Welcome to another edition of the YEWGlobal blog series.
Meet Dr. Vanessa Mensah-Kabu. She is a family woman and a dedicated and compassionate medical doctor who is making a significant impact in the field of healthcare in Ghana. With her exceptional skills and unyielding commitment, she has earned a reputation as a trusted healthcare provider, serving not only patients but also the community as a whole.
"If a woman is determined to achieve her dream, the feeling of astonishment never fades away." - Anonymous
Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu
Behind every successful woman is a story of resilience, willpower, and hard work. Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu began her journey as a medical doctor in 2009. She earned her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree from Dalian Medical University. She studied subjects, including Human Anatomy, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Surgery, Pediatrics, Forensic Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynecology, etc. This equipped her with skills to conduct patient examinations, diagnosis and management of various diseases, and perform simple and complex surgeries. Dr. Mensah-Kabu’s impressive achievements have laid the foundation for her successful career in medicine.
Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu
Dr Vanessa completed her studies and returned to Ghana, where she has been making a significant impact on the healthcare system in Ghana. At age 22, she passed a board examination and became a licensed medical practitioner in Ghana in 2015. She has worked with various health organisations and is currently working with the West African Rescue Association affiliated with International SOS, where she attends to patients through consultation. Dr. Vanessa strives to maintain the highest standard of medical attention and is well-versed in a wide range of medical disciplines.
Dr Mensah-Kabu's advocacy started when she noticed vast disparities in sexual reproductive health and mental health among women during her horsemanship training. Unfortunately, these issues were largely surrounded by secrecy and highly stigmatised, making it challenging for women to talk openly about them. However, in other areas of healthcare, she conducted thorough research and discovered some loopholes and gaps that she believed could be bridged. Firstly, she emphasised the importance of understanding simple diseases to ensure that individuals are aware of their health needs and how to maintain optimum health. Secondly, she observed that patients with chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes require more education on lifestyle changes to manage their conditions better and improve their chances of survival.
Dr Vanessa-Kabu is well-known for her advocacy for women's health. Her aspiration to advocate for women goes above the walls of the clinic and hospital. She has been recognised and awarded for her outstanding work, including receiving the Ghana Outstanding Women's Award in the Health category in 2019 and an honorary award from the Youth Excellence Awards in the Health category in 2020. Dr Vanessa-Kabu is also a brand influencer for companies such as Malta Guinness, QIC, Pepsodent, and Kel charcoal toothpaste. Currently, she is the President of EVE International, an organisation that focuses on promoting and empowering women and girls, particularly in the area of mental health. She possesses a rare combination of kindness, empathy, and strong communication skills. She understands that medicine is not just about diagnosing and treating illnesses. However, it is also about providing emotional support and reassurance to patients and their families. Her warm and benevolent approach helps build trust and instil confidence in those under her care.
Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu's journey is an inspiration that stems from her father’s profession as a medical doctor. Today, She motivates us to be the best version of ourselves and always strive for excellence. She serves as a role model for many young women who aspire to make a difference in the health sector.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your name, educational background, business, and achievements. Everything that makes you who you are today?
My name is Vanessa Mensah-Kabu. I am a medical doctor by profession currently working with the West African Rescue Association affiliated with the International SOS where I attend to patients through consultations. Outside of the consulting room, I am extremely passionate about health education and awareness, especially in the area of women and children. I have had a few recognitions for the work done using various platforms to help educate the public on healthy habits. I have received several awards including Ghana Outstanding Women Awards for the health category in 2019 and 2020, honorary awards from Youth Excellence Awards in the health category, etc.
Currently, I am the President of EVE International which strives to promote, empower, and address the major issues women and girls face, especially in the area of mental health. That being said, I am also a brand influencer. I do this as a part-time/hobby, having worked with brands such as Malta Guinness, QIC, Pepsodent, and Kel Charcoal toothpaste among others.
2. Now, tell us more about your journey as a young medical doctor and as an advocate for women and girls.
My journey as a young medical doctor began sometime in 2009 in The People's Republic of China after graduating from senior high school. I obtained my Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree from Dalian Medical University where I was trained in areas of human anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, forensic medicine, etc which all together have formed to ensure adequate history taking, patient examination, diagnosis and management of various diseases as well as performing simple and complex surgeries.
My advocacy for women and girls became profound during a shift while undergoing my housemanship training where I noticed the significant disparities in the sexual and reproductive health and mental health of women which is largely shrouded in secrecy and highly stigmatised hence making it difficult for the said group to confidently and comfortably talk about these specific areas of their health.
3. Why did you consider taking a career path in medicine and humanitarian work?
Taking a career path in medicine was a no-brainer, not because I had always wanted to practice medicine but for the simple reason that my dad was a seasoned medical doctor. I simply wanted to be in his tow. Humanitarian work came along the way. As I began actively practising medicine, there were obvious loopholes and gaps I believed could be bridged such as the understanding of simple diseases to ensure that persons were made aware of their health needs and how to ensure optimum health.
Most persons only visited the hospitals when they were unwell. To a large extent, it is cultural. However, the importance of health care and attaining optimal health is routine visits to your clinician to 'catch' disease at its earliest stage. Another area I found lacking was the poor understanding that patients who found themselves with chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes needed to be on their prescribed medications and enforce adequate lifestyle changes. This, I believe can be brought about by proper patient education.
4. What have been the challenges and benefits of being a young woman in the health sector in Ghana?
Hmmm! Being a young female foreign-trained doctor having graduated medical school and passed the requisite board examinations at 22 years old in Ghana in 2015 (a little over 8 years ago), I have experienced some challenges. Firstly, the gender disparity and bias, it took a little while for patients to adjust to me being the attending doctor whenever they walked into the consulting room or when I needed to perform surgery or simply anything that needed to be done by the doctor on duty.
Secondly, being foreign-trained came with its own set of challenges. The major one was the discrimination that all foreign-trained doctors experienced upon their return to the country to practice. Although having passed the required examination before practising, we are still looked down upon and often find ourselves having to put in a little more work to 'prove our worth.' Thirdly, the lack of essential resources to enable health workers to perform their duties adequately, such as inadequate working tools, limited diagnostic equipment, and the overall pressure on healthcare workers due to fewer practitioners as compared to patients
5. In your opinion, what does it take for anyone to be successful at what they do?
I believe it’s important to have a vision of where one sees themselves and work towards attaining that goal/vision.
6. How important is it for you to do what you love and be successful at it?
For me, simply because it is the best way to feel fulfilled. Doing what you love allows a lot of room for success.
7. As a young individual, what drives you to want to achieve more in life? What are your sources of motivation?
My major driving force to continue to do what I do is the joy of seeing the impact it creates, however little. My source of motivation is being able to look back and be proud and say “I did that.” I also derive motivation from my family, the support they provide gives me the strength, zeal, and willingness to stride forward.
8. In your opinion, how would you measure success?
Success, in my opinion, is a feeling of personal fulfilment.
9. What advice would you give any individual trying to venture into the health and humanitarian sector?
It’s not a straightforward journey, but it is worth it.
10. Are you on any social media platforms?
The team at YEWGlobal wishes Dr Vanessa Mensah-Kabu all the best in her next endeavours. We can't wait to have an update on your success journey.
We hope you enjoyed this week's edition of the YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE WEEK.
See you all soon!