About Rwanda & GI Rising
Rwanda is a small country of approximately 13 million people in East Africa
whose health care system was decimated by the 1994 genocide. In 12 weeks,
over 1 million Rwandan people died or were displaced at the hands of their
friends, relatives, and countrymen. Many who died were physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers that sustained the country's healthcare system.
In the past 20 years, Rwanda has made enormous strides to recreate and
reimagine its healthcare system. In 2012 the Rwandan government led the
Human Resources for Health Program (HRH Program), is a bold training
initiative to fill the shortage of health professionals. The goal of the HRH
The program was to build a large, competent healthcare workforce to sustain a
new innovative Rwandan healthcare system. Over the first 5 years of this
program (2012-2017), 99 physicians a year traveled from US teaching
hospitals to Rwanda to help with this goal. The success of the program is
apparent in that 22 new training programs were established which graduated
over 4600 health professionals by 2019. However, the cost of bringing
visiting faculty from the US partner institutions, taking away from their
practices at home, was substantial and unsustainable.
Gastroenterology & Hepatology care is very limited in Rwanda, despite liver
disease and esophageal, stomach, and liver cancer being in the top 25 causes
of death. To address this, the Rwanda Society for Endoscopy (RSE) was
formed in 2017 with the goals of providing patient care and training
providers in endoscopy. An important part of accomplishing their mission
has been the creation of Rwanda Endoscopy Week (REW) during which
gastroenterology faculty from around the world travel to Rwanda to provide
high-level care to patients while teaching Rwandan physicians endoscopic
skills via both lectures and hands-on training. In 2017, 244 endoscopic
procedures were performed during REW. The program has grown annually. During REW in 2022 over 1000 procedures were performed at 7 sites, some of which had
never before had endoscopic services.
Currently, there is one gastroenterologist in the country and less than a
dozen internists with some expertise in gastroenterological conditions and
endoscopic procedures. To further Gastroenterology & Hepatology care in
Rwanda, the US non-governmental 501C3 charitable organization GI
Rising was formed in 2020 with the mission of furthering GI education and
care in Rwanda through sustainable methods. As part of this mission, GI Rising worked with US teaching hospitals such as Dartmouth Hitchcock and Brigham and
Women’s Hospital as well as the Rwanda Ministry of Health to start a
gastroenterology and hepatology fellowship which began in 2022 with 4
fellows who will become faculty as the program grows.
A great deal more needs to be done as we start on our path to training
the first Rwandan gastroenterologists.