Bringing hand therapy to Ghana

Each year, the American Association for Hand Surgery selects a single applicant to receive the Vargas International Hand Therapy Award.

The purpose of the award is to foster an exchange of educational ideas between hand therapists in the AAHS and in the host country, resulting in improved patient care for upper extremity problems.

The 2015 winner of the Vargas Award was OHSU’s Adam Crelling, a Certified Hand Therapist in the Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation.

Adam shares his story:

adam2Education and the sharing of knowledge are the fundamental objectives of The Vargas Award. As the 2015 recipient of the award, I was able to help fulfill these objectives during my 2 week visit to Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Ghana.

The focus of my trip was to help continue to educate the local physiotherapists on evaluation and treatment techniques of hand and upper extremity cases.

With the hopes of providing a more dynamic team approach, Dr. Lana Kang, an orthopedic hand surgeon from New York City, and I were able to arrange travel times to visit KATH that were overlapping.

This allowed us to simultaneously educate and reinforce new practices and procedures across the local care team (surgeons, residents and physiotherapists). Additionally, we were able to model effective collaboration between the surgeon and therapist.

In order to help local therapists better understand alternative therapeutic techniques, emphasis was placed on “co-treating” patients. Significant time was spent reviewing the mechanism of injury, the structures involved, neuro-anatomy, surgery performed, treatments and goals.

A variety of custom orthoses were fabricated. Local therapists were able to observe the construction and application of these devices.

Throughout the 2 week volunteer trip, I had the unique opportunity to directly participate in patient care while working alongside local therapy providers.

With the Vargas International Hand Therapy Award offered by AAHS, the Ghana Hand Therapy Program as well as other international missions they support will continue to successfully grow. It was an honor and true pleasure to have been awarded the 2015 Vargas Award.