Doctor travels from US to Ghana with former patient to help fight breast cancer

Lauren Glassberg Image
Friday, July 21, 2023
Doctor travels from US to Ghana with former patient to help fight breast cancer
A doctor traveled from the U.S. to Ghana to help a former breast cancer patient improve the lives of other women fighting the disease, Lauren Glassberg reports.

SUFFERN, New York (WABC) -- Most patients appreciate a doctor with good bedside manner -- and one doctor in Rockland County is so beloved by her patients that one former patient is paying tribute to her in a remarkable way.

Dr. Karen Karsif doesn't just rely on surgery to treat some of her patients. She's also a big believer in touch.

"It just seems like a way of imparting healing and warmth, and there's data that says the mental health of a breast cancer patient is very important in her recovery, not just the physical health," said Dr. Karen Karsif, a breast surgeon at Good Samaritan Hospital.

It's an approach that made a powerful impression on Isabella Naana Akyaa Asante.

"It showed me I wasn't just a patient for her, I was a human being," Isabella said.

Isabella was working as a traveling nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in 2015 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She met Dr. Karsif, the director of the hospital's breast health center, the day after her diagnosis.

"I couldn't even get the words out I just broke down, and then she embraced me, so that's the name of my foundation," Isabella said.

It's a foundation she established in her native Ghana to pay it forward.

And this summer, on the eighth anniversary of Isabella's double mastectomy and reconstruction, Dr. Karsif traveled to Ghana.

They met with hospital leaders and doctors, discussing ways to improve resources and support for women in Ghana with breast cancer. They also raised money.

"Embrace is to try to replicate what Dr. Karsif and her amazing team did for me," said Isabella. "So that no women die from late diagnosis, lack of resources or lack of support."

"She is trying to build an infrastructure in a country that has none for breast care and I'd like to help her do that," said Dr. Karsif.

It's a bond that transcends borders all born from a hug.

"It's not the medicine alone that contributes to a positive outcome, it's the embrace, it's the soft things," Isabella said.

The doctor and patient are now friends and share the same goal of providing better care for women, no matter where they live.

Karsif says when she retired from doing surgery she hopes to focus on improving breast care around the globe.

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