During a July visit to the U.S., Ghanaian physician Sunny Doodu Mante talked with us about his love of urology and his longtime work to reinforce hydrocele surgery skills throughout Africa.
Dr. Mante is a preeminent global authority on filarial hydrocele, a debilitating condition marked by an accumulation of fluid in the scrotum. Caused by mosquito-borne worms, hydrocele affects an estimated 25 million men globally.
As a consultant to the USAID-funded MMDP Project, Dr. Mante was in North Carolina conducting final testing on a surgical simulator that will be a core part of the project’s hydrocele surgery training program. (See related story.) He told us he is confident that the simulator, called FASTT (which stands for Filaricele Anatomical Surgical Task Trainer), will reduce complications in patients and ultimately change the way hydrocele surgeons are trained throughout the world.
Our team caught up with Dr. Mante in North Carolina to learn more about his path to becoming a global expert in hydrocele surgery, and his views on what it will take for lymphatic-filariasis-endemic countries to eliminate suffering and disability due to hydrocele.
You studied medicine in Ghana at the University of Science and Technology, School of Medical Sciences. What inspired you to pursue medicine as a young man, and why did you choose urology as your specialty?
I had an uncle who was a doctor. When I was in high school he helped me to prepare for medical school. He encouraged me. Then during my second year of medical school we were sent out to do rotations in the hospitals, and I was given to a urologist who impressed me with his procedures. I watched him do prostatectomy and ureteroplasty. He laid open the whole urinary tract and reconstructed it. For me it was amazing, very amazing. I thought I needed to train and become like him.
Over your career, you’ve continually honed your skills in hospital settings around the world and in challenging field locations. Which experiences were most crucial in shaping the physician you are today?
I would put my urology practice ahead of the field work because it involves varied skills. The field work is purely hydrocele surgery. In my urology practice I see a vast amount of cases: In urology you are dealing with pediatrics, children, mainly congenital anomalies; you are dealing with infertility, cancer, infections; with women, it’s mainly instability of the bladder, pelvic floor abnormalities, because of deliveries. So urology is very broad.
How many patients do you see in a month at your practice in Accra?
It’s a lot! During a day at the clinic I see about 100 patients. I sit in the clinic and they just keep banging on my door. And I run two clinics a week, so that means I see about 200 patients a week. Times four, that’s about 800 patients every month.
And you do surgery the other days?
We do surgeries Mondays and Wednesdays, and we do clinics Tuesdays and Fridays. Thursdays we do our general ward rounds and teaching of residents.