Eye Care in Rwanda
When most people hear the name “Rwanda”, they immediately think about the dark past and aren’t familiar with its bright future. The country has, indeed, endured tremendous struggles and the scars are still very visible if you take a close look. However, the nation has found a way to persevere and slowly heal its wounds. Since then, Rwanda has been steadily increasing its influence as an island of stability in Africa.
NGOs have taken notice of its relative lack of corruption and heavy investment in infrastructure. Rwanda is an ideal place for Wills Eye and other global eye specialists to dedicate time and effort. Although there are talented ophthalmologists in the country, they have all been trained outside of Rwanda and are in serious shortage.
I spent three weeks in Kigali working alongside Drs. John Nkurikiye and Ciku Mathenge. Together, we reviewed and updated the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa (COECSA) accreditation guidelines. Additionally, I did an analysis of the human and physical resources in Kigali to identify any gaps in education that might arise during our efforts to start Rwanda’s first residency program.
I also toured a local diabetic clinic in Kigali that sees younger type I diabetics and many type II diabetics. We started laying the groundwork for Rwanda’s first teleretinal screening program. Telemedicine has been used in the USA for years to screen patients for diabetic retinopathy. Our VA hospital system does an exceptionally effective job of this. Many countries around the world have also undertaken initiatives to use telemedicine for eye health. This exciting chapter in Rwandan eye care will give us valuable information about the state of diabetic retinopathy in the country and allow Rwandans to get early intervention before irreversible blindness sets in.
Together with Wills Eye, we are working to find sustainable solutions to solving East Africa’s ophthalmologist shortage. With Drs. John and Ciku at the helm, I have no doubt that Rwanda will soon be producing world-class ophthalmologists trained in the heart of Africa.