In 2020, several members of the board of RFA had planned to visit the University of Kigali Medical School in Rwanda to provide teaching in rheumatology. Unfortunately, they were unable to travel due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the travel restrictions, RFA developed a 16-week virtual rheumatology program for internal medicine residents. In Kigali, the course was first administered in 2021 and repeated in 2022 and 2023. RFA board members were joined by an international faculty that included rheumatologists from North America, Europe and Africa thereby ensuring regional insights pertaining to key rheumatology issues were covered. Resident feedback was very favorable. In response to the residents’ requests for additional hands-on in-person training, in April 2023, several North American rheumatologists affiliated with RFA volunteered their time and went to Rwanda at their own expense to teach. During this visit, lectures and tutorials on core rheumatology topics were presented, rheumatology clinical skills were taught, and patients with possible rheumatic disease were reviewed with both the internal medicine and pediatric residents. The team also met with leaders in the Faculty of Medicine to explore RFA’s role in strengthening rheumatology in Rwanda.
The residents were eager to gain rheumatology knowledge. Here is one of the residents learning how to aspirate a joint using a model of the knee. This is an important skill required to help diagnose and treat several musculoskeletal conditions.
Drs. Hitchon and Meltzer reviewed several patients in clinic with some of the medical residents. The residents found that being guided by rheumatology faculty in both obtaining a relevant medical history and performing a joint examination was very helpful.
The lectures and case discussions were very well received.
Below is a note from the chief medical residents, Dr. Prosper and Sister Veronique, regarding the RFA rheumatology teaching program:
Reflection on Rheumatology outreach in Rwanda:
Training Residents in Rheumatology is valuable for the
Rwandan population. It helps to prepare skilled physicians who can provide standard
care to meet the expectations of our patients in a country with limited providers in this specialty of Medicine. During the last couple of years, we have been getting virtual theoretical lectures from international faculties to close this gap, hence this outreach served to strengthen our capacity not only through review of selected topics and case based learning, but also practicing musculoskeletal examination and performing basic procedures like arthrocentesis.
We highly appreciated this initiative of training future Rwandan Physicians in Rheumatology. We thank the organizers for their time, commitment and dedication to knowledge sharing in order to build suitable clinicians for local and international communities. We hope for regular similar visits in this domain.
Dr INGABIRE Prosper and Dr UWAMARIYA Veronique
Medical chief residents
University of Rwanda
Following the intensive one-week hands-on teaching in Rwanda, Dr. Prosper wrote:
We look back to that intensive, productive, and interactive week in Kigali which is the big historical event of Rheumatology training in our department.
We really learned a lot and enjoyed your presence in all domains. We kindly retake this time to reflect on that precious period and thank you for your dedication, commitment, and passion to our learning. We are looking forward to implementing that initiative of monthly case review after the last preparatory meeting to be fixed whenever you are available.
RFA has developed a model to increase rheumatology capacity in resource-limited countries. Outreach programs like the one described above, with both virtual and hands-on teaching, are important. However, providing local physicians with fellowship training in rheumatology is the only way to create self-sustaining rheumatology care. Once fellowship training is completed, these physicians can teach, treat patients and advocate for the necessary medications and diagnostic studies required to treat patients in their communities. All donations to RFA go directly to support rheumatology fellowship training of African physicians. The support of RFA donors is greatly appreciated and allows for rheumatology fellowship training for physicians from resource-limited areas, such as Rwanda, to continue. Thank you for your support to RFA.