Sunday, January 3, 2010

Why I will be in Rwanda

After the genocide, the whole country of Rwanda had just one fully qualified medical specialist in anesthesiology. The Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society International Education Foundation (CASIEF) had experience in setting up an anesthesiology program in Nepal, which was very successful and became self-sustaining. In April 2004 the National University of Rwanda (NUR) asked CASIEF to support an anesthesia training program in Rwanda. In January 2006 the program officially started with volunteers from Canada and USA (as part of The American Society of Anesthesiologists Overseas Teaching Program, ASAOTP), ensuring continuity of teaching to both residents and nurses in the program of anesthesia. The goal of the program is to teach Rwandan physicians to become specialists in anesthesiology using visiting volunteers to teach them in their own country, rather than by sending them overseas for training.

I am fortunate enough to make a fairly good living as an anesthesiologist in Canada. I have always been interested in travel and in teaching. I was interested in anesthesia in developing countries while a resident in anesthesiology in the UK, but no opportunities worked out at that time. So when I happened to be sitting next to Dr Carli at an anesthesia dinner and he talked about CASIEF's work in Rwanda I was interested.

Things checked out: Rwanda is now a stable country, getting a lot of foreign aid, and working hard to recover from the genocide. It is pretty, with rolling hills and some large lakes. Although it is just south of the equator, it is at about 1,500m elevation so the average temperature is about 23 degrees centigrade.

Helping teach local physicians made more sense to me than just going and providing anesthesia services. It turned out that they needed someone for January 2010, and that I could get away from work that month. It is not a coincidence that I am leaving Toronto in the middle of winter to be in Rwanda for the short dry season!

I will be there for four weeks starting on Sat 9th January 2010. I will be staying in an apartment in Kigali, and teaching at two hospitals in Kigali. During the first and third week I will be traveling to Butare to teach in the university hospital on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday is an academic day, where I will be giving a lecture, leading an residents' seminar, and listening to presentations by local faculty. The rest of the week I will be in the operating rooms doing bedside teaching.


  1. Good luck on your mission. It's minus 7 tonight in Halifax (your birthplace in West Yorks rather than Nova Scotia), John W

  2. when i was at the halifax conference I met some of the CSA members who have all ready done a stint in Kigali. What struck me was the ability of the anesthetists in Kigali to adapt and do their job in ways we can hardly even imagine. I hope you can learn a few things from them!!!
    I listened to an update on thoracic anesthesia given by Peter Slinger when he was a guest at UBC recently. He talked a bit about how they reused the very few double lumen tubes they had.