Pictured: ELWA administration meeting (L to R): Dr. Rick Sacra (Medical Director), Dr. Elvis Mbanzabugabo, Dr. Juvenal Musavuli, Dr. Dieudonne Lemfuka, Dr. Keir Thelander, Dr. Peter Ekeh, Reverend Garaway
Executive Vice President, Dr. Keir Thelander, had the opportunity to visit Liberia with Dr. Peter Ekeh, PAACS African Representative to the Board. Dr. Thelander arrived in Monrovia, Liberia, on June 14th and was met at the airport by PAACS graduate, Dr. Juvenal Musavuli (Galmi 2018). After the 1-hour drive to the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) campus located on the coast south of the capital city of Monrovia, Dr. Lemfuka (PAACS Grad, Bongolo 2019) and his wife Dr. Christelle met Dr. Thelander at the guesthouse. On Tuesday morning, Drs. Thelander, Musavuli, and Lemfuka, drove across town to JFK (John F. Kennedy) Hospital to meet with Dr. Jerry Brown, who is now the CEO of JFK Hospital (PAACS Grad, Mbingo Hospital 2013), and Dr. Tresor Mabanza (PAACS Grad, Mbingo Hospital 2020). Liberia has less than 20 fully trained surgeons for a population of 5 million people. Six of these surgeons are PAACS graduates, including Dr. Gerald Ekwen who works in northern Liberia.
JFK Hospital is the main referral center for the country and has a 2-3 year surgical training program for physicians but does not yet have a full surgical residency training program. The meeting at JFK was a time of reconnection and discussion of the challenges of working in Liberia and issues of leadership. A brief tour of the hospital by Dr. Mabanza of the 50-year-old facility revealed the clear need for development of healthcare training programs in Liberia.
In the late afternoon, Dr. Ekeh arrived in Liberia after having meetings at the WACS conference where they considered the possibility of a future PAACS Board member as well as discussion of the idea that PAACS would sponsor pre-conferences at the next WACS meeting on the topics of laparoscopy and trauma. Drs. Ekeh, Thelander, Brown, Musavuli, Lemfuka, Mbanzabugabo, and Mabanza, reconvened for a casual dinner later that evening while continuing to discuss potential collaborations in surgical training between JFK and ELWA Hospitals.
On Wednesday morning, the formal meetings and tour of ELWA Hospital began. Dr. Rick Sacra provided a bit of history of ELWA and the region. ELWA began as a radio ministry of SIM in the 1960s and has now grown to include multiple schools, in addition to ELWA Hospital. Dr. Bob Schindler, a surgeon himself, was instrumental in beginning the hospital in 1964. Though Dr. Schindler initially went to Liberia to provide medical care to the other missionaries, it wasn’t long until the overwhelming need of surgical care for the Liberian people was recognized and addressed by the beginning of ELWA Hospital. Over time, the hospital has grown to greater than 105 beds with a family medicine training program, as well as hosting residents on surgical rotations from JFK Hospital. Those surgical rotations began with the arrival of Drs. Musavuli and Lemfuka. They were joined by Dr. Mbanzabugabo earlier this year, bringing the surgeon workforce to three. Dr. Sacra elaborated on the ministry of ELWA and its now expanding church planting ministry, while affirming their commitment to ELWA Hospital and the development of more physician-level training programs. After he had finished, Dr. Thelander shared the history of PAACS and defined what PAACS is and is not for the other attendees at this meeting which included Reverend Garaway (Acting Executive Director), Dr. Mikey Bryant (Acting Director), and Dr. Rick Sacra (Medical Director). Unfortunately, SIM Country director David Writebol was not feeling well and could not attend the meetings. A brief discussion ensued which clarified further the role of PAACS and the expectations of ELWA Hospital from PAACS.
The tour of this relatively new hospital demonstrated a well-equipped and staffed OR area and a small recovery room. An ICU was lacking. There is a large Casualty Area (Emergency Room) and well-maintained and well-staffed male, female, and surgical wards, with a Pediatrics department providing high level care. Laboratory work is ongoing at a high level and radiology including ultrasound and a CT (computed tomography) scanner was also much appreciated. A significant expansion of the clinic area dedicated to surgical patients needs to occur prior to the start of a PAACS program. Also needed is the development of a High Dependency Unit or ideally, an Intensive Care Unit. This beautiful facility and setting appear on a path to meet PAACS requirements within a few years. PAACS looks forward to seeing how the Lord will open doors for surgical training and discipleship in this country that lacks so much. Thank you for praying for this endeavor. If you would like to be involved with this project, please contact Dr. Keir Thelander at email@example.com