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Inspired by American missionary, young African doctor finds his destiny at New Jersey rehab center

You never know when your life will touch another's - and inspire a career.

Two decades ago, an American nun set off on a medical mission to the villages of Ghana. Her skill and compassion made a deep impression on young Andrew Ankamah.

"I knew then that I wanted to come to America and become a doctor," says Ankamah today. And after studying in both France and the United States, Ankamah achieved his goal. Today, Andrew Ankamah, M.D. is the newly appointed director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Willow Creek Rehabilitation and Care Center.

"We are thrilled to have Dr. Ankamah on our staff," says Willow Creek Administrator Grace Kidney. "Not only does he have impressive medical skills, he also has a real gift for relating to our patients."

Although he began his career with the idea of working as a surgeon, Ankamah found that surgery lacked the personal contact he enjoyed when working with patients - so he changed his focus to medical rehabilitation. "Interacting with patients is very important to me," he says. "It is the most satisfying part of being a physician."

In addition to providing specialized care to patients in the center's physical therapy program, Dr. Ankamah will also work with patients in Willow Creek's traumatic brain injury (TBI) unit. Patients in this unit have experienced widespread brain damage as a result of traumatic or acquired brain injury. Dr. Ankamah works with the Willow Creek staff to help these patients prevent or minimize disabilities, and to restore as much of their physical, cognitive, and behavioral functions as possible.

"TI patients are the most challenging cases,"Dr. Ankamah acknowledges, "ut I try to give them hope, because many patients can do so much more than anyone thinks, For example, some textbooks say that after six months, most stroke victim who have lost mobility will never walk again. In my experience, that is simply not the case."

A native of Ghana, Dr. Ankamah obtained his undergraduate degree at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in Biology. He completed three years of biomedical research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine before earning his medical degree, also from Temple University. He completed his internship in surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, New Brunswick, NJ and a residency at Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation and UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School, Newark NJ. He is board-certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

According to Dr. Ankamah, the most challenging part of being a physician today is not caring for patients, but dealing with insurance companies. "t troubles me what some of my patients have to go through in order to get the insurance that they are entitled to. So I try to be their advocate, to make sure they can get all the care they need."

In addition to serving as director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Willow Creek, Dr. Ankamah also has an office at New Jersey Sports and Spine Medicine in Somerset, where he specializes in sports medicine and spinal care.