By Naomi Smith Perrone
In a multidisciplinary collaboration, University at Buffalo students from management, medicine, nursing and engineering came together to give back to the global community.
Last fall, students from across campus enrolled in the School of Management course, “Social Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership in Africa,” where they learned about the culture, history and traditions of Ghana, South Africa and Rwanda from guest speakers and presentations in the virtual component of the class.
In addition, they completed country-specific projects centered on engineering, medicine and the development of marketable soft skills.
Most of the projects served nonprofit organizations as part of a strategic design to provide aid where needed. The various skills and backgrounds of the students made for interesting team dynamics and emphasized the need to understand how to effectively perform in intersectional workplace environments.
Amani Raboudi, MBA ’23, took the course because she was curious about the role the United States, as a world power, plays in influencing the economic and political policies of developing countries, and how it advocates for cultural and economic globalization. Instead, she had an experience that was beyond her expectations and helped her develop a diverse and global mindset.
The custom-designed learning opportunity enabled her learn about Africa and explore the continent through different lenses, gaining an appreciation for its heritage.
“I was able to discover an accurate portrayal of Africa that liberated the continent from its history of suffering and shifted my focus toward the overlooked growth and development it has achieved so far,” says Raboudi. “I also experienced the richness of the culture by learning some of the language, dancing to African beats, and exploring delicious Ghanaian cuisine right here in Buffalo, New York.”
In December, the program concluded with optional travel to Ghana’s capital city of Accra, in partnership with four other universities.
As a part of one of the School of Management strategic initiatives, the social impact of business, students spent time looking at the business of health care.
Designated student lead for the trip, Michelle Amankwah, MD ’25, was drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of the course and her interest in exploring ethnic mosaic of cultures across continental Africa. She jumped at the opportunity to travel in person and apply the skills learned from her team project and the coursework through hands-on experiences.
A uniting condition of human well-being is health, and throughout the trip, students provided medical care in pop-up community clinics, established medical facilities and schools.
In Adeisu, a small town outside of Accra, Amankwah stationed herself at the triage table in the community clinic, where she took patient histories and temperatures. Because she spoke and understood the local dialect, Twi, she volunteered to help with translations.
“Upon greeting the patients in Twi, we were met with an abundance of smiles and encouragement to continue speaking and learning the language,” says Amankwah. “Those of us on the triage team built a rapport with the patients, which positively impacted the details in the histories we took and enabled us better help and serve them.”
Amankwah is an aspiring ophthalmologist, and it is her goal to return to Ghana and raise awareness about eye pathologies like cataracts and glaucoma, as well as ocular diseases secondary to illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.
In a formal medical facility, students rounded with physicians, interacted with pediatric patients and entered the operating room to observe a Cesarean section.
For Amanda Bahgat, MD ’25, one of the most impactful moments of the trip was at Presbyterian Junior High School in Amanokrom, Akuapem.
After providing health care for the students, the UB team asked what they would like to discuss relating to health. The students chose to discuss mental health. After a revelational discussion about access to mental health, Bahgat returned to UB with a strong desire to help advocate and expand mental health services globally.
The UB contingent rounded out their trip with a visit to an orphanage at Pokuase and Larteh, Akuapem, where they played games with the children. They also gave food provisions to the community and spoke with local elders.
In an increasingly connected world, UB students enjoyed deep immersion in Ghanaian culture, and a transformative life experience.