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Her heart's in Africa

Dr. Hannah Addom-Tetteh joined the Sanford Health team in Dickinson recently and has already begun making an impact with her experience. Photo by James B. Miller, Jr. / The Dickinson Press

Becoming a surgeon is one of the lengthiest academic processes a person can undertake, generally requiring four years of undergraduate school, four years of medical school and three to 10 years of continuing residency and fellowship training—not to mention the near perpetual studying and practice required to be proficient and maintain licensures. Simply put, it's not something people do unless they have a calling for it.

Dr. Hannah Addom-Tetteh, a University of Illinois College of Medicine-trained surgeon, has that calling. She joined the Sanford Health team in Dickinson in late June and has already made an impact at Sanford.

"I went to medical school in Southern Illinois University before taking a residency position at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago," she recounted. "As a general surgeon I don't do bones, joints or hearts, but I do pretty much everything else."

In Chicago she handled a range of trauma-related cases with an old-fashioned approach, often without access to state-of-the-art equipment.

Addom-Tetteh believes the change of pace from the trauma and crime of the inner city to rural North Dakota will be both refreshing for her husband and children, and easing her mind as she focuses on her work. The opportunities for post-operative follow-ups with patients, a rarity for her in the Windy City, is something she looks most forward to in her new position.

"My foremost goal is to foster a relationship with patients so they are confident in putting their care in my hands, but ultimately I want to emphasize continuity of care," she said. "I don't just operate and leave; I want to follow up with patients as they recover— something I know I'll have the opportunity to do here in Dickinson."

As a child Addom-Tetteh traveled abroad with her family who were active missionaries in their church. She first discovered her passion for medicine growing up in Zambia and Kenya where her missionary upbringing brought her into direct contact with medically underserved populations.

"When I volunteered at an orphanage for abandoned babies in Kenya, where the AIDS epidemic is ravaging the whole continent, I remember feeling overwhelmed and helpless to do anything for these poor kids," she said. "From that experience, I really wanted to be involved in helping and knew that I wanted to do mission work and get involved in health care."

Sanford Health's opportunities for worldwide practice greatly attracted the skilled surgeon.

"Sanford Health's world clinic opportunities are amazing," she explained. "They have locations in Canada, China, Germany and Ghana, providing me opportunities to continue my missionary work abroad in the future."

Addom-Tetteh said she chose to come to Sanford Health because it's a place where she knows she can make a real impact on the community while also providing her the chance to return to her heart in Africa.

"I got to experience the culture, food and people in Zambia and Kenya," she recounted. "To return now as a surgeon and help would be special."

Sanford Health was excited to bring a doctor of her caliber to Dickinson.

"We are proud to welcome Dr. Addom-Tetteh to our Sanford Health family of physicians and surgeons," said Jon Berg, senior media relations specialist with Sanford communications. "She's a well-trained and highly skilled surgeon who puts her patients first, and that's just the type of surgical care our community needs."

Addom-Tetteh said she owes much of her outlook on life to her experiences abroad and a loving family.

"I think the biggest thing I learned from growing up abroad is the importance of relationships with family," she explained. "The same importance and approach I bring to every patient."

Addom-Tetteh's own little family is proud to call Dickinson their new home as she performs much- needed surgeries for adults and children in the community.

The Sanford Health West Dickinson Clinic is located at 2615 Fairway St., across from the CHI St. Alexius Health Hospital.