Beyond Borders: Insights from the GBHI Leadership Retreat in Ghana

In this perspective, Djibril Moussa recounts the enriching experience of the 2023 GBHI Leadership Retreat in Ghana, where Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health from 19 countries explored the profound intersections of leadership, cultural immersion, and brain health equity.

Atlantic Fellows and street mural in Ghana

Above: Atlantic Fellows and local community members joined leading artist Kingsley Deffor to create a street mural to raise awareness about dementia care and services in Accra, Ghana. Photo by Selorm Attikpo.

In October, the 2023 cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health traveled to Ghana, Africa, for the GBHI Leadership Retreat. This unique experience brought together fellows from 19 countries to delve into the profound aspects of leadership and collaboration. Facilitated by GBHI faculty and staff and local leaders, the retreat was a rich offering of insights, discussions, and cultural immersion. It was also an opportunity for fellows based at GBHI’s two sites in San Francisco and Dublin to meet face-to-face for the first time.

The retreat started with a focus on leadership principles and values. Fellows engaged in meaningful conversations about their backgrounds, work areas, and potential avenues for collaboration. We explored the foundational aspects of leadership, emphasizing values such as purpose, courage, wisdom, and creativity. These discussions set the stage for a holistic exploration of leadership within the context of brain health equity.

One of the highlights of the retreat was the exploration of Ghana's rich history, art, and culture. Fellows explored the leadership values embedded in Ghanaian culture, symbolized by Adinkra symbols. These symbols encapsulate fundamental values crucial for effective reflective leadership. The intersection of culture and leadership provided valuable insights into the diverse ways leadership can be expressed and fostered within a community.

Brain health sessions led by the fellows were a testament to the power of communal partnership and collaboration. The emphasis on pitching future collaborations underscored the retreat's goal of fostering leadership not only within the fellows' careers but also in our personal journeys.

Djibril Moussa speaks at the GBHI Leadership Retreat in Ghana
GBHI members gather at Ghana Medical School

Above left: Djibril Moussa speaks at the GBHI Leadership Retreat. Above right: GBHI community members gather at Ghana Medical School. Photos by Selorm Attikpo.

The second day of the retreat focused on reflections and re-examinations of leadership styles. Sessions on understanding leadership and community engagement, as well as organizational leadership and mobilizing community engagement, provided fellows with a comprehensive toolkit for effective leadership.

The retreat also included visits to significant national sites in Accra, such as the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and Memorial Park and Independence Square (also known as Black Star Square), offering fellows a reflective exploration of African history and leadership, from the days of independence to the present.

A key experience occurred on the third day with a visit to Cape Coast Castle, where fellows learned about the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This excursion provided a profound understanding of the equity dimensions of the leadership retreat, emphasizing the importance of acknowledging historical contexts in shaping current practices.

The fourth day showcased two key sessions, one at the University of Ghana Medical Centre and another involving a street art practice with leading Accra interdisciplinary artist Kingsley Deffor. The former examined the challenges and state of dementia care in Ghana, presenting potential areas for collaboration. The latter, a hands-on street art session, aimed to raise awareness about dementia care and services in the local community.

The retreat concluded by connecting the leadership experience in Ghana with the broader Atlantic Fellows' landscape. Fellows learned about the future journey of Atlantic Fellows, gaining insights into how the seven Atlantic Fellows programs collaborate, conduct research, and engage with communities.

The trip not only deepened our understanding of leadership but also strengthened bonds of the GBHI community. Ghana proved to be a stimulating setting for this remarkable leadership retreat, leaving a lasting impact on our professional and personal journeys.