I am sitting in my room at Tenwek Hospital, listening to the birds and watching the sun come up over the green hills of the Kenyan highlands. I have a lot of memories associated with Tenwek. Micky and I spent part of our honeymoon trip here (along with 9 new friends). Sean leaned to walk here a few years later. I can’t help but recall the days I sat in this very spot early in my African experience when I didn’t know whether Micky was safe in Uganda and I was deeply concerned about my own health after sticking myself with a hollow needle from a HIV-positive patient. It has been quite a spiritual and life journey since that time. God is good!
What a week this has been. Last Sunday morning, we had a wonderful morning worship service at the Brackenhurst International Conference Centre. The numbers were smaller than usual because many were out on safari, but it was a good time and Dr. Erickson challenged us. In a few hours, we will gather for another service here at Tenwek Hospital. “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122:1, NIV)
Time being precious, we held our mock oral examinations for the PAACS residents that Sunday afternoon. We had 8 residents who participated (two more were absent but will be examined later this week when we visit Kijabe). We had 18 surgeons who served as examiners. This test didn’t officially count since it was just designed to give the residents experience in the high-pressure environment of a high-stakes oral examination that can draw questions from everything you learn in 5 years, but that didn’t keep some from having sweaty palms and a racing heart. Many of the surgeons who assisted as examiners were from “outside” PAACS but that was also good – it gave us unbiased external view of how our residents were doing and we learned a lot from their input. Monday, I gave my lecture to the surgical stream. We had over 50 people in the audience for most of the lectures given in the surgical stream and the lectures were generally excellent (the worst were “very good”). I talked on the topic of the World Health Organization’s Surgical Checklist and wasn’t certain how it would be received. I was pleasantly surprised at the degree of psychological buy-in to the concept but like many such good ideas that one hears about at a conference, only some will actually implement it. That afternoon, I gave the first of two two-hour workshops on the writing of good questions and on the design of good exams. I gave the other workshop Tuesday afternoon. As I expected, only a half dozen showed up at each of those two workshops, but those folks seemed genuinely interested. We had a second CMDE Commission meeting Monday night.
Tuesday was also the day that the final competition was held among the residents for their research papers. I moderated that competition. It was a good experience and they did a great job.
The highlight of Wednesday for me was the communion service. The participants broke into about 15 different groups and the elements of the communion were served to the group by each other. It was a time of prayer, tears, healing and union. It ended with the CMDA-CMDE tradition of a choral rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus.
We left Brackenhurst on Thursday. It was, as always, a bittersweet time. It was freeing to have all my obligations behind me but it is always sad to say good-bye to good friends and new acquaintances. Fortunately, I could delay the goodbye for the faculty of PAACS. We all moved by bus to the Holiday Inn in Nairobi to attend yet another conference there on surgical education, one which PAACS hosted. We gathered Thursday night in the Spur Restaurant which is located in the hotel and we had a wonderful time of fellowship and did some serious damage to their profits on the “all the ribs you can eat” night.
John Mellinger was the main speaker although I led one session on the writing of good exams (picture at right). He used an excellent format. The lecture was only 15 – 20 minutes and then we met in small groups for a time to work on a real-life example which reflected what we had just learned. The groups were constantly changing in configuration so that almost everyone got to spend time with everyone else. It was a true blessing to watch all these men and women get fervently involved as they sought to solve common problems and share insights from many different types of experience (see picture below).
This week, Carl Haisch (a transplant surgeon from Eastern Carolina University, a good friend and a member of the PAACS Commission) and I are visiting Tenwek and Kijabe Hospitals to do some beta-testing on some tools to help us better assess the progress of the residents.
Praise and Prayer Requests:
- Please pray for Dr. Carl Haisch and me as we visit both Tenwek and Kijabe Hospitals to work on a resident evaluation project.
- Please pray for my father as he faces multiple medical challenges and for recovery for my brother-in-law from his laparoscopic colon surgery.
- Next Saturday, I fly to Liberia to attend the West African College of Surgery annual conference. I have a meeting scheduled February 28th with the President, Secretary-General and other important personages to discuss the relationship of PAACS to WACS. Please bathe this important meeting in prayer.
- I praise God for the healing of my heart and soul which occurred during the conference in Brackenhurst. I still have a ways to go, but it was a great encouragement to me.
Weary, but rejoicing in what the Lord is doing,
Bruce for Micky and Sean