Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sharing My Mission Experience with Team Heart

We all work very hard and every now and then, it is good to step back and put it all into perspective.

Last week, I took a week off from work to fulfill something I have wanted to do for a long time -  I went to Africa to volunteer with Team Heart.  Team Heart is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to medical care in Rwanda. In a country with only 2 cardiologist (yes, only 2 in the entire country!) where rheumatic heart disease (a consequence of untreated strep throat) remains rampant, the need remains great for volunteers.

With support from the Rwanda Ministry of Health, our volunteer team brought new (laptop size) cardiac ultrasound machines to four hospitals and spent time working with the staff to train them to do echocardiograms to diagnose rheumatic heart disease and other cardiac abnormalities.  The clinical staff was amazing - they were so knowledgeable, dedicated and extraordinarily nice, all in the face of remarkably restricted resources - even things like uninterrupted electricity should not be taken for granted!

While they were very appreciative of my time and teaching, I feel that I received far more than I gave. 

Attached are a few pictures from my time in Butare University Hospital, a hospital in the southern part of Rwanda in which I spent most of my time.  In these pictures, you can see the hospital inpatient wards (typically with 8-10 patients per room).  The hospital (below) looks like a typical community hospital from the outside but has about 800 beds inside!  Below is also a picture of me with Dr. JP Sibomana, the internal medicine physician who is single handedly starting an echo service for the hospital.

Once a week physicians from across the hospital come together for a multi-disciplinary grand rounds.  In this photo, I was one of 3 lectures (involving internal medicine, ENT and Ob/GYN) on how to manage rheumatic heart disease and prosthetic valves in a women who is pregnant and in heart failure.

And it was not only about medicine.  The country is beautiful and full of life.  We took one day to drive through one of the national parks where there are all types of animals freely roaming, just as you would expect in Africa!


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