, the Consul General for Ghana and VGH.

Much of Ms Ratel's career has been spent providing clinical education to other nurses, devising nursing policy, and developing standards of care. She is respected as an expert nurse (in Geriatric care as well as Neuroscience), compassionate caregiver and highly capable administrator. She has inspired key UBC faculty to become involved in the work of the Foundation and in the exchange of expertise. The university hosted and assisted a group of Ghanaian nurses who traveled to Canada to receive specialized training at VGH in the care of critically ill neurosurgery patients. These nurses returned home and are transferring their acquired skills to colleagues in Ghana. Ms Ratel still finds time to mentor students at UBC and to inspire in them a global perspective on health. Since 2005, she has been a coach on the UBC Global Student Speakers' Bureau.

Last year in Toronto, Ms Ratel, was presented with the Ghanaian-Canadian Achievement Award for her efforts in improving the health care delivery to Ghanaians. She gives much credit to her colleagues and partners who have rallied behind her vision and mission to advocate for Africa.

Posted by: The Ghana Canada Association of BC at 3:30 PM

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