The Story of What God Did: Turnarounds and Transitions with MedSend CEO Rick Allen Part 2
PART 2: The Global Listening Tour Leads to a New Program
“This isn’t about building capacity. This is about investing in individuals who want to deliver compassionate care to their own people in the name of Jesus.”
In the beginning, MedSend had been what CEO Rick Allen affectionately calls a “one trick pony. We added a very important piece in the global healthcare missions community. But we only addressed the needs of American individuals with American education and American debt, willing to serve overseas and at home. It was very specific and narrow. Strategic, but reasonably small,” he describes.
Obedient to God’s directive to move faster, think bigger, and be on the lookout for changes on the ground, Rick decided to embark on a global listening tour. He met with some of MedSend’s missionaries on the field, with hospital leaders, with the CEOs and executive directors of the large sending agencies and asked questions. “My main question was ‘How is the Holy Spirit working in global health care missions today?’” he explains. “The common golden thread that went through it all was that the global south was on fire for Christ. And it was changing the mission field. More people were coming to Christ than ever before in human history.”
The ground rules were changing fast, just like God had said. There was a large movement among everyone Rick spoke with to train the local doctors and health professionals in advanced, quality, holistic, compassionate delivery of healthcare. He returned from his listening tour and reported to the board that it appeared God had turned MedSend around and it was time to consider expanding the ministry.
“How is the Holy Spirit working in global health care missions today?”
Rick and the board then began a three-year journey of investigating the best path for MedSend to take. “Our board is very discerning and cautious, as they should be,” he says. “I continued to present options which we refined over a period of time. And then ultimately, we tried a pilot with two trusted partner organizations. That pilot is now known as the MedSend National Scholars Program.”
MedSend Launches National Scholars
MedSend partnered with PAACs, the Pan African Association of Christian Surgeons, and In His Image, who both have international residency programs. PAACs trains surgeons and In His Image trains family practice doctors. “We asked them to come alongside us to help us learn how to support national residents in these programs while promising to come alongside them financially. And that has been enormously successful,” Rick says.
MedSend was looking for three things in a partner organization. The first was a high-quality medical education. Rick knew it was unreasonable to expect the training to be up to Western standards. The reality of resources on the ground just couldn’t support that. Even so, it needed to be high quality for the region where they were conducting the training.
The second was that it included intentional spiritual development built into the curriculum. “We believe that this is about lifting up individuals who see healthcare as a means of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with their people. This is not about building capacity, although in the regions where these residencies are, they’re desperate for healthcare professionals. The ratio of health care professionals to individual patients is off the charts. It’s far, far less than in the West. Capacity is needed,” Rick points out. “But this isn’t about building capacity. This is about investing in individuals who want to deliver compassionate care to their own people in the name of Jesus.”
The third component is optional, Rick explains, but important to the goals of the National Scholars program: intentional leadership development. “We believe that if our partners select the right individuals, they will be the leaders of local hospitals, their communities, and ultimately influence national healthcare direction in their countries. Right now, we’re about 10 years into this program and I can report that all of that is being fulfilled in greater numbers than we hoped for.”
“We believe that this is about lifting up individuals who see healthcare as a means of sharing the love of Jesus Christ with their people.”
At the individual level, Rick and the board hoped to see three outcomes within the nationals themselves. One was that these individuals would deliver healthcare to their people–a high quality of healthcare–and they would stay in areas of high need. “We didn’t want them to come to the west, essentially. We hoped they would stay in their country or at least on the continent where they were trained. The scholarship program is offered in both Africa and Asia,” he explains.
The second outcome Rick and the board wanted to see was that the graduates would participate in the residency programs where they were trained and become the trainers themselves. Replication was key. Thirdly, the hope was that they might work with the national government to transform the national healthcare systems of their home countries.
“God has delivered on all three of those hopes,” Rick reports. “We have about 35% of the graduates now in leadership roles in various hospitals and organizations. Another 30% are in training roles in their programs. The remainder are delivering healthcare to their people as quality surgeons and family medicine practitioners. God is so good. We felt this calling, the board responded to it, and God showed up. The stories of these National Scholars are amazing.”
Dr. Boaz Niyinyumva, MedSend National Scholar
In the 1990s, a young boy named Boaz was living in Rwanda during the genocide. One day his father grabbed him, his mother, his brother, and two sisters, and they set out for Burundi to escape the violence. While they were in Burundi, the violent massacre of the Tutsi people at the hands of the Hutu majority spilled over the border. Boaz’s father declared that if he was going to die, he wanted to die in his own country, so he packed up his family to return to their native Rwanda. Along the way, they were ambushed. Boaz’s father and his brother were killed. His mother and sisters were spared. Desperate to protect her children, Boaz’s mother had dressed him for the journey as a female to fool anyone who might cross their path. Her act spared his life.
When what was left of Boaz’s family crossed the border into Rwanda, they wound up in a refugee camp, slowly building back their lives. Boaz was eventually recognized as an intelligent young man, which led to various people offering to finance his early education. He managed to make it through medical school and began practicing medicine. He then decided to apply for a residency program to receive advanced training.
“God is so good. We felt this calling, the board responded to it, and God showed up. The stories of these National Scholars are amazing.”
“This is where MedSend intersects,” Rick explains. “We awarded him a scholarship for a four-year program in Kenya, and he graduated with an advanced degree in family medicine.” After practicing family medicine for several years in Kenya, Boaz returned to the country of Burundi. He met with the Minister of Health to convince him that Burundi should recognize and license family practice medicine. The Minister of Health agreed.
“This is enormous in the history of medicine in Burundi,” Rick declares excitedly. “The importance of family practice doctors, being able to truly know their patient and administer medical care to them across a wide range of ailments and direct them to specialists is an enormous advancement in the care of individuals,” he shares. The impact of the National Scholars program that Rick and the MedSend board had envisioned 10 years before had arrived.
“God has been blessing and directing,” Rick says. Continuing to move faster and think bigger, the board just recently voted to expand the National Scholars program. “We are now up to having offered 120 scholarships across about 18 hospitals and five partner organizations. God showed up from a very challenging start in 2008. Right up through the current day, God’s presence has been felt.”
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
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