Economist Charles Wapinien: Ready to contribute
Overcoming corruption in PNG

ECG scientist James Wagiebu dies at 61

James Tawila Wagiebu
James Tawila Wagiebu - a pioneering medical technician whose death leaves a big gap in PNG's health service


PORT MORESBY - Hela has lost one of its most dedicated, committed and humble public servants with the death of James Tawila Wagiebu (1958–2019), the most qualified Papua New Guinean echocardiographer.

And, with his death, echocardiography services in PNG have come to a temporary halt as an urgent search for a replacement continues.

Echocardiography (also known as ECG) is a specialised medical technique which enables the human heart and its functioning to be studied and understood, and James Wagiebu was the only qualified Papua New Guinean qualified in this field.

Most Papua New Guineans who have gone to Port Moresby General Hospital’s Sir Budi Kidu Heart Institute to have their heart checked by the ECG machine know of James, as do students who have passed through the UPNG Medical School.

As the only practicing echocardiograph technician in the country he served thousands of Papua New Guineans over the course of his career.

He also served hundreds of UPNG students by teaching basic ECG to fourth year medical students and postgraduate nursing students as well as assisting many doctors with their research.

James Wagiebu came from a Pari clan of the Pandu village in the South Koroba district of Hela Province.

Many in his family and extended family did not understand his work until they heard about it from Professor Sir Isi Henao Kevau, a family friend, during the funeral service.

There was much surprise when Sir Isi explained that James was the only echo technician in Papua New Guinea.

James had been outspoken about the importance of echocardiography and in urging the health department to train more Papua New Guineans in this expertise, but this never eventuated.

As a result, his sudden death on 20 September caused operations of the ECG suite to come to a halt. The search continues overseas for a replacement technician.

James’ education was encouraged by his late mother, Wagubi Katia, who, even though uneducated herself, fought for her son to be enrolled at Koroba Community School (1966-72) from where he went to Tari High School (1973-76) and the Mt Hagen school of Nursing (1977-80).

From there went on to further study at the University of Papua New Guinea.

The Three Musketeers - Ruben Mari  James Wagiebu and Ken Kama  1989
The Three Musketeers - Ruben Mari, James Wagiebu and Ken Kama,  1989

He and two colleagues, Ruben Mari from Wanigela and Ken Kama from Samarai, known as ‘The Three Musketeers’, were pioneers in the field of health science in PNG.

In 1992, James was the first Papua New Guinean to study echocardiography at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

In his footsteps followed his comrades Ruben Mari and Ken Kama, who studied medical technology at London Biomedical Institute of Technology in the United Kingdom.

These faithful friends and humble men, committed to their profession, have since those formative years quietly been serving the eight million people of Papua New Guinea.

James Wagiebu is survived by his wife and two sons and a daughter. He was laid to rest last Wednesday.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Sr Lorraine Geis

The news of the death of James Tawila has just reached this side of the world where I am in Oldenburg, Indiana in America. I want to give condolences to his wife and family.

James was in our third graduating class at Tari High School in 1976.

Those were the early days when students were so eager for an education, and it seems that James made great efforts to put his education to use for Papua New Guinea.

May he still continue to help your country by his prayers to God, especially for the Hela people.

Some of his teachers, Sr Mel Hoffmann and Sr Ruth Greiwe, have gone before him to their Heavenly Reward.

God bless.

Porap Gai

Oh I am so sorry. RIP

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)