Kofi Boahene is using his surgical
skills to help patients in
impoverished nations, like his
Even as a boy growing up in Ghana, Kofi Boahene knew what he wanted to do. In fact, one could say he saw his future all around him.
His parents were missionaries who encouraged him to help others in need. Meanwhile, he frequently saw physicians from foreign countries passing through his region of Africa, doing volunteer medical work and treating underserved children and families with a variety of illnesses. “I always said that if I were ever able to become a physician,” Boahene says, “I wanted to give back to people with my background, people who needed help.”
It’s a dream he’s realized over and over again since 2003, when during his residency he received an award from the Mayo Clinic to travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, to treat children with cleft lips and palettes and ear and facial deformities, and adults with facial tumors. Since then he’s traveled every year to do similar work with similar patients. It was during one such trip that he returned home to his native Ghana. “It was very emotional,” Boahene recalls. “It was the first time I’d gone home since leaving when I was 18 years old. I put myself in the same city where I went to high school and was really able to help a lot of people and provide education about diseases that, before, were looked down upon.”
During his volunteer trips—most taken with Children’s Surgery International (formerly Operation Smile)—Boahene and his colleagues usually stay a week to 10 days, seeing between 200 and 300 patients, about 100 to 120 of whom may undergo surgeries to repair a cleft lip or palette or other craniofacial defects.
“It’s a huge undertaking, and it really puts things into perspective for me,” Boahene says. “It reminds you to be thankful for everything you have and make the most of it. When you go to third world or war-torn countries like Liberia or Peru, you see that they manage to do a lot with very little. You come back fulfilled with reset priorities, and it makes it all worthwhile.”