Hannah Ashitey has a passion to assist the underserved.
When the fourth-year medical student was growing up in Ghana, West Africa, she became involved as a volunteer with several nonprofit organizations. This led her to develop a passion for female reproductive health, and eventually to pursue a career in medicine. Although Ghana has one of the most stable governments on the continent, it has been struggling with infant and maternal mortality.
Ashitey was born in Chicago, Illinois, to African parents, but she and her siblings grew up in Ghana. “Their aim was to expose us to our Ghanaian heritage and to understand what it means to have a vision and work hard amidst unfavorable circumstances,” she said.
Ashitey returned to the United States in 2005, completed high school, and earned her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and her master’s degree in public health at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
As time passed, she discovered similar issues in the U.S. and Ghana among African Americans and those of low economic status. “My interest not only piqued because even a country that is several times more stable and developed than Ghana, still faces similar issues,” she said. I decided to seek a career in obstetrics and gynecology to aid in finding solutions to some of these issues.”
While obtaining her master’s degree, Ashitey had the opportunity to work with the chief operating officer and other administrators at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville in process improvement. This fueled her passion for the underserved even more.
“I learned about the Lean Process in health care and how it helps them make system changes, track, and achieve their goals,” Ashitey said. This process is defined as creating more value for customers with fewer resources. “With my experience, passion, and training, I hope to be able to contribute to the medical and administrative aspect of health care of underserved communities.”
Ashitey said she chose to continue her education in the UTHSC College of Medicine because it is structured to provide quality education to aspiring physicians, while providing support to its students both academically and mentally, especially through departments like Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSi).
Since enrolling, she has served as the president of the Student National Medical Association, where she continued the legacy of their annual Dream Big Conference for local middle and high school students.
She is also a student assistant for Health Career Programs, as well as a student representative for the JED Campus Team — a committee set up to improve student mental health services, suicide and substance abuse prevention efforts on campus, and geared toward a preventive approach.
“When it comes to involvement, it’s important to find your passion and figure out how to use it to make a difference in others’ lives,” she said. “I love using my experiences to help others. I went through the TIP program and now I’m a student assistant for Health Career Programs helping others like myself. It’s not enough to achieve, I believe my greatest achievements are when I lend a hand to the next person to help them get to where I am, because others did it for me.”
Upon graduation, Ashitey plans to apply to an obstetrics and gynecology residency.
Ashitey is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and continues to uphold their mission of public service and academic excellence. For incoming students, Ashitey wants them to know that although it will get rough at times, they are not alone. “Make sure to reach out and stay connected, find your group of friends and support each other, go to SASSI and establish a relationship with an educational specialist and counselor, find healthy ways to destress. Most importantly, remember why you’re here. This, too, shall pass.”
Note: This story is from the most recent issue of Medicine magazine.