The 1994 Rwandan genocide was one of history’s most horrible events, killing about a million people and leaving the country in disarray for years after. Following the devastation, there was only one anesthesiologist for the entire population. Clearly there was a medical crisis that needed to be addressed, and this was the impetus for the partnership between Rwanda and the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society International Education Foundation (CAS IEF).
In 2006, Canadian anesthesiologists began teaching in Rwanda so that the country could build capacity in training their own anesthesiologists. As of 2011, there are ten Rwandan anesthesiologists residing in the country who not only practice but also teach other anesthesiology residents.
In 2010, the program sent two Rwandan residents to Halifax to complete part of their residency at Dalhousie University. The residents work closely with the Global Health Office of Anesthesia, whose creation was supported by the Global Health Office at Dalhousie.
This year, Dr. Theoneste Mwumvaneza, a fourth-year resident at the National University of Rwanda, and Dr. Christian Mukwesi, a third-year resident, are at Dalhousie for the six-month residency program.
Despite struggling through the cold Canadian weather, Dr. Christian Mukwesi has found his experiences here to be enriching:
GHO: What are your thoughts now that you are finishing up your residency at Dalhousie?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: It has been a pleasure to do this 6 months-elective at Dalhousie University. I first thank CASIEF for its will to strengthen the anesthesia postgraduate program in Rwanda through the strong partnership which has been built for these past 5 years.
GHO: How was your experience in Halifax?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: I personally enjoyed my time in Halifax, especially in the operating rooms and in Intensive Care Unit where I discovered an implemented and coordinated system of working that included team work, high level of communication and maintaining standards. It was again in these areas I found people who could welcome and apply any change in the system that could improve a lifestyle of health providers or can benefit a patient.
GHO: Did you find it cold?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: The weather is a big subject in all Canada and was difficult for me, but it was amazing to see how Canadians are prepared to deal with the cold, the storm in the way of dressing clothes, of building their houses. This kind of thinking was applied before me in the hospital that the health providers were prepared everyday to deal with easy and difficult cases.
GHO: What are your thoughts on the program?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: My overall impression from my 6 months of experience in Canada is favorable for I gained knowledge, excellent approaches, secrets and good techniques from different anesthesiologists I had the opportunity to work with.
Anesthesia team and its administrative board showed respect for me, providing for my needs and treating me as equals, that I am deeply grateful for their kind of hospitality.
GHO: Did you find working here much different than in Rwanda?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: One of my impressions when I started to work in the operating rooms at Victoria General hospital or Halifax Infirmary was to realize how different the west system is from our system, [which is} full of failures for many reasons. But, I believe that for someone who understands, failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.
GHO: What is your overall impression of the experience?
Dr. Christian Mukwesi: It was an opportunity to have a vision of what is done here with lots of resources and what will be done in the future for our region and think about making difference with few resources. Yes, we can.
The two residents will complete their Halifax placement by July, 2011. They will then take their new skills and experiences back to Rwanda, further building the country’s capacity in anesthesia.