Colleges Set to Improve Healthcare in Rwanda

Howard Among Universities to Train Nurses, Midwives

     Howard University has joined the University of Maryland, the University of Texas, New York University, Duke University and the University of Illinois at Chicago in a healthcare initiative that will send experienced healthcare professionals to Rwanda.

     The program is needed because the healthcare system in Rwanda isn’t as advanced as the one in the United States, participants said.  The idea originated from the Clinton Health Access Global Initiative, a part of the William J. Clinton Foundation. The program will train nurses, clinicians and midwives in Rwanda to improve the level of healthcare for residents of the African nation.

     The first group will be leaving for Rwanda on Aug. 3. As of now, the program is open only to health professionals with a lot of field experience, but students may be able to go in the future as an opportunity to learn, research and share their knowledge.

     Each university may send up to seven people for the program. Candidates for the program recruited by the universities will spend between one and seven years in Rwanda teaching at nursing schools and providing clinical training. To qualify for the program, candidates should have international experience such as with Doctors without Borders or the Peace Corps, a graduate degree and extensive experience as a healthcare provider.

     The Howard University Division of Nursing in the College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences is spearheading Howard’s end of the program. Dr. Mary Hill, dean of the College of Nursing and Allied Health, traveled to Rwanda along with delegates from the other universities involved to meet with the Rwandan Ministry of Health and plan the best way to get the program started.

     Howard University is currently the only HBCU involved in the program. Students said that is important because we are giving back to people who look like we do.

    “It’s pivotal for Howard, as one of the most storied black institutions, to have a face and stake in helping Africans better themselves and the quality of life for their countrymen,” said Patrick Jones, a junior audio production major at Howard and a member of the African Students Association at the university.

     Dr. Barbara Smith is a professor at the University Of Maryland School Of Nursing and leads her school’s participation in the Rwanda Human Resources Health Program. UMD got involved with the program through an invitation received from the William J. Clinton Foundation. Before this, the university had set up HIV clinics in Rwanda as a part of an AIDS relief plan.

     “I spoke to the Global Health Director and our dean and they decided that [the program] would be something of benefit to Maryland and to the folks in Rwanda.” Smith said

     The University of Maryland has a list of potential candidates for the program but until it is concrete, those names have not been released. They will try to send one educator and seven clinical mentors for the first year of the program.

    “Clinical mentors are instructors who will supervise students at the hospitals and community clinics and work with a Rwandan partner to help increase their skills.” Smith said.