Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2023

Title:From the Hilltop to the backroads of Ghana

Author: By Bhriana Smith
Date Published: June 20, 2023
two women hold a monkey in a jungle
Clare Westerman (H’23) and Emme Rogers (H’22) visit a monkey sanctuary during their research trip to Ho, Ghana. Photo: Courtesy of Clare Westerman

School of Health extends curriculum far beyond the classroom

Students enrolled in the School of Health are offered a variety of experiential learning opportunities, including study abroad, community-based collaborations, research conferences, and the school’s Discovery Center.

Georgetown Health Magazine recently spoke with two undergraduate global health majors, Clare Westerman (H’23) and Emme Rogers (H’22), who traveled from the Hilltop to Ghana in Fall 2022.

The students lived in Ho, Ghana, occasionally traveling to Hohoe and other districts within the Volta Region to research reproductive and sexual health. Given the short time period the students were in Ghana, they drew from existing, raw datasets to conduct original data analysis while engaging with the local  communities, working closely with the Institute of Health Research (IHR) at the University of Health and Allied Science (UHAS).

A baby is examined on a medical table by medical volunteers
Emme Rodgers (H’22) helps measure a young baby during her field work related to maternal and child health. Photo: Courtesy of Emme Rogers

Why study global health?

Clare: As a pre-med student, I am interested in health from the medical perspective, but I also want to see health and health access from the social perspective—examining what health looks like in terms of health determinants. This knowledge will help me learn how to serve communities.

Emme: I wanted to get a more holistic view of what affects health, especially in our global society. I really enjoy learning about the social determinants of health and how everything comes together to create this picture of health and what is healthy.

What was it like living in Ghana?

Clare: I’m from Boston, so Ghana was very different. I loved seeing the farm animals, mainly the goats and chickens, run around. The atmosphere was very happy, and the people were friendly. It was truly a wonderful experience.

Emme: Though I grew up as an army brat, living in many different places, I can confidently say I am from the Midwest. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Ghana, but I quickly realized similarities—like the easygoing lifestyle and the friendliness of the people—in the areas of Ghana where I stayed.

a town near a street in Ghana against the mountains
The pair traversed quiet country roads throughout the Volta Region during their experiential learning experience.
Photo: Courtesy of Emme Rogers

What were your research projects about?

Emme: My theme was maternal and child health. There is a high incidence of prenatal care, at 98%, but there is a certain medication mothers must take throughout their pregnancy to prevent malaria, and that uptake is only 60%. I wanted to understand that gap, and I discovered that health care providers were not informed on current policy, which impacted how they educated expecting mothers.

Clare: I explored the different factors affecting sexual and reproductive health in adolescents. I focused on a specific district near Ho because it had a really high rate of adolescent pregnancy. I was looking at the determinants of sexual health knowledge and engagement with different services. This particular district started an adolescent health club initiative to respond to pregnancy rates; for my project, I analyzed the factors that predict engagement with those clubs, in addition to some other key markers of sexual health.

“In global health studies, there are so many universal surveys and indicators, but this experience taught me the importance of localizing that information, and what it looks like to practically learn from a community.”

— Emme Rogers (H’22)

How would you compare what you learned working with the community to what you have learned in a traditional, classroom setting?

Clare: At Georgetown, we’ve talked about what it looks like to work with people from different cultures or to integrate into someone else’s culture. We’ve discussed the different ways we can be culturally responsive and have cultural humility, but actually experiencing it is an entirely different scenario. It’s something you have to do to fully understand, and I wouldn’t understand it today if I hadn’t had the opportunity to research in Ghana.

Emme: Conducting field surveys was a humbling experience. In global health studies, there are so many universal surveys and indicators, but this experience taught me the importance of localizing that information, and what it looks like to practically learn from a community. My time in Ghana taught me that there are a lot of things about the world that I don’t know.

What was it like working with professionals in the fields you aspire to go into?

Emme: The staff at the University of Health and Allied Sciences was really open to helping us with our projects, even though they were clearly very busy. I was impressed by how much research they were pumping out, especially since it is a young school.

Clare: The people at the Institute of Health Research were fantastic. They are diligent and stellar scholars, and they took such good care of us.

The School of Health’s Discovery Center is just one of the ways Georgetown is ensuring our student community thrives as we become the university we are called to be. Learn more at

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