Prof. Jacob Plange-Rhule

A CHAMPION IN EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE IN GHANA HAS BEEN LOST TO COVID-19

Dr Tony Danso-Appiah

My heart is bleeding over the passing of Prof Jacob Plange-Rhule, Rector, Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons (GCPS). He was a wonderful person – never angry, always a smile on his face, even under intense pressure or stress and very courteous to all, irrespective of position. I first met Prof Plange-Rhule when I visited the GCPS to discuss Evidence-based Medicine (EBM) proposal. After going through the document, he sat up and assured me he would do his best, with a smile. Then, after some time, I received approval to start EBM as part of the GCPS’s Residency Programme. Without his foresight and support, EBM would not have been a reality in Ghana.

The main goal of every doctor is to obtain the best possible outcome of care for the patient and to achieve this, the doctor needs to find, appraise and apply evidence from existing scientific research to inform his/her decisions and treatment choices. Prof Plange-Rhule saw EBM as the best approach to making sound decisions about the care of the patient in line with the global acceptance of EBM as the best model of medical care.

As a result of the bold decision he took, Ghana has become the only country in Africa that has institutionalized Evidence-based Medicine and made it compulsory for specialist doctors training at the Membership and Fellowship levels, an accomplishment that cannot be underestimated. So far, the EBM programme has trained over 400 doctors who are now either Specialists or Consultants working to deliver the best healthcare throughout Ghana. In fact, Prof Plange-Rhule was directly involved in the request to the Ghana Medical and Dental Council (GMDC) to make sure every practising doctor in Ghana followed the Evidence-based Medicine course, demonstrating his unrivalled commitment to improving healthcare delivery in Ghana.

We have only just started with plans to evaluate the impact of the EBM programme on quality of care as well as improvement in patient outcomes, meaning Prof Plange-Rhule was unable to see the impact of an idea was so passionate about and supported, a deeply saddening fact. I hope we will all join hands to mourn and celebrate a friend, colleague, mentor and above all, a champion. When I checked, the last time he visited WhatsApp was 2:10am on Friday 10th April and the news about his passing broke in the early hours of that same Friday. Indeed, this is a big loss to Ghana and Africa as a whole. Let us all join hands and make sure his legacy lives on. May His Gentle Soul Rest In Perfect Peace!

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University of Ghana Centre for Evidence Synthesis and Policy; Founder, The African Communities of Evidence Synthesis and Translation