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From Rwanda to Hanover

For the past two years, Dr. Jean-Luc Nkurikiyimfura has been collaborating with faculty at the Geisel School of Medicine despite working and living thousands of miles away. Nkurikiyimfura, who heads the HIV clinic at Kigali University Teaching Hospital in Rwanda’s capital, is part of the Rwandan Human Resources for Health (HRH) program. Launched by the Rwanda Ministry of Health with the assistance of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, HRH is a seven-year program that is helping to build a sustainable, high-quality health-care and medical education system in Rwanda by having U.S. medical school faculty work closely with physicians there.

Earlier this spring, Nkurikiyimfura had the chance to visit Geisel for the first time. Here he met with Geisel faculty members, including Dr. Lisa Adams, who is leading Geisel’s involvement in HRH and is partnered with Nkurikiyimfura as part of the project.

“I came to Dartmouth at the invitation of Dr. Lisa Adams,” Nkurikiyimfura says. “It has been easy for us to work together—we have the same focus in our professional goals, particularly in terms of global health.”

When Adams first arrived in Rwanda to begin working on the HRH program, Nkurikiyimfura had just been appointed the head of the HIV clinic. “She helped me create an organizational structure for the clinic and showed me how to run it,” Nkurikiyimfura says. “We ended up doing a study aimed at improving the quality of service delivery in the clinic, which takes care of approximately 2,500 patients. We are now working on a paper about this that we hope to publish soon.”

During his time in New Hampshire, Nkurikiyimfura had the chance not only to meet again with Adams, but to tour a number of health-care facilities in the region. He met with Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, an associate professor of infectious disease and international health at Geisel, and with clinicians working in palliative care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Nkurikiyimfura visited a hospice in Concord and an HIV clinic in Manchester as well. “In my country we have fewer resources, and here I could see how much the health-care system tries to improve the quality of life for those stricken with severe disease,” Nkurikiyimfura says. “It was an inspiring experience for me.”

Nkurikiyimfura looks forward to continuing his close relationship with Geisel and particularly with Adams for years to come. “This partnership with Dr. Lisa has been really fruitful in terms of not only a scientific relationship, but of a personal one as well,” he says. “She is someone who is sensitive to different cultures—I don’t think anything catches her by surprise—and she is always open to change. . . . My experience with Lisa has been the most perfect that I could ask for in my short journey with HRH.”

For more on the Human Resources for Health Program, watch this video interview with Nkurikiyimfura.