Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I have come back to Liberia from the US many times over the years, but this time is different.  Because I am doing something new (starting a Family Medicine training program), the journey feels very much like it does to travel a new road to a new destination—as I move along, I am aware of every interesting turn in the road, and each glimpse I get of the goal far up ahead, of all the obstacles and potholes in the road as well as the places where it has been well-prepared for my travel.  I have that feeling that I know in general where I am going, but to be honest, I have no idea where I am along the way or exactly what my final destination will look like.  One thing I know, God is in the driver’s seat—He continues to show me that He is at work to get us there.
Within a few weeks of our arrival in Liberia, I was able to meet the leadership of the Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS)—the body that runs residency training for doctors here, and the body that will need to approve the program we are hoping to begin at ELWA.  I presented them with a proposal, expressing our desire to train Family Practice doctors for Liberia.  They agreed wholeheartedly with the need for post-graduate training for primary care physicians, so that meeting opened a dialogue that is continuing.  Soon after, at the beginning of November, I traveled to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for the Annual General and Scientific Meeting of the West African College of Physicians (WACP)—the regional body we also hope to have accredit our program. The conference was an opportunity for me to network with trainers and faculty from Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, as well the leaders of the LCPS.  On the flight home, I happened to be seated next to one of our WACP officers who is a psychiatrist, and we chatted about what a psychiatry rotation for our residents might look like.   

Last week, I would say we reached our first critical “milestone” on the journey.  On Tuesday, I spent the morning  with the LCPS President, Dr. Marshall, a Liberian woman who spent over 20 years practicing pediatrics at Johns Hopkins in Maryland, and is now heading up the Pediatrics Department at the Liberian medical college.  I visited her at JFK Medical Center, the main teaching hospital, and got a tour of the Peds Department including their Neonatal ICU.  There has been great progress at JFK—the hospital is clean, well-staffed, with many patients receiving care.  I was really impressed.  We had a good discussion about the future of Family Medicine in Liberia, and especially how a training program at ELWA might look.  The key result from this meeting was that I was given a “green light” to publicize our plans to start training family docs next year, so that prospective residents can prepare themselves for primary exams (which they will have to pass in order to enroll in the program). 

Later in the week, the Chairman of the local WACP Chapter Family Medicine Faculty visited ELWA hospital to thoroughly inspect our facility in preparation for an accreditation visit by the WACP sometime next year.  This visit resulted in a very long list of “things to do” to get the hospital itself in good shape.

Finally, we’ve recently been joined in this journey by two more traveling companions—Dr. Kent Brantly and Dr. John Fankhauser, family docs who’ve arrived from the USA in the past five weeks with their families. I’ll tell you more about them in our next update! 

As of this week, we have been here two months, and we are rejoicing in how quickly things are moving along.  Our primary prayer request as we departed was for FAVOR with those who would have to give the Residency Program approval and GOD IS ANSWERING those prayers in abundance.   Please CONTINUE to pray for every step we take with Jesus in charge! Specifically, pray for our medical and administrative team at the hospital to work together well as we tackle the list of upgrades and corrective measures that need to be made before we can be accredited to host a residency program.    

Happy Thanksgiving!  Our hearts are full of thanks for all that the Lord is doing already.

Yours in Christ,   Rick