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UNF professor witnesses the power of nutrition in Ghana

Dr. Wright giving lecture to students in GhanaDr. Lauri Wright was welcomed with open arms as she arrived in Ghana to provide her expertise on the power of nutrition.

In her five months abroad, Dr. Wright said she witnessed the compassion and innovative methods presented by her new colleagues as they provided care for their patients despite being in a location with limited resources.

In Ghana, she participated as a visiting professor and dietitian at Korle Bu Hospital, precepting interns and working on many different projects with the staff. At the same time, she continued to teach and advise the Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition and MS online program at UNF.


Helping Patients

Dr. Wright teaching students in GhanaDr. Wright dealt with a few challenging cases in Korle Bu Hospital, including a patient with COVID and vitamin D issues. She also helped calculate a carb:insulin ratio for a patient with Type I diabetes and provided nourishment for someone who underwent cardiac surgery. She advised on a very challenging tube feeding for a malnourished patient with cancer and saw cases in the pediatric oncology unit.

Because Korle Bu is a public hospital, families must purchase the food and formula for patients to eat, but many are not able to afford food and supplements to help the patient heal. Dr. Wright shared that this was one of the biggest challenges she witnessed since patients couldn’t meet their nutritional needs, which compromised care in areas such as burns and critical care. In response to observing these patients and their families, Dr. Wright helped establish the Ellie’s Angels fund for Korle Bu Hospital’s dietitians to help provide therapeutic interventions for their patients. The funds were dedicated from the UNF Nutrition and Dietetics Leadership Association’s auction to provide food and supplements to nourish patients in need.

During Giving Tuesday, Dr. Wright also helped raise funds for Operation Smile in Ghana, an organization where she learned and got counsel from moms with children with cleft lips and palates, as well as worked alongside Dede Kwadjo, a pioneer in nutrition for children with these birth defects.


Teaching in Ghana

One of Dr. Wright’s biggest tasks was assisting in writing the self-study for the University of Ghana (UG) Department of Dietetics to achieve ACEND accreditation as the first program in Africa and only the eighth program internationally. She also established the HEALING GARDENS program that focuses on reducing micronutrient deficiencies in the first 1,000 days.

Dr. Wright provided a two-day simulation workshop to dietetics students and preceptors. The workshop featured two simulated patients, one who had muscle and fat wasting, while the other had zinc and vitamin C deficiencies. Participants evaluated patient history, performed physical assessments, and diagnosed the nutrition issues. They were then taught techniques and practiced placing feeding tubes, performing swallow screenings, as well as measuring blood pressure and blood sugar.

She also spent two days practicing side-by-side with her dietitian-daughter, Addie Wright, in a preceptor training at Princess Marie Louise Hospital. Over 100 preceptors participated in roleplaying evaluation scenarios. The duo also went to Korle Bu Hospital’s Burn Unit, presented on critical care nutrition and parental nutrition to the intensive care physicians, and viewed a cooking demonstration for moms of children with cancer.

Towards the end of her time in Ghana, Dr. Wright delivered training to more than 100 dietitians and dietic students, attended doctoral students’ project defenses, and was even an evaluator for the senior dietetic students’ clinical exams.


Experiences in Ghana

While she was in Ghana, Dr. Wright was honored to deliver a celebratory message to dietitians at Tampa General Hospital for National Dietitian Day under the leadership of Dr. Beverly Hernandez, director of Nutrition Services at Tampa General Hospital, as well as present at the World Diabetes Day Conference. She was also able to attend the launch of the first food-based dietary guidelines in Ghana, which will be used as a tool for promoting health, preventing non-communicable diseases and informing policy.

Besides working, Dr. Wright and her family also spent time learning about the history and culture of Ghana. They visited various historical landmarks, went on a safari, as well as shopped at local markets and enjoyed traditional foods.

Dr. Wright commented that one highlight of the family’s time was her husband’s naming ceremony, which began with the Ashanti tribe teaching the couple about the symbols used in their culture. They pounded their own ink and symbols of their choosing onto a kente cloth. Dr. Wright chose symbols meaning ‘wisdom’, ‘change’ and ‘beauty’, while Dr. Epps chose ‘homecoming’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘tit-for-tat’. They weaved the kente cloth before Dr. Epps was welcomed home and given his Ashanti name. In the end, there was a celebration held by the Ashanti tribal leaders that included music and dancing.