Dr. Hatzenbuehler, Hatz for short, has been a part of the ACSM, an organization that helps promote sports medicine education and the benefits of exercise for health, for more than a decade. Every year, the ACSM sponsors a program that sends faculty to developing countries to provide sports medicine education.
This year, Dr. Hatz was chosen to visit Accra, Ghana, along with Dr. David Olson, team physician of the Minnesota Vikings and University of Minnesota; Dr. Suzanne Hecht, team physician of the University of Minnesota; and Dr. Sharon Hame, team physician of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The group presented at a five-day conference at the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons, the country’s premier medical educational university.
More than 50 physicians attended the event, representing various specialties and regions from across the country, often traveling hours in either direction to attend the conference each day.
“I think the thing that stuck out to me the most were how eager the Ghanaian physicians and allied health professionals were to receive our information,” Dr. Hatz said.
“They have very little funding to go to conferences, and having experts come to them was completely novel. The dedication to improving their education was infectious.”
The college also established its first sports medicine fellowship, selecting Dr. Abena Tenor as the first fellow. The four ACSM faculty members will mentor her throughout her fellowship.
The Ghana physicians were particularly concerned about increased rates of chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. As Ghanaians move from rural villages to cities, lifestyle changes significantly reduce activity levels. Regular, consistent exercise has become uncommon for many adults.
“Being able to bring them the concept of exercise as medicine, getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, was completely new to many of the providers in the audience,” Dr. Hatz said. “Delivering this message is more effective than any medication we have for preventing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and combating obesity.”
Dr. Hatz hopes to develop a lasting relationship with the college and return some day to continue the educational outreach.
Joy Prudek works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.