Progress and Hope in Rwanda

Actually, I confess, we drove out of our way to see this little nugget of a roadside attraction. Just north of Queen Elizabeth National Park in Western Uganda, about 70kms from the D.R. Congo border, we crossed back into the northern hemisphere for a few minutes, then hopped back to the south.

I am not a doctor; I don't even play one on TV. But I am married to Lisa V. Adams, MD (Geisel '90), the first Geisel School of Medicine faculty member to participate in the Human Resources for Health (HRH) Program in Rwanda when it got underway last summer. She brought her family along (myself and our two kids), and while at times challenging it was most definitely a memorable and thought-provoking experience for us all. While she taught best practices in record keeping to her internal medicine residents, I would negotiate the potholes in Kigali's roads to get the kids to school, and try to remember the Rwandan word for garlic on a shopping trip (it's "tungurusumu").

Our six month stay in Rwanda gave us the opportunity to appreciate the accomplishments of a developing nation that has come so very far from an abysmal low less than twenty years ago, but which still has a long way to go and wants to get there, fast. The Rwandan government has made health care a priority in its strategic planning, and has set some very ambitious and audacious goals. The HRH program forms an integral part of the plan, and is intended to rapidly improve both the quality and capacity of the Rwandan medical staff.

By meeting several key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) well ahead of schedule, Rwanda has already shown the world what the country is capable of achieving with the right resources and the freedom to do things its own way. Still, for all the determination and commitment from the Rwandan health officials, there are many practical, political and financial uncertainties that can impact the seven year project.

But the HRH Program is now well underway, and a thoroughly committed and compassionate group of amazing physician educators from Geisel and the other American medical schools are in Rwanda, giving it their all. They have uprooted their families and are setting aside careers to do what they can to make a lasting difference in a country with countless unmet needs for medical care. They can only be an inspiration to us all, whether we are doctors or not.