Patrice Awonseba Baba Musah, now a 35-year-old doctor from Ghana, Africa, has been living in the Czech Republic for fifteen years. A dark-skinned man would probably not be such a rarity in Europe, but Czech mothers allegedly tend to be surprised. No one expects an African to be delivering babies in Prague. And it is so. For three years now, Patrice has been taking care of the health of babies and mothers at the Institute for Mother and Child Care in Podolí, Prague. In an interview for LP-Life.com, he talked not only about the difficult beginnings in a foreign country, but also about why he showed up at a gathering in Chateau Šanov with eleven other health professionals.
I'm used to it, it's a daily thing in Ghana. There is a power outage every day. So I'm fine and I'm definitely not afraid. But of course what happened in South Moravia is scary and I wish everyone a lot of strength and health.
I was born in the small town of Bolgatanga, in the north of Ghana. It has about sixty thousand inhabitants, in our country it is a small town.
I think it's impossible for them, but I got a scholarship. It was easier, my parents didn't have to pay anything, I got the whole study for free.
We don't have specific ones like here. I did general science. I had physics, chemistry and agriculture. Then English, mathematics and social sciences.
So you had good academic results, thanks to which you got a scholarship. Was it a given that you would go directly to the Czech Republic?
No, I first applied to Russia, but I made a mistake in my applications and didn't get in. Someone recommended the Czech Republic to me, saying that it is better there than in Russia. I am grateful for that today.
Not at all. I searched for it for about a week, I couldn't find it. Then it occurred to me that it was Czechoslovakia, because everyone in Ghana thinks that it is Czechoslovakia. I already knew then that you had split a long time ago.
The first year was very hard for me, almost impossible. I always used to get food at home, I didn't have to do anything. My mother would buy me everything, I didn't know what my underwear size was. I had to cook for myself in college, it was also difficult, because I didn't always like it. But I was hungry and I had to eat everything. But over time, I got over it, I learned everything - to wash, clean, shop, cook and I already know what size T-shirt I have. (laughs)
I meant it more emotionally speaking. As a nineteen-year-old boy, you went to a foreign country by yourself that you had never heard of before. How did you deal with it?
For us, it is prestigious to study in Europe. I was happy about it, I knew that I would return to my family one day. It was mentally demanding, because my parents were far away, when I wanted to talk about something, I had no one to talk to. But over time, I've met people here and it's good. I have some friends here.
I'll go back one day, but at the moment I don't think I know all that much yet. When I am a full-fledged doctor and feel that I can do everything, I will return so that I can also teach young doctors in Ghana how to do medicine.
We have five years of training, then we do attestations. After them, you don't know that much yet, you gain experience over the years. I've only been in practice for seven years, that's not much in medicine when it comes to learning a lot. I have a goal.
I didn't know a single word, but we had an intensive course in Mariánské Lázně for a year. Our homeroom teacher, we called her professor, was patient. The only unfortunate thing was that she did not speak English. She only spoke Czech to us and I didn't understand her. After school, I bought a dictionary and tried to remember what she told us. Also the pronunciation, "ř", was really very difficult for us. I still can't say it.
I don't think I had that much time to date anyone (laughs). But I had good friends, they helped me a lot. I also played, or still play, football, and the boys from football spoke Czech to me, so I got into it faster.
You said that during the internship you saw the birth of a child and decided to become an obstetrician. What did your parents say when they learned that you chose this, and not something like surgery?
Mom couldn't believe I wanted to be a gynaecologist. I was very shy back in Ghana. I couldn't talk to girls, I always kept my head down. Dad just said that if I chose this field, he hopes that I will last a long time, because it probably won't be a very nice field. Fortunately, it is nice, we make women happy, and I like that.
No, I have three sisters. The oldest one is a nurse in Ghana, or a birth attendant, or a midwife, as we say. I'm second. The second sister also works as a midwife, and the youngest sister studied communication and finance.
I'm looking forward to it, at least I won't be alone here. She'll cook something good for me, something African. (laughs)
Absolutely not. I wouldn't even recommend this to anyone. If something happened, I'd carry it with me my whole life, and that's bad.
I had a friend from Ghana who started working in Podolí. He called me saying that there's a good, amazing team there and good world-class medicine is practised there. He said I'm wasted on a district hospital and to go to Prague immediately to work at the clinic in Podolí.
I lived in Mariánské Lázně for a year, then I studied medicine in Prague for six to seven years. I worked for a year in Stoda near Plzeň, then for three years in Rakovník and a year in Tábor.
It is sometimes better to change one's workplace so that one can see how medicine is done in other workplaces, even in the district. Medicine is universal, but the procedures are different in each hospital.
It was more about the fact that the procedure was not satisfactory. When you're a young doctor, it's better for someone to take you under their wing. I had a very difficult start, because I had no one to devote their time to me. But I was lucky, in Rakovník I was taken in by Dr Hajči and Dr Růžička who showed me how to do it right. Since then, I have had the confidence to continue in medicine.
It's really nice, for real. Great team. Associate Professor Měchurová, whom I am very grateful to, accepted me as her own son. She tested me every week until the attestations, she gave up her free time to help me prepare, I am really very grateful for her help. Plus, it's a good clinic, they do fetal medicine there. (editor's note: Fetal medicine deals with the diagnosis of congenital malformations and treatment of the fetus. Ultrasound diagnostics inform about the development of the fetus, it can warn in time of impending premature birth, congenital malformation of the fetus or possible obstetric complications. Close cooperation between obstetricians, neonatologists, geneticists and specialized laboratories in the case of a fetal disease is necessary)
I like it. But I don't do obstetrics, I'm mostly in gynaecology and ultrasound. It's a workplace with a good name and it's a good experience for me.
They are always surprised that someone from Africa comes and delivers here. But then they ask for us at their delivery and say that they were lucky that they could have such a doctor and that they have a unique experience for the rest of their lives.
It makes me happy. I used to be afraid, I remember that when I said I wanted to do gynaecology, my friends told me it was a sensitive field and I could have a problem with patients. That they won't want to come to me because I'm different. I said it didn't matter, all that matters is if I can do it or not.
What effects did covid restrictions have on the mothers' mental state? How did it impact the field of obstetrics? Dads couldn't be present at childbirth...
It was a big affair that dads couldn't be present at childbirth. Another thing was that if it was not necessary, the mothers did not have to go to usual check-ups regularly. We tried to limit hospital visits if possible. If a woman were to have check-ups once a week, we pushed it to once every other week. They were unhappy that it could cost them their baby's life if they weren't monitored so often. We usually do a CTG monitoring once a week, after the extension they were afraid that it was not enough. If they had covid when they had a problem, they couldn't go to the hospital right away. They first had to call and inform us that they were positive to prepare for the visit. It's complicated, getting dressed, disinfecting everything. Even the approach to them was a bit stressful, they see us in suits, with masks, they were afraid that something bad was happening.
I didn't notice it. Mostly when I talked to dads who didn't want to be at the birth, but the women forced them to be there. I don't think their absence plays an important role. I did not notice that it would have a negative effect on their mental state.
There is no clear answer to this. We always have to consider if the pregnant woman is at any risk, and if so, it is better to vaccinate. For example, if she is obese or has high blood pressure, this increases the risk of a severe course of the disease. Otherwise, I would recommend they not be vaccinated during pregnancy, if there are no risks, I would wait until after the postpartum period.
No, just on TV. I must say that they are surprisingly doing the same in France, where African tribes travelled. They do it there in secret. I just read that, whether it's true, I don't know.