Through partnership between the Rwanda Ministry of Health and the U.S. government, under the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) run by former President Bill Clinton, the Managing Director of the University of Virginia trauma surgeon, Forrest Calland, finds a chance to develop Rwandan health sector.
Calland had been dreaming of helping any country develop their health sector with long term effects.
He wanted to support any stable and secure country, whose government and with willing healthy workers to partner with U.S nurses and doctors.
Calland talked with a former UVA medical student, Niloo Ratnayake, who had worked for Rwanda’s Ministry of Health.
Niloo said to me, “you would be crazy not to go to Rwanda,” said Calland.
“I suddenly developed an interest in investigating Rwanda as an appropriate place to work,” says Calland.
As Calland began meeting with Rwandan officials, he was invited by CHAI – which was involved in similar discussions of his interest.
Instead of providing care directly as is typically done on medical missions, Calland partnered with UVA team and decided to train trainers to train Rwandan health workers who can in turn educate future generations of Rwandan doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.
UVA is responsible for providing and mentoring three to four surgeons and one or two anesthesiologists for the HRH program; some will be existing faculty members who will relocate to Rwanda for a year or two, while other surgeons will be hired by UVA and assigned to work in Rwanda.
About 13 U.S. schools of medicine, nursing and public health – including the UVA School of Medicine – will partner with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, facilitated by CHAI to expand training opportunities and provide the country with more, better-trained health professionals.
The aim is to create within seven years a world-class, specialized nationwide healthcare education system in Rwanda run solely by Rwandans.
According to Calland, increasing the supply of trained surgeons is important, because “an overwhelming number” of Rwandans either die or live with untreated injuries and other conditions because of limited access to several forms of simple care, including removing tumors and fixing fractures.
The World Health Organization report shows that more people worldwide die each year from injuries than from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
Rwanda also only has one anesthesiologist per 1 million residents, says UVA anesthesiologist Marcel Durieux, MD, PhD. That is far fewer than the U.S., which has one anesthesiologist for every 7,500 residents. The lack of trained anesthesiologists in Rwanda, he said, leads to higher death rates both during and after surgery.
“UVA hopes to also eventually send a radiologist to Rwanda to assist with training,” Calland says.
Based on the joint proposal, the U.S. government is providing more than $27 million for the program’s first year, along with more than $6 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.