Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Africa Update Part 2: Working with Residents

Part 1: Going Back to Africa is here
Part 3: Tanzania is here

Once we realized we needed to go back to Africa, we had just enough time to make plans to attend the Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville in November 2010. We were hoping that the conference would help confirm that this was the direction we should be going, which it did. It was also a great time to visit with my family. My parents and brother helped with Daniel while we were in the sessions and he had such a great time with them - hurray for hometown conferences!!

We ended up making some key connections at the conference (in a very providential way, but that's a whole 'nother story) and found out about an organization that runs general surgery residency programs in several mission hospitals across Africa (the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeons, or PAACS). The more we considered this, the more we were drawn to the idea of training residents.

This was a bit of a mental shift for me, because I had always envisioned that we would be working in some remote area (ahem, westen Kenya) where there is a significant need for doctors and not a lot of other expats (foreigners). I thought that would be the place we'd have the biggest impact, plus there's something really special about living in the village (though I do recognize that I tend to romanticize village life and sometimes have selective memory about my own experiences. That's a whole 'nother story too, though!) But remote rural communities are not really where you find teaching hospitals that have the capacity for advanced surgical training.

As we considered it (and as I let go of my expectations about where we would live and work), we realized that Dave could spend the rest of his career or even his life working in a remote hospital filling an urgent need but that the need would still be there when he's gone. By training African surgeons, he would be doing surgery in a way that is developmental and building local capacity.

This was huge for us. I knew that surgery could be very useful and good, but I had not really seen how surgery could be truly developmental. When I thought of health and development, most of what I saw related to primary care and public health. Surgery seemed more about meeting an immediate need.

We also realized that teaching and mentoring residents would be a really good fit for Dave. He’s a great teacher, able to explain complicated medical information in a way that a lay person can easily understand. He works best relationally in one-on-one or in small group settings. As a senior resident, he does a lot of teaching of junior residents and he both enjoys it and is good at it. As a chief resident this year, he’s getting more experience with the logistics of administering a residency program. He’s always had a long term interest in teaching, but now has a strong desire to work specifically with residents.

Once again, more to come about where we’re thinking of going.


Heidi said...

What a great realization about the impact of teaching, rather than just filling a need that would still be there when Dave left! I'm excited for you!

Joshua and Megan said...

This is all reall exciting, Sarah! I'm enjoying reading about your process, especially as we are thinking about many of these same things. It's nice that you and Dave are a few years ahead of us, so we can learn from your process. I'll keep praying for you and your family as you trust God to lead you.

Sister George said...

This is amazing news! I have been so busy that I haven't kept up with what is going with you guys. I am so happy that you have decided to go back to Africa. I know how much that experience meant to you. I will keep looking for updates!