We had to celebrate today with cards that we prepared before we left in mid-January and with audio Facetime calls yesterday before I began travel to Yaoundé. Micky and Sean drove yesterday to spend a week with their folks in Florida at a condominium in Orlando.
As I write this, the flames 20 – 30 feet tall are licking at the dry vegetation at the rim of the hills behind Mbingo Baptist Hospital in the Northwest Province of Cameroon. This is the dry season and there is Harmattan dust from the Sahara all around. The haze has limited the normally gorgeous view to a few hundred yards before going to a whitish fog. It is pleasant cool (in the 70s).
Micky and Sean had a stressful trip home with a missed flight but arrived safely. She was so proud of how Sean helped her hold things together and she was so glad to see Ryan, my oldest son, at the airport to take them the rest of the way to Fayetteville.
In another Cairo airport terminal, I boarded an Ethiopian Air flight to Addis Ababa and had a relatively short layover before flying to Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (the only country in Africa with Spanish as a national language) for a brief stop before flying on to Douala, Cameroon.
Douala was as warm and humid as I remembered. I waited at the European Baptist Guesthouse in town until Carl Haisch flew in from Greenville. He was accompanied from the airport by Rick and Debbie Bardin, the only missionary pathologist I know (several years ago, I had suggested that they consider working here so now I take the “blame” each time we meet). We all went to dinner and after we had returned to the guesthouse, Keir Thelander arrived from his flight from Bongolo Hospital in Gabon.
The next morning, we honored an invitation from PAACS graduate Henry Ndasi who is now working at Mutengene Hospital along with another graduate, Gerald Ekwen. It required a side-trip west to Mutengene, which also sits on the coast. We were greeted warmly and it was amazing to see how the hospital has developed in the past 30 months. Those two surgeons (Henry is doubly boarded in general surgery and orthopedics and Gerald is a general surgeon), plus an ENT and an ophthalmologic surgeon, are creating quite a little hospital with the support of the Cameroonian Baptist Health Services. They have also begun a program for the casting (Ponsetti) method of club feet which recently had its grant extended for another five years. When we were last here, they had just entered a new multistory building and now they are building yet another four-story section at least as big, to include more clinic space, an ICU and a much expanded OR.
We drove up today to Yaoundé, the capital city, to attend the conference of the West African College of Surgery (WACS). Several residents, both faculty members in general surgery and one graduate are also with us. We are hoping to use this time at conference to figure out the next steps of integration of some of our residents into the WACS system (particularly important for those from Cameroon and countries west of here). It is an entirely different system that we will need to figure out.
Today is not just Valentine’s Day, it is PAACS’s 20th birthday. The agreement to begin PAACS was signed in Brackenhurst Conference Center in Kenya on February 14, 1996. The first decade was Dave Thompson’s; the next mine and now there will be a new leader.
My replacement named: On Tuesday, this announcement was made by the PAACS Commission and Administration:
Dear PAACS Family:
As many of you know, Dr. Bruce Steffes, previous PAACS Executive Director and present Chief Medical Officer (CMO), will be stepping down from this position by the end of December 2016. Bruce has served PAACS faithfully for over 10 years and we appreciate all that he has done for this organization. He has committed himself to the success of PAACS and to bring glory to God through his work. The PAACS Commission and administration are thankful to Bruce for his great work, wisdom, and guidance to PAACS the past 10 years.
Over the last several months, the PAACS leadership has been seeking God’s guidance in identifying the right person to fill the position of Chief Medical Officer (CMO). We have spent time in prayer and sought God’s will and believe that God has brought us the right candidate for this role.
The PAACS Commission and administration are pleased to announce that Dr. Keir Thelander has been selected for the position of Chief Medical Officer of PAACS. Keir has been with PAACS for 10 years. He initially served as the PAACS Assistant Program Director at Bongolo Hospital in Gabon before becoming the Program Director in 2007. Keir also functions as the current PAACS Regional Director of West and Central Africa. In addition to his roles with PAACS, Keir is also the Medical Director of Bongolo Hospital in Gabon.
In his role as CMO, Keir will be working with all of the PAACS training programs, Program Directors, faculty and residents. He brings experience, skills and a new perspective to this position. He will be starting his new role as of July 1, 2016. He and his wife Joanna and their two children (Luke and Sarah) will be moving to the United States in the near future. Keir will spend the first several months in this position training with Bruce Steffes.
We believe that Keir will be a tremendous blessing to the PAACS programs, administration and to the organization. Please contact us if you have any questions or comments. We would be happy to discuss this with you.
Although it is hard to see my decade of leadership in PAACS come to an end, I believe it is time to make an orderly transition while I can use one, two or even three years to guide and smooth the transition. I have the greatest confidence in Dr. Thelander and believe him to be God’s man for the job. It will cause some transition at Bongolo Hospital and things will be different with PAACS, but they are both God’s work and He is firmly in charge. The Lord willing, I will continue to work with the missionaries, the residents and programs as long as God gives me strength and skill to do so.