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Wrapping Up Surgery

Dr. Perencevich performs gall bladder surgery.
Dr. Perencevich and his Rwandan medical partner, Dr. Edmond, putting in a bile duct bypass on a patient with an obstructed gall bladder.

Friday night Dr. Nick Perencevich (Dartmouth '69) and his wife, Ruth, head back to the States. An (almost) retired general surgeon after two decades of work at Concord Hospital, Dr. Perencevich was the first American surgeon on the ground in Rwanda when the Human Resources for Health program got underway in the summer of 2012. In his role as trailblazer here, he came up against significant structural and institutional problems at the teaching hospital in Rwanda to which he had initially been assigned by the Ministry of Health.

With some adjustments in place, Dr. Perencevich has been working in Rwanda over the past four months. "Once the kinks had been worked out of the system, it was all very rewarding," he says. "Both for me personally and professionally, but also as an indicator of where the future of surgery is going in Rwanda. There is a solid nucleus of future leaders in the field at various stages of development with the right approach and attitude towards medicine, and their training is coming underway nicely."

Dr. Perencevich scrubs for surgery.
In the semi-darkness of the hallways of the University Teaching Hospital in Kigali, Dr. Perencevich scrubs in for surgery.

A general surgeon since residency at Brigham & Women's Hospital upon graduating Harvard Medical School in '72, Dr. Perencevich has been around the block a few times. and he probably brought as much experience to the program as anybody possibly could. The hardest part, he reflects, was living in a country so very different form anything he'd ever experienced before. That, and the fact that his 66-year old body and mind was having a hard time keeping up with the extraordinary demands from performing surgery in unusually challenging conditions. "I got tired mid-day, I've got a bad knee that swells up.  I just can't do this work the way I used to."

Dr. Perencevich is still grateful for the experience he has had in Rwanda and he is eager to stay involved with the program. "I really enjoyed the people I worked with, and I will miss the work. They need as much support as they can get in the future, he says. "I'm already busy recruiting, and when I get back to the States my goal is to help out in whatever way I can.