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Mission Turns Scholarly for Creighton Health Care Outreach
Nebraska Ag Connection - 01/12/2018

The missional efforts of two Creighton University professors have resulted in a pair of scholarly publications they hope will further the cause of health care access in the developing world and bring attention to the work of a Nigerian research hospital engaged in spreading care to rural areas and to people who otherwise might not be able to afford a doctor's visit.

The Rev. Andrew Ekpenyong, MS'07, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Sade Kosoko-Lasaki, MBA'05, MD, a professor in the School of Medicine, documented the use of mobile ultrasound services in rural communities inside a 200-mile radius of south Nigeria and also the use of mobile ultrasound technology for inmates of a prison.

These mobile clinics, staffed by volunteer health care professionals from the Joseph Ukpo Hospitals and Research Institutes (JUHRI) based in Calabar, Nigeria, reached nearly 2,000 people in the past year. Ekpenyong's and Kosoko-Lasaki's research looked at nearly 600 cases in the span of six months in 2016, examining how ultrasound's diagnostic capabilities could prove a boon for rural Nigerians. The other study, the first of its kind in Calabar, looked at 118 inmates of a correctional facility over the course of a month to demonstrate the efficacy of mobile ultrasound.

Along with the ultrasound imaging, clinicians also provided on-the-spot treatment for those in need of it, or made referrals based on diagnoses.

"It's part of our mission at Creighton, to have an impact out there in the world," said Ekpenyong, founder and co-director of JUHRI. "The identity of this University makes it possible for these things to happen, and so we rallied the top clinicians and researchers we could find and started this project as well as the publications to document them. We didn't think we'd find many cancer cases in the rural areas, but there were tumors that came up on ultrasound. The whole project allows us to know the spectrum of diseases that are out there and how best to coordinate treatments."

The rural study appeared in the Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences and the study on the prison inmates was in the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research.

Ekpenyong is a co-author on both studies and Kosoko-Lasaki has loaned her expertise on minority health to the rural report and chipped in clinical and educational support. Textbooks and equipment from Creighton's Health Sciences-Multicultural and Community Affairs office (HS-MACA) have been donated to JUHRI and its mobile clinics for use in classrooms and the field.

"It's what we do at Creighton and it's a blessing to do it," Kosoko-Lasaki said. "When the mission turns scholarly, or scholarship turns to mission, we are fulfilling the ideals of Creighton. This particular project is especially important to Creighton. We have been talking for several years now about how, instead of waiting for people to come to us, we should take health care to the people in rural areas, in areas without the access. I think these clinics and these studies will go a long way toward helping us learn more about the best ways to deliver care to people who need it most."

With the initial project and publications, both Ekpenyong and Kosoko-Lasaki are hopeful the mission and the research possibilities will expand in coming years for JUHRI, which, as an institution, has been attracting Creighton students in the health sciences who are interested in serving in the developing world.

Kosoko-Lasaki said she would like to see the growth of telehealth and telemedicine services in the area as a means toward further bridging health care disparities.

"Creighton has a big opportunity here to use all its health sciences schools and centers to carry out the mission and to learn about care in rural and developing areas," she said.

For Ekpenyong, who has been at the helm of JUHRI's efforts since its 2010 founding, these initial publications are a promise of what's to come from the research and teaching institution.

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