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Duke University Joins Global Effort to Train Rwandan Medical Professionals, Build Sustainable Health System

Duke University Joins Global Effort to Train Rwandan Medical Professionals, Build Sustainable Health System
Duke University Joins Global Effort to Train Rwandan Medical Professionals, Build Sustainable Health System


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The Duke University Schools of Nursing and Medicine are among 13 U.S. schools partnering with Rwanda's Ministry of Health to build a high-quality and sustainable health system in Rwanda. The seven-year Rwanda Human Resources for Health (HRH) Program was announced by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in Rwanda in late July.

To address the country's severe health care worker shortage, the Rwanda HRH Program will increase the number of faculty available to train future health professionals. By dramatically increasing the number, quality and skill level of Rwandan clinicians and health sciences educators, including medical doctors (general practitioners, specialists and subspecialists), nurses and midwives, the program aims to build the health education infrastructure and workforce needed to create a sustainable health care system.

This substantial growth of health care providers will be achieved with the assistance of an unprecedented consortium of top U.S. educational institutions. Each school has committed to send full-time faculty members to Rwanda to help improve teaching, research, curriculum development, and mentorship. The U.S. faculty mentors will work for up to one year at four teaching hospitals in Kigali and Butare, as well as with district hospitals associated with diploma nursing programs in rural communities.

At the conclusion of the seven-year program, thousands of Rwandan health care practitioners will have advanced their teaching, research, primary care and specialty skills as part of the educational partnership, and the Rwanda government "will be positioned to sustain the improved health workforce on its own without foreign aid," said Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health in Rwanda.

"These U.S. academic institutions have made a commitment that is unprecedented in global health," said Binagwaho. "The Rwanda HRH Program represents a new model for health education and for the delivery of foreign aid. This project will also create a new paradigm for cooperation between U.S. academic institutions and academic institutions in Rwanda."

The Rwanda HRH Program is financed by grants from the U.S. government and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The Clinton Health Access Initiative has helped to convene the consortium of U.S. schools and health experts needed for the program.

The Duke University School of Nursing, Duke School of Medicine and the Duke Global Health Institute have committed to send nurse and physician educators from nursing, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology specialties to Rwanda this year. Duke nurse and physician educators will support clinical faculty in Rwanda to improve the quality of the clinical education for nursing and medical students.

Subspecialists from a variety of fields may be recruited to spend shorter periods of time in Rwanda to conduct specialized advanced training.

"This is a natural extension of Duke's commitment to global health," said Dr. Nathan Thielman, Duke professor of medicine and global health and co-principal investigator of the program. "We look forward to partnering with the outstanding and dedicated faculty from the National University of Rwanda to support sustainable development through country-led improvements in health and education. This puts Duke and the other collaborating U.S. institutions at the forefront of a new model for strengthening human medical education in resource-limited settings. If successful, this will likely be duplicated in many other countries."

Dorothy Powell, Duke professor of nursing, associate dean for global and community health initiatives and co-principal investigator, said, "It is exciting and such a privilege to partner with the Government of Rwanda in strengthening its educational system for nurses and physicians, which will ultimately assist Rwandans achieve a top-notch health care system for its people."

Powell emphasized that "joining with leading U.S. schools of nursing and medicine is monumental; bringing together a combined level of expertise that will certainly ensure that Rwandan faculty and students will be exposed to and mentored by some of the best the world has to offer. At the same time, we are fortunate to learn from Rwandans who are so visionary, committed and resilient."

Duke faculty members will spend the majority of their time in the hospitals teaching teams of nurses, residents and medical students at the bedside and during clinical case discussions.

The Duke School of Nursing-affiliated nurses who will participate in the program include:

  • Carole Bennett, Psychiatric and Mental Health
  • Marie Collins Donahue, Pediatrics
  • Pauline Hill, Neonatal Intensive CareĀ· Tracy Kelly, Pediatrics
  • Patricia Moreland, Nursing Education
  • Linda Vanhook, Adult Health

The Duke School of Medicine-affiliated physicians participating in the first year of the Rwanda HRH program are:

  • Rebecca Chancey, Pediatrics
  • Washington Hill, Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Zhenya Krapivinsky, Internal Medicine
  • Mehri McKellar, Internal Medicine/Infectious Diseases
  • Maria Small, Obstetrics and Gynecology

To learn more about the Rwanda HRH Program and Duke's involvement, go to

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