One of the high spots each year since 2002 has been my opportunity to participate in the Continuing Medical and Dental Education conferences held each year in either Kenya or Thailand. They are held in Kenya in even years and Thailand in odd years. This year, 340 medical care providers, spouses and faculty members from 34 countries have gathered at the Brackenhurst International Conference Centre just north of Nairobi for the two-week conference.
As a member of both the CMDE and PAACS Commissions of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, this is a very busy two weeks for me. The conference doesn’t officially start until Tuesday evening the first week. On the Monday and Tuesday prior to that, there are courses in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS); Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS); a neonatal resuscitation course called Helping Babies Breath; Advanced Life Support for Obstetrics (ALSO); ultrasound courses; and a course in hypertension and diabetes. I participated both days in teaching the PALS and the ACLS courses.
The average day here is busy and long if you participate in everything. Each morning, small groups meet at 6:30 AM in the chapel to discuss the previous day’s sermon and to pray for each other and the conference. After breakfast, the morning worship service starts at 7:45 AM. After a time of music, scripture reading, and prayer, we have a speaker. Dr. Marc Erickson is the spiritual life speaker this year. Dr. Erickson is a physician and was a missionary in Africa before returning to become a pastor in Milwaukee for the past 30 years. With that experience, he has “street credibility” with the missionaries and has been a true blessing.
There are four streams of lectures going simultaneously. There is one stream for medicine, one for community health, one for surgery and one for dentistry. In the morning, there are three lecture periods (45 minutes each) and then lunch. In the afternoon, there are four more sessions interrupted by a tea break. Alternatively, one may select from ten different workshops in the afternoon. Those workshops are widely variable covering a wide range of topics of interest. I am giving two next week – one in writing good exam questions and one in analyzing exams. As medical education becomes more prevalent on the mission field, such information becomes valuable to some.
There is “free time” from 4:30 until 6:00 PM. Supper continues until 7:15 when we meet together again in the evening for a time of musical worship, announcements, humor and various types of programs. Most nights, three or four missionaries give testimonies about what is going on in their lives or in their missions or in their countries. For the first time, I was able to present PAACS to the entire group last night – that went very well. We have other things scheduled during this evening time. We will have a communion service during this time next Wednesday. This past Thursday, we had the David Stewart Memorial lecture. Dr. Helmut Diefenthal was honored. He is an 86 year old radiologist still working actively as a missionary in Tanzania. Born of a Jewish father and Christian mother in Germany, he avoided the Holocaust but was caught in the horrors of Nazi Germany.
Weekends are a little less overwhelming. On both days, breakfasts are delayed a bit and we do not have a worship service on Saturday. There are only three 45-minute lectures and then the day is free. Many take advantage of the free time to go on safari or to visit their children at nearby Rift Valley Academy. For those who stay on campus, there is a formal worship service on Sunday morning, a hymn sing on Sunday night and on both Saturday and Sunday night, there are movies. Tonight, the movie is a documentary on the writing of the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Tomorrow, the movie “Courageous” will be featured.
Someone who attends all the lectures can easily meet all their requirements for two years’ worth of continuing medical education. But that is often not the real benefit of attendance for most missionaries. The meals and the afternoon and evening free times are where much of the real reward arises. Friendships, advice, networking and tears mark these times as people who really understand each other’s stresses and problems use this time to support and pray for each other.
For me, almost all free times and many mealtimes have been filled with meetings. I have talked to people about problems, about new candidates for training, about new potential programs and so on. I am staying busy in other areas as well. We have ten of our senior level PAACs residents here and all but one of the PAACS Program Directors and Assistant Program Directors. The PAACS faculty members have already met together twice and will meet at least once more before we leave Brackenhurst. It is a time of mutual support and learning. Each of the residents presented an original research or clinical paper. The preliminary competition was held Thursday this week (see the picture) and the five finalists will be judged Tuesday when they present their work to all the surgeons in the surgery stream.
As a member of the CMDE commission, I have also had my responsibilities to fulfill for it. Here and there I have done what I could to help the infrastructure of the conference. I am the coordinator for the worship services and in my role as the financial officer, I have attended one meeting Thursday night and will have another to attend Monday night.
Today, while most others are out enjoying Kenyan wildlife, I am stuck here doing the PAACS administrative stuff that is not directly related to this conference. I spent one morning this past week going over the rough draft of the LLU accreditation report. I spent this afternoon reviewing a new piece of software that PAACS commissioned to help us track surgical cases and volunteers and then I will spend several hours preparing for tomorrow’s mock oral examinations. A dozen surgeons will get together to examine the ten residents. These oral exams are good experience for the residents preparing for the formal oral examinations at the end of their training but are nerve-wracking for them.
Once we leave Brackenhurst next week, the PAACS faculty and those selected residents who are interested in academics will move to Nairobi to attend a Surgical Education course that PAACS is sponsoring on Friday and Saturday. We had invited the COSECSA (College of Surgery of East Central and Southern Africa) trainers from here in Kenya and yesterday we were surprised and pleased to hear that they plan on 25 – 28 trainers to come to this conference as well. That ramped up our preparation for that conference.
Praise and Prayer Requests:
- Please pray for Micky and Sean (and me) as we are apart.
- Please pray for the last week of this conference and for the PAACS Surgical Education conference in Nairobi Friday and Saturday.
- Please pray for traveling safety for all the missionaries leaving this conference.
Yours and His, for the peoples of Africa,
Bruce for Micky and Sean