The arrival of PAACS to Nkhoma Mission Hospital in January 2022 has been a long-anticipated answer to many faithful prayers in training a future generation of competent Christian surgeons in Malawi. Following Malamulo Adventist Hospital, Nkhoma is now the second PAACS training site in Malawi. On February 4th, 2022, Nkhoma held a white coat ceremony in the chapel for its first class of PAACS residents, Drs. Caleb Kapengule and Vitu Mwafulirwa. The ceremony started at noon with welcoming and a word of prayer by Dr. Jens Vaylann, Program Director, who expressed thanksgiving to the Lord’s provision in making Nkhoma PAACS come to fruition after three years of strategic planning. This was followed by a time of worship led by our very own Dr. Caleb, as well as a special song by Angella Mwafulirwa, the wife of Dr. Vitu. Reverend Kalebe, the hospital chaplain, then gave a brief devotion.
Dr. Vaylann proceeded to explain the significance of a white coat. In the US, white coats are generally given to first year medical students as they embark on their journey as young doctors. On the contrary, most PAACS trainees start their surgical training having already completed their internship with additional years of experience working in government hospitals as general practitioners. It speaks to a level of commitment to devote themselves and their families to five additional years of rigorous surgical training. Therefore, the presentation of white coats to our PAACS trainees was even more meaningful. White coats and Schwartz textbooks were presented with a bible verse (1 Cor 15:58 and Heb 4:14-16) chosen by faculty members, Drs. Beth Stuebing and Wanda Lam, specifically for each resident to provide encouragement during the challenges of a surgical residency.
The Medical Director, Dr. Salvador De la Torre, gave a brief speech on the history and significance of establishing training programs (general surgery and family medicine) at Nkhoma. The audience was encouraged by his leadership and vision in transforming Nkhoma into a premier training hospital and national referral center.
The foot washing of residents by faculty members marked the highlight of the ceremony. As Christian surgeons, we model after Jesus, the Great Physician, who did not come to the world to be served but humbled himself as the servant king. Though symbolic, the foot washing was a poignant reminder that we, as faculty members, have the unique opportunity to serve, mentor, and walk closely with the PAACS residents during the next five years, much like Jesus with his disciples.
As Drs. Vaylann and Limbe, assistant program director, washed the feet of the residents, Drs. Stuebing and Lam prayed over them. The physicians amongst the audience were invited to read the CMDA oath, “As a Christian Physician.” The ceremony was concluded with a word of prayer by Reverend Kalebe and a lunch reception.