Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Achieving Excellence in Healthcare through Advanced Level Training of Biomedical Laboratory Scientists

The push for the rapid development of Africa is often discussed in the context of economics and finance. To the neglect of the ideals and skills that money cannot buy. One of such ideals is that of the practice of science in the direct service of human needs. People who visit clinics usually do so at their wit's end, many have battled with disease and ill-health all their life. It is therefore important to measure the development of a nation mainly by the level of care and the success of treatments that citizens get when they visit healthcare facilities. One group of healthcare professionals that need more critical attention is the cadre of biomedical scientists. Allied health professionals are late in the game when it comes to the professional groups that play roles in the healthcare delivery system in Ghana.

Unlike physicians, pharmacists, nurses who are well recognized in the health sector, the biomedical scientists and by extension the biomedical engineers and medical physicists, do not have career paths that are well defined. They also do not have the accredited in service training programmes that will develop them up to management level. This situation desperately has to change for the better. It is in the interest of the health of nation that we not to get this exercise wrong.

It is also for the reason that we at WACCBIP have reached out to the community of Biomedical Scientists in Ghana, starting with those from the National Catholic Health Service (NCHS), to begin the change we want to see in Ghana. The beautiful story of this important development started all the way from Nairobi Kenya in 2016, when I encountered Mr. George Adjei, the CEO of the NCHS. It was a grant writing workshop for the winners of Grand Challenges Canada grants.  As lawyer, Mr. Adjei showed so much interest and understanding of healthcare that he had successfully led his team to win grants and was at the Nairobi workshop for more. Of course I could not wait for the coffee break to ask him to work with our new WACCBIP centre at the University of Ghana. A partnership agreement was put together and plans were set in motion to organise an advanced level training for the biomedical scientists of the NCHS.

The morning of 29th January 2018 was an exciting one filled with mixed emotions for me. I had spent many hours crafting the plan for the workshop with many of colleagues at the centre and the time had come for the tyre to hit the road. This is certainly our first experience with workshop like this but we were quite positive that the impact will be important. But the skeptical scientist in me will never feel assured based on faith only but rather gather evidence at the workshop itself as to whether we were really onto something.

As a nation we need to value those things that money cannot buy, rather than or as equally important as those things paid for with money. The biomedical scientist I encountered during the week of the workshop are far more profound in their love for science, their love for the wellness of the nation and their love for continuous learning and research than I could possibly imagine. They command so much knowledge, discipline and curiosity that I could not help than to be moved to think of how to expand this programme. The level of professionalism these biomedical scientists exhibit, many of who working with first degrees with the strong desire to advance through graduate level training, makes all the time and energy spent more that worthwhile.

Wealth of nations is anchored on good health and great education and so the time has come to take further steps to make the role of biomedical scientists fully established up to the level of management and board. It will serve our nation well if we make the role of biomedical scientists the pivot of the healthcare systems that it ought to be. And train every one of them to the PhD level and make their functions at the health facilities equivalent to that of a well resourced laboratory in tertiary institutions. Charged with the mandate to conduct research and turn the routine clinical sample testing into a comprehensive health research programme. They will obviously not replace the satellite health research centres and the laboratories of the universities but will connect more effectively to operate our health systems at the cutting-edge. Just Do It!

Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),
Head of Training and Research,
West Africa Centre for Cell Biology 
of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP)


  1. This is very true. Biomedical scientists should be given the opportunity to explore so as to broaden their horizon. Kudos Doc.

  2. Improving medical research in the country will sure go a long way to develop it. MedLab and ScienceLab techs are a better focus to advance medical research. As human resource contributes largely to development, expanding research to improve the general well-being which includes better ways of therapy, is of great concern

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  4. The emphasis placed on physicians in my point of view is overrated. Not to undermine their roles in society but investing equally into these untapped human resources will immensely improve our healthcare delivery system in the country. Their interest in science if not more than is the same as other scientists in the country hence attention should be given to them.