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Middlesex Launches New Partnership with Rwanda Hospital
Story Number is : 041017101
Middlesex Hospital

Middlesex Hospital has a new partnership, and it’s with the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, the main teaching hospital in Rwanda.

Each year, Middlesex Hospital will send a physician and a resident to Rwanda for one month to work with pediatric doctors there. This year, Dr. Cliff O’Callahan, a member of the pediatric faculty and director of nurseries at the Hospital, and Dr. April Diep, a family medicine resident, made the trip.

The partnership mutually benefits both parties. Middlesex Hospital is able to help medical staff and patients in Rwanda. In turn, Middlesex residents are able to learn about health care in a resource-limited country that deals with diseases and conditions that are rarely seen in the United States.

The partnership is the result of a long-standing relationship between Dr. O’Callahan and the hospital in Rwanda. A few years ago, Dr. O‘Callahan worked with Human Resources for Health to establish a functional pediatrics residency program in Rwanda, and he’s visited the country several times since. Funding for the Human Resources for Health Project is now at risk. Although the program’s future is in jeopardy, there is still a great need for doctors and residents from resource rich settings to work alongside teams in Rwanda, and Middlesex Hospital will do just that.

Middlesex’s approach to this new partnership is unique and a model for others. While many residents and students from other hospitals do visit Rwanda, attending or supervising senior physicians don’t usually go with them. Middlesex’s arrangement allows for daily discussion, mentoring and reflection. It also means not burdening local Rwandan faculty, who are already incredibly busy, with overseeing American residents.

“I’m hoping more and more training programs will adopt this model,” Dr. O’Callahan says.

Dr. Diep described her month in Rwanda as a powerful experience. She was able to take on a teaching role and help Rwandan residents learn about quality improvement. She also provided guidance and served as a teaching resident for medical students in Rwanda. They have so much talent, but need that extra guidance because there are so many learners to every teaching doctor, Dr. Diep says.

While in Rwanda, Dr. Diep saw many conditions that are not common in the United States, such as malaria, and other conditions that were more advanced due to poor access to medical care. She learned how to deal with these conditions and other difficult issues, such as lack of medicine and lab tests.

“I really feel I learned so much, and it was an experience I will never forget,” Dr. Diep says.

Now back in Connecticut, Dr. O’Callahan and Dr. Diep have returned to work at Middlesex Hospital. However, they continue to reflect on their trip. There are difficult stories and happy memories, and it takes a long time to process, Dr. Diep says.

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