Recognising the immense contribution of Dr David Mills, the founder of the PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health as well the instigator plus engineer of the Masters in Rural Medicine (UPNG) program.
As many gathered to farewell the Mills family at Kompiam on Saturday 26th November our present president reflects the following:
Jimi district in Jiwaka province is one of the most remote in Papua New Guinea. I travelled to Middle and Upper Jimi on my way to Kompiam this weekend and experienced firsthand the struggles of accessibility that the people of Jimi have when it comes to accessing primary medical services.
Jimi district represents the many rural and remote (and some isolated) places in Papua New Guinea where accessing primary medical care is limited by poor road access; where winding and narrow is the path to accessing a doctor; where pastures of medical care is brown. The government of Papua New Guinea has tried various approaches to solving this issue but all seemed to be superficial, symptomatic and reactive solutions.
There needed to be a change of approach – a paradigm shift. A systemic approach that foster unity of influence; a systematic approach that ensure uniformity amongst diversity; a synergistic approach that bonds vital parts for a better whole. A shift from reactive to proactive. If the people are unable to access a doctor, then let us enable the doctor to access the people.
God’s will to improve rural medical health in Papua New Guinea was instilled as a vision in David Mills and his family. With grits, guts and grind, but most importantly God, the family relocated from Australia, the land down under, to Kompiam District in Enga Province, a land out further. They came as missionaries, and visionaries, carrying seeds of change from God that will transform rural medical service in Papua New Guinea.
One seed was planted in the fertile soils of Kompiam Health Center. Out sprouted the now blossoming tree of Kompiam District Hospital, which is one of the best rural hospitals in Papua New Guinea. A second seed was planted still at Kompiam, where it now is blooming as Kompiam International School, providing quality education in a rural district.
The next seed was planted at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). This was a very special seed – unique in the world and found only in Papua New Guinea. It germinated with struggle but was nurtured passionately till it bloomed into a specialist training program, which has yielded seven master of medicine specialists, specialising in rural health. As it branched further, the Department of Rural & General Medicine took emerged and is now an important department in the UPNG School of Medicine.
Another seed was planted in Papua New Guinea as the PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health. It too struggled to grow but did so eventually and is now a place for rural doctors to ‘feel at home’.
These seeds are actually smart strategies to obtain, maintain and retain doctors in the rural areas. Sure enough, we have a Department that attracts medical students into rural medicine; a graduate level Curriculum that keeps rural registrars in rural hospitals; and a professional Society that keeps the rural doctors connected.
If we are a Society of painters, we would paint a thousand pictures to speak ten thousand words of gratitude to the Mills for their passion, dedication and perseverance in improving rural medical services. They heeded to the call of God and allowed the Holy Spirit to use them to initiate, influence and impact a paradigm shift. Rural medical services is a better version now!
Prosperity is when your life becomes a blessing and healing to others. The Mills have lived a life of prosperity and we wish them more prosperous times ahead and abroad.
On behalf of a grateful Society, and a grateful nation.
Dr. Hogande Kiafuli
President – PNG Society for Rural and Remote Health.