From Ghana to the United States
Born to a Ghanian mother and a German father, Dr. Tackie grew up in the coastal town of Teshie-Nungua in Accra, Ghana. Buoyed by a lifelong dream to become a physician, she graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School in 2005. Her eight years of schooling included three years of pre-medical work, three years of medical training and two years of what is known as housemanship, or rotations in different specialty areas. She also completed one year of pediatrics residency in her home country.
Her move to the United States was prompted by love: Shortly after finishing medical school she married her now-husband, whom she describes as “someone I’ve known for more than half my life.” When they were growing up, he lived down the road from her aunt. He had come to the United States while she was still in university in Ghana, so after medical school she joined him in San Diego, California.
Their reunification was short-lived, however; when she received an offer to do her pediatric residency at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, she left California to take the opportunity, seeing it as a short-term sacrifice to realize a long-term goal. She had to start her residency from scratch in the United States.
During her residency, the contrasts between her training in Ghana and the realities of the U.S. medical system came into sharp relief. Her time in Ghana gave her clinical exam skills she says she now cherishes.
“You learned to trust your hands, to trust your ears and your nose, and your eyes,” she says. “You saw people do amazing things with very, very, very little. We didn’t have fancy gadgets.”
She also learned how to make the most of what she had available; she became adept at finding innovative approaches to solving problems with limited resources.
“I know it’s not the same as working on the battlefield. It’s a totally different kind of medicine, but in many ways, you had to improvise,” she says. “You had to learn to use the few things you had and make it work.”
Despite her broad skill set and deep clinical knowledge, the emphasis in United States residency programs on teaching and didactics proved to be a challenge, in part because she had never had much time to pause and reflect on her decision-making.
“I had been in an environment where you had to keep going,” she says. “It was a lot of experience, but when you had to back it up and explain why you did what you did – that’s where I struggled.”
Another challenge: Teenagers.
“I came from a culture where once a child was 12 years-old they moved up to the adult side of the medical world,” she says. “And suddenly here I was with full grown men and women. I didn’t know how to talk to them.”
She turned to American television – in particular the popular show “Hannah Montana” – in an attempt to “understand what went on in the kids’ minds,” she laughs.
As Dr. Tackie worked hard to overcome these cross-cultural challenges, her efforts didn’t go unnoticed by her teachers and mentors at Hurley. In addition to serving as pediatric chief resident in her final year, she was awarded the Amithabha Banerjee Award for Leadership in Outstanding Clinical Skills, Professional Behavior and Commitment to Lifelong Learning.