Cardiologist Takes Skills to MalawiCategory:
WWU grad fulfills medical missionary dream
As a child, Tiffany (Stanhiser) Priester, a 2000 biology graduate of Walla Walla University, listened to stories of medical missionaries on the radio or in church and knew without a doubt that’s what she wanted to do. She even went to “career day” in eighth grade as a medical missionary in a khaki safari outfit, and, like the other students, stood in front of the class and explained what it was she wanted to be.
Today, Priester is living her dream as a cardiologist at Blantyre Adventist Hospital in Malawi.
“Most people laughed at me when they heard my ‘career’ goal was to be a medical missionary,” says Priester. “It has been a long journey to get to this point, including a lot of prayer and a lot of research.”
In Malawi, nearly half of the 13 million people live under the poverty line, and it is estimated that 15-20 percent are in the “ultra-poor” category: those who live on $1 or less per day. The gross domestic income is only $900 per year per person, and HIV/AIDS and infant mortality rates are very high, with a life expectancy of only 50 years. Currently, there is no cardiologist in Malawi and only two ICU beds in the entire southern region, serving over six million people.
Blantyre Adventist Hospital is located in the middle of a large city, but also in one of the poorest and least developed areas of the world. The 35-bed hospital is currently building an ICU that will eventually have eight beds, and Priester plans to run the ICU and open a cardiology clinic.
“Currently, those who can afford it fly out of the country for this kind of advanced medical care,” explains Priester. “I hope to also stimulate other hospitals in the area to increase the level of care they provide, thus increasing the number of intensive care beds in the region.” Such a plan would also help keep money in the Malawi economy that the affluent would otherwise spend to fly outside of the country for their medical care.
Priester’s interest in cardiology began when she was working part time during summers and holidays for the cardiology department at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California. Though she was on a rotation of the general medicine wards, cardiology work excited her the most.
Blantyre Adventist Hospital already has two surgeons, a pediatrician and an obstetrician, as well as the nursing staff, and those in the pharmacy and laboratory. Just an hour south of the city is Malamulo Mission Hospital, where two other medical missionaries are already serving.
“The additional long-term goals at BAH include expanding the number of inpatient beds and operating rooms,” says Priester. “There is also some talk of creating an intensive care internship and a mission training center for other medical missionaries to come for a month on their way to other mission hospitals.”
Priester believes that her education in the Seventh-day Adventist system has kept the desire to work as a missionary strong in her life.
“There are many young people who want to do mission work but a relatively low percentage actually go out into the mission field,” she says. “I think that by surrounding myself with peers, mentors and teachers who encouraged me to stick to my plan and who trained me to be the best physician I can be, incorporating mental, physical and spiritual well-being into my practice has made a huge impact in turning into the person I am today.”
For more information on BAH click the link below. You can also follow Priester’s medical mission work by visiting and subscribing to her blog by clicking the link below.