Ellie Foster HeadshotIn January 2016, the nonprofit MusicXchange, founded by Berklee student Federico Masetti, organized a two-week service trip to Ghana to build strategic partnerships and raise awareness about the organization. The following post was written by Ellie Foster, one of the trip’s participants. Read a post by fellow participant Apiwe Bubu.

By Ellie Foster

Among the many meetings we had in Kumasi, Ghana, on January 7, none was quite so preliminarily daunting–and ultimately fruitful–as our appointment with Dr. Baffour Awuah. Dr. Awuah, medical director of Komfo Anyoke Teaching Hospital, sits on the board of HopeXChange Medical Center and agreed to meet with us at the request of fellow board member Riccardo Masetti—noted oncologist and father of our trip’s leader, Federico. As we sat in his waiting room, I couldn’t help but feel nervous about pitching the concept of music therapy to him.

I had sent him a proposal for a pilot program at HopeXChange Medical Center and hoped that perhaps he’d had a chance to skim it. But what if he hadn’t? What if I was giving a cold call? How could I relay the tremendous amount of research that supports medical music therapy in a matter of minutes? How could I translate my meaningful clinical experiences into something applicable to his hospital? How could I make sure my palms weren’t so sweaty that I would offend him when I shook his hand?!

When we were finally invited into his office, Dr. Awuah put me at ease with his warm welcome. (At least, at ease enough so that by the time he shook my hand I didn’t slime him.) Not only was Dr. Awuah inviting, but he had also read the entirety of my proposal and was ready with questions and had developed a vision for music therapy in Ghana far more comprehensive than we had previously considered.

Dr. Awuah stressed the importance of creating a professional system of music therapy in Ghana in order for music therapy to gain acceptance as a healthcare discipline. He recognized that such structures exist in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere, and then pointed out the necessity of proving music therapy’s efficacy in Ghana itself. As of yet, there is no definitive evidence that exists to prove that the beneficial outcomes American patients receive from music therapy will generalize to improvements for patients in Ghana. Therefore, Dr. Awuah suggested a research study as an entree into the healthcare field in Ghana. In fact, he graciously offered his hospital as the study site in addition to recommending a partnership with MusicXChange and Berklee College of Music on a research proposal to be submitted to the Institutional Review Board. He also emphasized the need for us to aid in the development of standardized practices and education for music therapy in Ghana so that it will eventually provide music therapy jobs for Ghanaians.

Essentially, Dr. Awuah didn’t just envision music therapy at HopeXChange, but throughout the healthcare field in Ghana. I left floored, inspired, and energized. And when I shook his hand goodbye, my hands were dry as bone.

Ellie Foster studied music therapy at Berklee, and is a proud member of the MusicXChange team. She is currently completing her music therapy internship at Boston Children’s Hospital.