Happy New Year from Kenya! I am touring all of the African PAACS training sites in Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Gabon with an inspection/accreditation team from Loma Linda University. It is a hectic schedule. We arrived in Africa late Wednesday evening after 24 – 30 hours of travel from the US. The accreditation team consists of Dr. Clifton Reeves (general and thoracic surgeon from LLU), Dr. Walter Johnson (neurosurgeon from LLU) and Dr. Don Nicolay (general surgeon from Colorado). There is a lot of experience in that group and it is already obvious to me that we won’t get much by them! It is also obvious that I will enjoy their company immensely.
Early the next morning (too early, even with jet lag), we drove the 4 hours to Tenwek Hospital. After lunch, we dove in. We have been busy ever since, talking to faculty, residents, nurses, administration and others. We have leafed through notebook after notebook of data. We toured the hospital (love that new CT machine) and poked our noses in all the crannies (literally and figuratively). That first evening, we were able to keep our eyes open long enough to participate in a wonderful White Coat Ceremony for the four new residents who have just joined Tenwek. The new residents donned their white coat, were given their pocket patches and PAACS lapel pins, their textbook, their laptop and some Bible study materials. They were admonished, encouraged and welcomed. The older residents were recognized with words of affirmation, a certificate of completion of the year’s training and a new textbook. All present then stood and joined in saying the PAACS Surgeon’s prayer (e-mail me if you want to read it – firstname.lastname@example.org). I had the privilege of presenting the COSECSA (College of Surgery of East Central and Southern Africa) certification of accreditation to Tenwek during this meeting, doing so on behalf of the CEO of COSECSA, Dr. Krikor Erzingatsian. To my surprise, I was very emotional during the ceremony, perhaps because I once again recognize the true blessing I am receiving by participating in this program that is PAACS. After spending so much time with the discouragements and difficulties of administration, it did my soul good to look up and see what an impact this program is really making, both on the individual and the institutional level. These are some outstanding people I am associated with – both faculty and resident staff.
We had a brief debriefing this morning with the program directors, bid them goodbye and then drove for a few hours over rough African roads to the Fairmont Safari Club in the Maasai Reserve. We settled in and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. It is a beautiful cool day and I write this overlooking the Mara River, hearing the snorts and bellows of the hippos in the river not 50 feet from where I sit on the porch of my tent. We are waiting to go on our first game drive this afternoon, but we have already seen giraffes, gazelles and exotic birds on the way in. A hornbill is making a ruckus as I write this.
Holiday Traveling: We had a wonderful holiday break over Christmas and New Year. We drove from our home in North Carolina to Michigan, leaving early on Christmas morning after celebrating the season with my grown children the day before. Given the holiday, traffic was light but we had no trouble finding either gasoline along the way or a Chinese restaurant for lunch. We had a blessed time with both of our families, enjoyed two picture-perfect light snowfalls and I drove over one day to Kalamazoo to meet with Ed Bos from Worldwide Lab Improvements about our new computer program which is nearly completed. God answered prayer and although it came down to the wire, I received my visas in time to be able to visit both Liberia and Bangladesh during this long trip. We returned to North Carolina on New Year’s Eve. Those who failed the anatomy and physiology courses remediated on January 2 and I was very relieved that they all did well on the remediation exam. That is always very stressful for me – despite their inclination to believe that I enjoy it!
Resident Essays: This morning as I left Tenwek, I was given some essays written by the residents, a sort of thank you for PAACS and my participation. All of them were a great encouragement to me, but this one perhaps encapsulates PAACS and my passion as well as any. It is entitled “But God, through PAACS…”
I always dreamed of pursuing excellent post graduate surgical training but the thought of doing this at one of the local universities was not entertaining to me given the lack of proper supervision and the lack of mentorship. It seemed reasonable and easier to get involved with a program, probably abroad, that was already well established and with good repute.
However, I could not ignore the great need for surgeons in Africa and was somewhat caught in a dilemma of pursuing my own dreams and comfort versus yielding to God’s calling for excellent service to a much needing world. Through PAACs God opened the door for me to achieve this realization. I train and work in an environment where I have consultants who are mentors; constantly mindful of my academic progress and spiritual well being. I have had a lot more exposure to diseases entities and worked with amazing general and specialty surgeons than I could have ever imagined. External rotations to other African countries have made me realize just truly how great the need for doctors and surgeons. I see people at work in various places who would have had it all but sacrificed many things if not everything for the sake of Christ and for His people and it humbles and challenges me… why not do it too, even for my own people.
What blesses me even more is the thought of all the people involved in making PAACS training programs a success. I see so many challenges in keeping our program running, I can only imagine what it takes to keep several programs across Africa all beating to one rhythm. It’s like going to the theatre to watch a great play or musical and yet in the backstage are all the important characters who may be forgotten or hardly seen but without whom the play would not be a success.
T o all the sponsors of PAACs training and to the administrators, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for all you do. Five years ago the prospects of further training seemed like a fading unreachable dream. But standing here now in my final year of training I can hardly fathom this blessing and pray that many more may be enriched as a doctor and as servant in Christ as I have been.
Thank you! Sincerely, Agneta Odera (5th year General surgery PAACS resident)
Praise and Prayer Requests:
1. Praise God for the traveling safety thus far and for the good start to our accreditation tour.
2. Please pray for strength, health and discernment as we continue this grueling trip through January 22.
3. Pray for the new residents at Tenwek and Kijabe Hospitals as they start a new life as a PAACS resident. It will be a major paradigm shift and a grueling experience.
4. Praise God for the generous gifts of love to our S3 Ministries at the end of the 2011 fiscal year. You cannot imagine what that meant to us since we were facing a serious deficit for the year. Thank God and thank you!
5. Please pray for God’s hand upon Micky and Sean while we are apart.
6. Praise God for our aging parents and for the opportunity to spend time with them once again. Their support and godly example inspire us.
Bruce for Micky and Sean