The 91 recent graduates of the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) have been informed that they are going to “right away” be employed and placed on the Government of Liberia (GOL) payroll.
The news was broken to them by a representative of the Ministry of Health during the 60th commencement convocation exercises of TNIMA on Tuesday, July 28. The convocation ceremony took place at the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Center in Sinkor.
The Chief Nursing Officer of Liberia, Madam Musu Washington, who represented Health Minister, Dr. Bernice Dahn, said she had been instructed by the Health Minister to inform the graduates that they would be “right away” placed on GOL payroll. It was as though the TNIMA graduates were waiting for this news. They burst out into singing and dancing.
Speaking earlier, TNIMA Administrator Mrs. Sarah Kollie had spoken of the support that the institute is receiving from the government through the John F. Kennedy (JFK) Medical Center.
She thanked the government for continually providing feeding and stipend to the students. She also praised the government for making the salary payments of TNIMA staff current. She disclosed that the students are fed five times a week.
Also speaking, Dr. Wvannie-Mae Scott-McDonald, General Administrator of JFK said the graduating class was the first in the post-Ebola era.
Dr. Scott-McDonald said they are dynamic, professional and educated young men and women, who are ready to help in building a resilient health sector in the country.
She disclosed that the class helped shape the curriculum of the institute. She then turned them over to the Ministry of Health.
The 91 graduates included 26 from School of Professional Nursing; 27 from School of Physician Assistants; 18 from School of Professional Midwifery; 11 from School of Environmental Health; and 9 from School of Laboratory Technology.
Graduates of the School of Professional Nursing were topped by Ms. Kou Gblankeh of Nimba County; while Ms. Hawa J. Kiawu of Grand Cape Mount County came first in the School of Professional Midwifery. Among the 11 students in the School Environmental Health, Mr. Boimah B. Barclay of Cape Mount scored the highest. In the School of Laboratory Technology, Mr. Nelson G. Karpoe of Nimba came first, while in the School of Physician Assistants, Mr. Adrian S. Jackson of Montserrado County topped.
In his Valedictory address, Mr. Adrian S. Jackson, said during their academic sojourn, they had many stumbling blocks, including the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease (EVD).
Jackson said they had hardly gone two years into their studies when they were called upon to fill in some gaps that were created by striking health workers of the National Health Workers Association of Liberia (NHWAL).
Those who volunteered took up assignments in southeastern Liberia. He further stated that, just as they were about to return to classes, Ebola struck.
He used the occasion to call for a moment of silence in memory of all the health care providers, who lost their lives in fight against the deadly disease.
The Physician Assistant graduate disclosed that two of their classmates succumbed to the virus as they tried to save lives.
Jackson promised on behalf of him and his colleagues to exhibit professionalism at all areas where they will be assigned.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Masoka P. Fallah, Principal Investigator, Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines in Liberia (PREVAIL) told the graduates that it was a momentous day in their lives as they were about to achieve their long cherished dream.
“The sacrifices you have made and the many midnight candles you burnt over the years have yielded the highly anticipated dividend—your diplomas. Today, you will begin to walk in the path of professional health care workers,” Dr. Fallah said.
He acknowledged that even though parents and well-wishers and the graduates themselves were joyous, he is convinced that it was not an easy journey. “Looking back, many of you are reminiscing the many times you said no to distractions that could have deprived you of this day. Your victory today is best captured by the famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: ‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward, onward through the night’.
“You have toiled and sweated and now honor is being bestowed upon you today.”
He reminded the graduates that they were graduating at a time when the healthcare profession in Liberia is at a crossroads. “On one side of the crossroad, our health care professionals have demonstrated to the world that we are capable of dealing with one of the deadly diseases facing humanity- Ebola virus disease. You now have examples of luminaries, who fought the Ebola disease in the treatment units as laboratory technicians, nurses, physician assistants and hygienists. These people were able to risk their lives in order to save the lives of many of our infected brothers and sisters. Many of our health workers kept the doors of hospitals like JFK open as well as many other clinics, while many of their colleagues died in the process.”
Dr. Fallah further told them that their willingness to give their lives in the process of serving their patients is the highest sacrifice that any human being can make.
The PREVAIL Principal Investigator who spoke on the theme, “Intersecting Extrinsic Motivation with Intrinsic Values among Healthcare Professionals Is the Bedrock to Improving Healthcare in Liberia,” stated that as he spoke the professions of nurse anesthetic and radiologic technicians are rapidly becoming extinct. “There are limited opportunities available to you to become specialized in other areas or to acquire higher degrees in your various professional areas. The consequences of these challenges are that we are still sending our patients to countries like Ghana for many specialized care. We are not able to treat certain specialized conditions because we still lack the trained health professionals and the tools. There are still counties where 60 percent of the citizens lack access to health care and there are counties with only one oxygen machine.”
He hoped that they (graduates) would be part of the solutions to some of the health challenges that they would walk into in the coming days.