Dr Kwadwo Sarpong’s journey from cleaner to neurosurgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

“I didn’t think it was feasible,” Dr Kwadwo sarpong said when I asked if he imagined himself as a resident neurosurgeon at the famed Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the United States of America. It’s been a long road to get here. He’s not a devout Christian, mind you. Because moving, changing courses, and pursuing aspirations requires faith, and only God knows how things will turn out.

 

Kwadwo’s quest began when he won the lottery for a US visa. He moved from Ghana to a land of hope after finishing his studies at the University of Ghana. Science appeared to be a long way off, and business felt like a better fit for his youthful intellect.

 

“I’d never heard of science before.” My intention was to transfer and simply continue my studies. The sciences, however, are not one of them. I recognized that starting school was going to be challenging, so I had to put work first. So I worked as a cashier at Walmart for about a year until landing a position as a hospital housekeeper in 2010.” Kwadwo remembers this pivotal moment in his life with the inevitable truth that his colleagues at the University of Ghana were still working on the degree program he had abandoned.

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

“When a patient is released, you clean the facility and the bathroom.” After one year, I was fortunate enough to be transferred to operating room housekeeping. When a case is completed, you go in and clean up. I was still scrubbing the toilets.”

 

Kwadwo was 21 years old when he met a surgeon who would forever transform his life. Gwinnet Medical Center’s Dr. Robert Fritz is a general thoracic surgeon (now Northside Gwinnet Hospital). He couldn’t comprehend why someone Kwadwo’s age would be doing such work; he told me, “You seem too young to be doing this.”

 

“When they see a black person doing such a job in America, they assume you aren’t serious about life.” They saw me as someone who could have done better even in the hospital. I knew I wanted to go to school in the end. However, not in the medical field. He inquired as to my long-term goals. ‘General and Thoracic Surgery’ was inscribed on his badge, which I observed. I stated that my ambition is to work as a thoracic surgeon.” Kwadwo worked at Walmart as a clerk while also performing housekeeping. Dr. Fritz offered him the chance to shadow him and learn from him. He recommended Kwadwo to quit his cashier position so that he could have more time and access to the hospital, where he could study from him. “I was following him around and he began instructing me.” It gave me an introduction to medicine, and I chose to pursue a career in medicine.”

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

At this time, Dr. Sarpong’s mind flashed back to his brother, who suffered from a movement handicap that he never really comprehended. Medicine, he reasoned, might be able to help.

 

“I was now really interested in determining what had gone wrong. The journey had begun with that. Because I had no prior experience, I began at a community college to learn chemistry, physics, and biology.” Kwadwo attended Emory University in Atlanta, where he majored in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology after graduating from community college. He went on to Georgetown Experimental Medical Studies in Washington, D.C., where he earned his Medical Certificate.

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

Then it’s on to Georgetown University School of Medicine to get a Doctor of Medicine degree. He has recently completed his neurosurgical residency at Vanderbilt and will spend the next seven years honing his skills.

 

Kwadwo has had to rely on scholarships, individual financial help, and student loans to go through his education.

 

Edjah Nduom, an Associate Professor in Emory University’s Department of Neurosurgery, is another individual Kwadwo owes a debt of gratitude to. Dr. Nduom recently made headlines when US President Joe Biden appointed him to introduce him at the start of the Cancer Moonshot project to reduce cancer deaths.

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

“I’d always wanted to work in neurosurgery,” she says (at this stage). He was preparing to leave Emory when I arrived. I emailed him at random when I first started medical school. I said something along the lines of, “I’m interested in neurosurgery and would love to collaborate with you.” He was employed by the National Institutes of Health, which is the world’s largest scientific organization.

 

“He replied that he did not have a place available in his lab but that he would contact me if one became available.” It was one of those things, so I diverted my attention away from it. To qualify for a neurosurgery residency, you must be exceptional and demonstrate a wide range of skills. Only 8 of the 234 places available in the United States last year were blacked out.” As a result, I needed to find another way to make money. Later, he offered me a job via email. As a result, I ended up at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to work with him. I knew I could do it after seeing someone as black as you, knowing he’s accomplished so much. He promised to back me up and he has never let me down.” Kwadwo has won numerous honors, including the 2017 Clinton Global Initiative Honor Roll. In addition, he was named to Emory University’s 40 under 40 list and received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteerism. Kwadwo received an unusual White House invitation in 2014. A few days later, he received another email inviting him to a summit convened by US President Barack Obama.

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

This was to provide him the chance to talk about the non-profit work he had recently launched. He and his buddy Shadrach Osei Frimpong cofounded the African Research Academies for Women (ARA-W) to support budding female scientists in Africa by offering hands-on experience in research labs. At the program, he was supposed to represent his company.

 

When he arrived at the program to see his name on the guest list, he realized what he had done.

Kwadwo sarpong
Kwadwo sarpong

“In January, we begin accepting applicants.” They go through a process of selection, and we accept approximately 10 to 15 of them. They are housed in Noguchi, WACBIP, and KNUST laboratories. We put them in housing, provide them a stipend, and pay for them to perform things like research and community participation. Following that, they give a talk. After that, mentors are assigned to them. In Ghana, one of our pupils took first place in the Presidential Challenge.”

Source :Ghanaweb news online 

 

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