HEROES OF HEALTHCARE: Emmanuel Essah

19 January 2021

Through the medical capacity building program, Mercy Ships works hand-in-hand with partnering nations and local medical professionals to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in Africa – and has been doing so for almost 30 years. In that time, Mercy Ships has been introduced to countless talented medical professionals who bring hope and healing to their communities and their countries. We want you to meet these Heroes of Healthcare.

Emmanuel Essah is our hero from Benin and he has been working with Mercy Ships for over 10 years. As a biomedical equipment technician (BMET), he ensures medical equipment is well-maintained and trains other BMETs in Africa to do the same.

“In a hospital I visited in Benin in 2016 I saw a patient on anaesthetics when a fire broke out — a possible traumatizing experience. All because they used poor quality power strips with wire gauges that weren’t appropriate for the current they were carrying. This patient made it, but it is an example of a very dangerous event during surgery. Surgeons rely on their equipment and that’s why electrical safety and maintenance are so important,’ said Emmanuel. ‘Surgical safety starts with reliable equipment.”

Telecommunications engineer, translator, IT staff, and BMET

Emmanuel has had an interesting career. He graduated as a telecommunications engineer and worked as a translator for Mercy Ships in 2009. But after deciding that he wanted to do more, Emmanuel joined the organization onboard the Africa Mercy as an IT support volunteer in 2011. “A year later I told them about how I wanted to be of help as a BMET, but I wasn’t trained to be one. In 2013, Mercy Ships sponsored me to get the proper training. I’m still thankful for that opportunity and all the years that followed in which I could practice and share what I’ve learned.”

Well-maintained, properly configured and safely functioning equipment ensures that the medical staff of Mercy Ships can deliver the highest level of care. But Emmanuel does more than that:

“Before we visit a country, I do the assessment to identify the needs of the biomedical services to put together a custom-made training. In partnership with the Minister of Health of the host country, I select the participants of the training. Once the training is over, I visit the BMETs in their local hospitals to spend time with them, advocate for them, empower them and help them put into practice the things they’ve learned.’ Emmanuel’s eyes spark when he talks: ‘I really love my work, especially when I get to share my knowledge and skills with other people. And these programs will have a lasting impact on the person and the place he or she works in.”

Long-term investment: a permanent training facility in Guinea

In the beginning of 2021, Emmanuel started the new year with a unique project. He and his team are building the organization’s first permanent training facility in Guinea, a nation that partners with Mercy Ships.

“It’ll have training areas of course, but also a BMET simulation lab where the BMETs can physically train their skills. We cannot just show a video of how it’s done, you need hands-on training in order to become a good BMET. We’ll offer a six-month program in which we help them to update their knowledge, get them up to speed on new developments and learn new skills. So, with that, the trained BMETs will be of great value to the hospital or clinic they work in. And, because we’re building a permanent training facility, the BMETs can come back years later to update their knowledge and skills.”

To make this facility happen, Emmanuel and Mercy Ships work closely with a local Guinea institution, the University of Gamal in Conakry. “The president of the university, Mr. Traoré is very excited about this project. Because of the BMETs that will be trained and the impact that will have, but also because the students from the university will use the facility for education purposes.”

“Also, we’ll be training BMETs to be trainers so they can do what we do in the future,’ continued Emmanuel. ‘The goal is that the facility will eventually be run by people from Guinea. That’s why I’m very excited about this project: it will leave a lasting and structural impact. I can share all the things I learned from working with Mercy Ships and know that fellow BMETs will do the same with what they learned from us, and it goes on. That makes me very happy.”

Want to meet more Heroes of Healthcare? Click here to read Dr. Odry’s story, Benin’s first Reconstructive Plastic Surgeon.

Interested to learn more about Mercy Ships or how you can help to leave a lasting legacy in Africa? Go to our VOLUNTEER PAGE.