The PAACS Episodes (Part 1)

I’m excited to share the first of two podcast episodes featuring interviews with Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons faculty.  

The perspective these leaders bring is beautiful, and I am thrilled to share their approach to medicine, faith and leadership. 

Dr. Jacques in Malawi describes the blessing PAACS is in African Healthcare.

The second interviewee is anonymous because Dr. Y works in a sensitive location, but he articulates the intersection of mission, medicine and the gospel perhaps better than anyone I’ve ever interviewed.  

Dr. Beryl Akinyi, associate director of PAACS at Kijabe, talks about paying it forward – giving young surgeons the time and effort that was given her, to help them succeed.  

Listen at or on iTunes.  Excerpts are below, full transcript and interviews can be found through the link.  

Jacques – The work of PAACS? This is incredible, incredible work. 

As an African I can say clearly, without doubt, PAACS has been, and it is, and it will be a blessing for Africa.  A real blessing for Africa.  

The ways of God are sometimes difficult to understand.  I don’t know why God didn’t allow me to find a suitable hospital in DRC to work and serve my people.  He sent me instead to Cameroon to Mbingo hospital.  I don’t know know why God has allowed the instability in Cameroon and sent me way down to Malawi.  I don’t really understand, but I know as long as I’m on the path of our Lord Jesus Christ, I’m content with His plan for my life.  

But one day, if He allowed me to return to DRC, I would only say, “Thank You!”

David: One of the unique benefits of PAACS, you’re training not only surgeons, you are training Christian leaders.  When you look at these wide-ranging systemic problems, that’s what you are teaching them to address.  What does that look like in how you work with your students and how you are teaching them? 

Y: It’s really interesting to see how our residents are growing academically, but also spiritually. We recruit residents that are believers, they love the Lord, they want to share what the Lord has given to them. Some of them, they want to be missionaries, to go to remote places to help the needy people.  

But when they come to the training environment, they get more.  We are trying to fit into the curriculum Bible studies, discussions that are related to what they are doing.  How can you show the love of Christ to a sick patient?  

You might heal somebody with medication, but the way you touch the patient, the way you speak to the patient, the way you care for his well-being and the well-being of his family. This in our context, is very important. 

These are some of the things we try to emphasize, not just to look at the patient as a sick person, but as a person who has spiritual needs.  Those spiritual needs need to come up so you will have the opportunity to talk to them.  

There are various ways we help our residents by demonstrating.  As a teacher, I do all I can to help my resident understand why I am so compassionate to my patients.  Why should I come and greet my patient?  Why should I come and sit at his side and talk to him in a gentle way?  

Most of our patients are Muslims.  It’s so amazing that when you offer prayers to them, they will always say “Yes, pray for me, pray for me so that I will get well.” 

And if we pray, we pray in the name of Jesus.  We will tell them we are praying in the name of Jesus.  And if they are healed, Jesus healed, not us.  

So, we integrate that into the system.  

We also help our residents to be residents that are telling the truth.  That sheds light not only on the patients but on other workers.  Did this thing happen?  

Did you do this test? 

“No teacher, I did not.”  

It helps to know we are not there only for the surgery, for the pathology, but we are saying to our resident, “Be honest in your deeds.”  

Did you examine this patient?  

“No teacher, I did not.”  

When we grow and understand honesty is part of the thing that reflects Christ’s life, it changes things. 

David: What’s interesting about that, is it shows the trust they have in you as a teacher.  

Y: One of the things I see in residents or workers, if they see the teacher saying, “I’m sorry, I think I should have done this thing differently.”  

That changes a lot in the life of the resident, the nurses, the team.  

For the teacher to say, “I think I made the wrong choice here.  It was my fault.”  It makes a lot of difference.  

We know as a teacher, we do things, not intentionally, but if we make mistakes we must come back and confess them.  And if we do that, the resident will train in the perspective that, if you are wrong, you have to say that you are wrong.  

It doesn’t have to be a hidden thing.  It is a normal thing to say that you are wrong.  “I’m sorry for doing that.  I will not do this next time.” 

David: That’s so profound. Sometimes the hardest things to do are the ones that even a little child should know.  

This is an issue for every medical provider everywhere in the world.  

Am I willing to own the truth and speak the truth?

Y – I’m really happy with the vision that PAACS has.  

We are going to change the way we do medical mission, because the Lord is in the process of changing the way we do medical mission.

Why am I saying this? I used to be the only doctor in my hospital.  When I came back I spent about 9 months being the only surgeon.  I would be on call almost every night.  

That was the situation of each mission hospital about 20 years ago.  Missionaries would come from overseas, they would go to the place where the need is overwhelming, and they would be the only doctor or surgeon in that place until they burned out.  

Do they have time with the patients, to share?  If you look at the workload, you say “No, they probably do not have.”  

I’m proud to say, today we have 8 residents and we are planning to go up to 10.  So, we will train and we will send.  We are multiplying ourselves, instead of the past idea of just doing it.  

And we are multiplying with the local people, who understand the language, the politics, the places they need to go to.  

Medical mission is changing, it’s spreading, and I think now we are getting it right.  

Jesus started with 12 disciples, he concentrated on those 12, and taught them, and after that, they went all over.  That’s how Christianity came to us, Christianity came to Africa.  If they did not teach and also send, it would never happen. 

I think that PAACS is taking that hope.  We are teaching, we are training, we are making disciples, and we are sending them to go spread the word.  

David – I have watched you in theatre, and you are a very good surgical teacher.  You are very patient, very gentle, you are willing to take longer on a procedure so the person you are working with can learn to do it right.  

How, practically, do you think about surgical education?   What are the things you do on a daily basis in your teaching role?  

Beryl – Currently, because Kijabe is a training site, we have general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, and pediatric surgery fellowship.  I am the assistant program director for the general surgery program, but I coordinate the learning for all basic sciences for all these specialties. That has made me read more, but has also made me focus more on the bigger picture, what’s the need for all these individual students?  I’m trying to organize, so that in the five-year-time that all these trainees are here, they get what they need to get to make them a better surgeon.  

As an individual, I’ve had people who invested time in me, so I could be a better surgeon.  That drives me, because if they didn’t invest this time and energy in me, I don’t think I’d be what I am today.  So, as an individual, I try to use those good qualities, to make me a better teacher for my residents.  

David – How does faith play into what you do with your teaching and even with patients?

Beryl – God has called us to be good stewards with whatever talent he has given us.  

To me, being a surgeon is what God has given me, and that is what drives me.  God has called me to be a good steward with this talent or this gift. 

Each time I go to the hospital to work, to teach, I do it for God, not necessarily for the patient or for somebody else to see me.  If I do it for my own glory, or for the patients or everyone else to see me, at some point in time I will be tired if I don’t get any good feedback.  Knowing I’m doing this for God, drives me to be better and better each day, because that’s what He requires of me.  

I’d say I’m very grateful to Kijabe and over all to the PAACS program for offering an opportunity for me to learn as a surgeon, to do what I love most, and for all the people who invested their time and energy to help me grow.  

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