Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, laid the cornerstone of a new medical school in Rwanda that church leaders declared could become a crown jewel of Adventist medical education.
Wilson, wearing a white hard hat and yellow construction worker vest, shoveled wet cement into a hole Thursday at the stone-laying ceremony for the US$6.1 million complex on the Masoro campus of the Adventist University of Central Africa in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
The first phase of the medical school, which encompasses the construction of women’s and men’s residence halls, a cafeteria, and a guesthouse, is scheduled to open for students in September 2017. Classes will be held in a state-of-the-art science center that opened on campus last year.
“Students who walk from this place will not just receive a diploma to entitle them to a professional approach to life,” Wilson said in a speech to Rwanda’s education and health ministers and other dignitaries at the future construction site. “They will receive a diploma to follow in the steps of Jesus. Jesus is the Good Samaritan. Jesus is the Master Teacher. Jesus is the Master Physician. And Jesus is our Savior.”
Wilson noted that Thursday’s event was so important that he and his wife, Nancy, had traveled directly to the campus from the airport, where they had landed after a 30-hour trip from Laos in Southeast Asia. The Wilsons are wrapping up a seven-week trip across four continents with two weeks of evangelistic meetings in Rwanda. The meetings begin on Friday night and are expected to culminate with 100,000 baptisms on May 28.
Guests from across Rwanda, the church’s East-Central Africa Division based in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Adventist world church headquarters in the U.S. state of Maryland, huddled under two large canopies on the carefully manicured campus of the Adventist University of Central Africa for the ceremony on a hot African afternoon.
Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of the education department of the Adventist world church, said the medical school would be the seventh operated by the Adventist Church and could excel by working with the other schools.
“This may well be the crown jewel in Adventist medical education, drawing on more than 150 years of medical education experience and furthering the healing ministry of Jesus Christ,” Beardsley-Hardy said.
She read congratulatory letters from from Richard Hart, president of Loma Linda University Health and Adventist Health International, and Peter Landless, director of the health ministries department of the Adventist world church.
“Loma Linda University Health and Adventist Health International are committed to working with AUCA on this important project,” Hart said in his letter. AUCA is the acronym for the Adventist University of Central Africa. “A quality medical school, with the right orientation and affiliations, can be a major boost to Adventist hospitals and clinics throughout Africa.”
Both the health ministries department and the education department pledged funds toward the project. Beardsley-Hardy said she and her husband, Frank Hardy, who was present at the ceremony, were also making a personal donation.
Blasious M. Ruguri, president of the East-Central Africa Division and the university’s chancellor, said the university was preparing for a flood of medical students from across Africa and perhaps from Europe and North America as well.
An initial class of 30 nursing students will be enrolled, but the medical school is expected to train about 450 students a year when it reaches full capacity, university vice rector Ndahayo Claver told the Adventist Review. The $6.1 million first phase will be followed by future phases that will include anatomy labs and a hospital and cost $20 million to $30 million.
Education Minister Papias Musafiri, stepping out of a major, three-day Africa meeting of the World Economic Forum in Kigali to attend the ceremony, called the medical school a welcome step toward the further development of his country. He expressed hope that he would be invited back soon for the grand opening of the first phase.
“We thank you, General Conference president and the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, for your great decision to bring this medical school to Rwanda,” he said.