The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Nursing based in the US, will send its first participants to the Rwanda Human Resources for Health Program (HRH Program) an effort to mentor health workers.
The announcement was made by Susan Benedict, Ph.D., director of the Global Health Program at the UTHealth School of Nursing on December 11, 2013.
Founded in the 1972 by the UT System Board of Regents, UTHealth is a leading medical education and biomedical research institution and is considered the largest medical center in the world.
The seven selected candidates will take part in the program that is part of a seven-year, $150 million initiative championed by former US President Bill Clinton and Rwanda President Paul Kagame in January 2014.
“We have two key goals— meet the Rwanda Ministry of Health’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency and offer our faculty members a unique experience that they can share with our students when they return,” said Susan Benedict, Ph.D. Director of the Global Health Program at the UTHealth School of Nursing.
“Up to seven candidates selected to participate in the program will mentor local nurses and advise nursing administrators,” said Benedict. He explained that participants will not be responsible for direct patient care.
The UTHealth School of Nursing was introduced to this program in 2011 when Thomas Mackey, Ph.D., director of UT Health Services, joined a delegation of 16 institutions to meet with President Kagame to discuss how Rwanda could offer world-class training and continue to rebuild its medical infrastructure.
Jennifer DiMaggio, R.N., who will be the first participant from the UTHealth School of Nursing to work in Rwanda, said she has visited Africa three separate times, with the most recent visit in 2011.
DiMaggio previously visited was in Africa to work for Children’s Emergency Relief International (CERI) and other nonprofit organizations.
As a 2009 BSN graduate of UTHealth, she previously worked at the Trauma and Emergency Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for more than four years.
“This is a lifelong dream come true,” DiMaggio said. “My job will be a collaborative effort between Rwandan students, staff and myself, as I better understand delivery of health care in the context of their own culture and practices.”
DiMaggio said it is a joint effort and I hope I can add to the knowledge base and to self-sufficiency that already exists.
There are currently less than 7,000 nurses in Rwanda who can provide care for the country’s 10 million citizens. According to the HRH Program, most of the nurses have only the minimum level of training.
The nursing component of this program is heavily focused on enhancing the skill of the workforce by developing an educational pathway for nurses to achieve an A0 level.
“When I met with President Kagame he was pretty clear about what he wanted to accomplish. His goals for our program consisted of improving education and health care and positioning Rwanda to be the information technology capital of East Africa,” Mackey said.
The UTHealth School of Nursing is one of six nursing institutions participating in the program.
Other institutions participating in the program include the University of Maryland, New York University and Duke University.
The program consists of medicine, nursing, dentistry and health management components that aim to increase Rwanda’s medical workforce and rebuild its infrastructure.
It is composed of six schools: UTHealth School of Medicine, UT Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, UT Dental Branch at Houston, UTHealth School of Nursing, UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics, and University of Texas School of Public Health.
UTHealth also owns and administers the Harris County Psychiatric Center. UTHealth faculty have been instrumental in pioneering the use of Tissue plasminogen activator and the development of Life Flight.