The joy of the season is always multiplied for me as it also means that the semester of teaching at Methodist University PA program is also over. We had a record number of new students (40) enroll this year and it seemed to be significantly more work for some reason. The week ended on December 17 with graduation of the 32 members of our 2011 class. It is always amazing to see the significant transformation that has occurred in the class of wide-eyed students that started 27 months ago. Five of them got “perfect” scores in the national certification exam – I was very proud of their performance.
November 30 – December 10 were the dates of a very busy and successful trip to Zambia. I was attending as an examiner for the oral exams. Two groups of students from all of East, Central and Southern Africa were being tested. Those who had completed 2 of 5 years of training were eligible for the Membership level exam and those who had completed all 5 years were eligible for the Fellowship level. These are tough exams and the anxiety among the students was high. The Membership level exams consisted of clinical cases, two informational stations, one technical station and two oral exams on general knowledge that they should have obtained at their level. In the clinical cases, they had 20 minutes to examine a patient with a condition that they should know about and to answer questions from the examiners. In the informational stations, one consisted of history taking and the other in communicating bad news. The technical station was the sewing of two pieces of (animal) intestine together with proper technique. The oral exams were rather broad in scope, covering much of the field of surgery. Overall, 74% passed; out of our five candidates, PAACS had an 80% pass rate. The PAACS residents acquitted themselves well but unfortunately one young man received a “bare fail”. He will be able to retake it next year and I am quite sure he will do well then. Anxiety and a new format are always hard on our examinees. We had no PAACS examinees at the FCS level in general surgery this year, but one of our 2008 general surgery graduates who had gone on to take training in orthopedics passed his FCS-Orthopedics exam handily. He is technically the first PAACS graduate to have a FCS-ECSA. Our first general surgery FCS candidates will sit the exam next year to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
What was most encouraging to me was not so much their showing per se, but rather how they acquitted themselves. Many other residents from other programs told our residents that they were fortunate to be in the PAACS program and they were well spoken of by the examiners. I think it fair to say that, while there is certainly lots of room for improvement, PAACS came into its own during this meeting. The residents who were there came away with pride in themselves and in the PAACS program.
Dr. Bruce MacFadyen, the past-president of PAACS, and Dr. Duane Anderson, orthopedic surgeon at Soddo Christian Hospital, also served as examiners. Drs. Russ White and Carol Spears from Tenwek also were there as observers and assisted occasionally in some phases of the oral examination. Dr. MacFadyen was inducted as a Fellow of the College. It was good to spend time with them.
During the scientific session itself, three scientific papers were given by PAACS personnel and I had the opportunity to give a brief presentation on PAACS itself. God was doing some major work as we networked with Christian surgeons from many countries. I have been praying for a long time to be able to train some Sudanese physicians and two Sudanese Christian surgeons came up after the talk on PAACS and were very interested in sending some people to be trained with us.
I was very pleased to renew my acquaintance with Dr. Clement Nwawolo, the Secretary-General of the WACS, and to meet Dr. Bomi Ogedengbe, the new president of WACS. She was very eager to break the impasse that prevents us from partnering with WACS and so I have changed my schedule in Kenya then end of February and will fly to the meeting in Liberia to address this issue again.
We had the opportunity to join the Christian Medical Fellowship of Zambia over dinner on Thursday night, December 8. Psalms 133:1 states, ““How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” We used the opportunity to spread the good news of PAACS and I met some truly fine Zambian students, physicians and surgeons.
Holiday Plans: This past week included attendance at Sean’s Christmas play (he played a truly wise man among Wise Men). Michelle arrived today from California and we will have our family holiday during this week. Micky, Sean and I will drive to Michigan on Christmas Day and return before New Year’s in time to pack for the long trip to Africa.
- IF, and that is still a big “if”, my passport and visas get back in time, I will gone for three months after the new year begins. Micky and Sean are not going to be traveling with me, partly because of the hectic schedule and partly because of the considerable expense. My schedule is as follows:
- January 3 – 22: Travel to all of our African training sites (Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Gabon) with the accreditation team from Loma Linda University
- January 22 – February 4: Visit to Myungsung Christian Hospital, CURE Hospital and Soddo Christian Hospital in Ethiopia. I hope to get the Memorandum of Understanding between Myungsung, Soddo and PAACS worked out.
- February 4 – February 16: The Continuing Medical & Dental Education conference at Brackenhurst International Conference Centre in Limuru, Kenya. I will be teaching Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, a workshop on examinations and a lecture on the use of surgical checklists. I am on the CMDA-CMDE Commission and we will meet at least twice during the two weeks. I will coordinate the worship services, assist with oral examinations for the PAACS residents, have some meetings with the PAACS Program Directors and try to get my own CME credit.
- February 17 and 18: Attend a PAACS-sponsored Surgical Education course in Nairobi. Many of the COSECSA (College of Surgery of the East Central and Southern Africa) trainers will be invited.
- February 19 – February 24: Travel to Tenwek and Kijabe with Dr. Carl Haisch to do some beta-testing on some resident evaluation techniques.
- February 25 – March 1: If I get my visa, I will be flying to Liberia to attend the 52th Annual Scientific Session of the West African College of Surgery. The main purpose for attending is to explore some new interest (on their part) of a relationship between PAACS and WACS.
- March 2: Rest in Nairobi
- March 3 – 4: Fly on to Bangladesh
- March 5 – March 22: Help out at the Christian Memorial Hospital with Steve Kelley in Malumghat.
- March 22 – 23: Fly home
Praise and Prayer Requests:
- Praise God for the good performance by the residents in Zambia.
- Praise God for the traveling safety and “God-incidents” in Zambia.
- Praise God for Sean’s decision to follow His Lord in baptism.
- Praise God for those who have partnered with us in this ministry.
- Praise God for the gift of His Son, so many Christmases ago.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”(Is 9:2,6,7 TNIV)
Merry Christmas to all!
Bruce for Micky and Sean