Developing Rwanda’s Most Important Resource

Read the full story by Lars Blackmore, published in the Spring 2013 issue of “Dartmouth Medicine.”

While in Rwanda, Lisa Adams, an assistant professor of medicine and a leader of the Geisel School’s partnership with Rwanda, works with colleagues at a teaching hospital. (Photo by Lars Blackmore)

Two hours south of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, at the teaching hospital affiliated with the small nation's only medical school, Laura Shevy, an internist from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is trying to manage dozens of patients while teaching a crowd of medical students and residents. In this resource-poor setting many things could make Shevy's job as a physician and educator easier: reliable water and power, skilled subspecialists—even something as pedestrian as a working stapler. But as it is, she improvises, relying on her American colleagues for support and consultation at the hospital, and on long trail runs and bike rides across the beautiful Rwandan countryside to clear her head.

Shevy is one of roughly 50 physicians and nurses from the Geisel School of Medicine and a dozen other American medical schools who are committing a year of their careers to working for the Ministry of Health in Rwanda as part of the Human Resources for Health Program (HRH), which was launched in 2012. As faculty members, the visiting physicians teach and mentor both medical students and residents, and they make the rounds on the wards and see patients. The goal is to train skilled physicians and medical school faculty to serve a country that badly needs more of both.