In 1972, at the age of 21, Dr. Oheneba Boachie-Adjei (pictured) immigrated to the United States with only $12 in his pocket and the hope of the American dream. Four decades later, he lives a dream fulfilled as one of the world’s top orthopedic surgeons and humanitarians.
A native of Ghana, Dr. Boachie-Adjei received his Doctor of Medicine Degree from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1980. He is currently a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, Chief of the Scoliosis Service at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS), Attending Orthopaedic Surgeon at both HSS and New York-Presbyterian Hospital and an inventor with several patents for devices used in spine surgery.
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Dr. Boachie-Adjei is also president and founder of the Foundation of Orthopedics and Complex Spine (FOCOS), which aims to bring first-class orthopedic care to Africans with complex orthopedic and spine conditions. In 2012, the foundation opened FOCOS Orthopaedic Hospital, a 50-bed specialty hospital in Accra, Ghana, providing comprehensive orthopedic and rehabilitative services for adults and children. One of the only specialty hospitals in Africa, FOCOS Orthopaedic Hospital is fully accredited to operate both inpatient and outpatient departments, providing emergency medicine, ambulance services, diagnostics (including MRI, CT, echocardiogram, catheterization lab, complete laboratory services, and radiology), pharmacy and physiotherapy.
From his birth in Ghana to his education at some of the America’s most-prestigious universities to his current position as one of the world’s most-influential orthopedists, Dr.Boachie-Adjei has lived a life of perseverance and vision. In his work as a surgeon, he has given the gift of health to patients the world over. Through FOCOS, he has brought his knowledge, talents, and determination to bear in helping to solve the serious shortages of trained doctors and proper medical facilities in Ghana and the rest of Africa.
Since its inception in 1998, FOCOS has treated more than 17,000 local and international patients. The medical team has also performed more than 800 surgeries, including complex spine, total knee, and hip replacements. Dr. Boachie-Adjei has been named by New York magazine as One of the “Best Doctors in New York” three times, and he is the recipient of the Science and Peace Gold Medal (Humanitarian Award), Wholeness of Life Award, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Humanitarian Award, Russell Hibbs Award/Best Clinical Research Paper, Louis Goldstein Award/Best Clinical Poster, and the Philip D. Wilson Award/Outstanding Teacher, Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Boachie-Adjei will be retiring this summer and permanently relocating to Ghana to dedicate his time to the expansion and the next phase of FOCOS. Below, Face2Face Africa had a chat with Dr. Boachie-Adjei to further understand his vision.
Face2Face Africa: What is the most-important impact that you believe FOCOS has made during its existence? What further impacts do you envision or hope for it to make in the future?
Dr. Boachie Adjei: FOCOS has brought first-class orthopedic care to Ghanaians and Africans with complex orthopedic and spine conditions that can only be treated abroad at expensive prices. Many lives that would have been lost are saved. Many children now have hope to live longer. We have also energized the orthopedic community, and hopefully, more residents will be produced for the profession.
F2FA: What goals did you have when you founded FOCOS? Has the organization achieved these goals? Where do you envision the organization in the next 25 years?
BA: When I founded FOCOS, I had a plan to help the people of Africa to whatever extent I could. Once I realized the support system I had around me, I was able to expand my vision by establishing my own hospital. Now that that’s accomplished, I am moving to the next phase, which is to build the FOCOS Institute to train medical professionals so that they can continue with this work long after I am gone. Ideally, in 25 years, FOCOS will be the hub for orthopedic care and training in Africa and will have gained international acclaim.
BA: The opening of the FOCOS Hospital was a dream come true for me. It made clear that if you have a vision, you can make it a reality with just a bit of persistence and support. I am also so proud to see patients, young and old from all across the world, chipping in to support FOCOS. Many have provided financial contributions and others have donated their time and energy. It’s so rewarding to see my work come full circle.
F2FA: What personal skills, traits, or attributes have allowed you to be so successful as both an orthopedist and a philanthropist?
BA: As an orthopedist, attention to detail and constant practice have allowed me to develop my skill set. As a philanthropist, [it is about] setting goals and unwavering from them until they are attained. I believe that if there is something you are passionate enough about, you will overcome any obstacle to fulfill whatever your goal is.
F2FA: What do you love about Africa?
BA: Africa is rich in human and natural resources and has many faces and ethnic groups with unlimited potential. The people are resilient and can endure hardship, but not forever. There are great minds and leaders who can step up to the plate and make a difference in their countries.
F2FA: What would you change about the current state of Africa if you could? How are you currently working to (or plan to in the future) bring about this change?
BA: In the medical field, we are trying to help build capacity so as to produce more medical and paramedical professionals to manage our many medical problems. Education and training are two of our goals at FOCOS. Africa needs practical and authentic leadership with emphasis on solving problems of the highest priority, such as education, health, and infrastructure. Our future lies with the people and the environment.
F2FA: What advice would you give to young Africans who are interested in careers in the medical or philanthropic fields?
BA: Bright young Africans interested in medicine should win high and work hard to achieve their goals. Take every opportunity at home or abroad to become the best — not just among the pack. We need exceptional doctors capable of passing on the knowledge to the next generation.
F2FA: Outside of work, what are you passionate about?
BA: I like to travel and experience other cultures and people. My hobbies include golf and photography when I have some time to spend outdoors. Golf takes me away from indoor activities and pressures, and my target, the little white ball, doesn’t complain even though it may get lost. It is also a good time to be with my wife who is my favorite caddie.
Join Face2Face Africa on July 26 in New York City as we honor Dr. Boachie-Adjei with the Humanitarian award for his commitment, vision, and the amazing inspiration that his journey continues to be to members of the pan-African community.
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