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Where the heart is

One medical resident’s special connection to rural Rwanda

Teaching and Learning

By Rebecca Rebeiro

In a hospital on a remote hilltop in a small northern town, Dr. Robyn Ndikumana found one more reason to fall in love with Rwanda.

The fourth-year anatomical pathology resident in Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine travelled back to the country that has a special place in her heart after receiving the American Society of Clinical Pathology Foundation Trainee Global Health Fellowship.

The grant provides exceptional pathology residents the opportunity to take an elective rotation in a developing country as part of Partners for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment in Africa.

“There were about 10 countries on the list, and there was no doubt in my mind that Rwanda was where I wanted to go,” said Dr. Ndikumana, the only Canadian to receive the competitive grant this year.

‘Invaluable opportunities’

Before attending Memorial to earn her MD, Dr. Ndikumana completed a bachelor of science in nursing at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia and spent a year in Rwanda as a nurse.

“The people there are incredibly warm, hard-working, and resilient,” said the Corner Brook native. “It’s also where I met my husband, Adrien.”

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Doctor’s accommodations area at Butaro Hospital in Rwanda.
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Ndikumana spent a month this past summer shadowing three pathologists at Rwanda’s King Faisal Hospital in the capital city of Kigali and the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence at the Butaro Hospital to learn about the country’s unique pathology practices.

“I had wonderful teachers who gave me many invaluable opportunities to learn about various types of cancer and diseases related to tropical medicine,” she said.

Rwanda is the first country in East Africa to open a cancer centre in a rural location.

With the majority of the country’s population of approximately 12 million people residing outside Kigali, Dr. Ndikumana found this approach to cancer patient care refreshing and logical.

“I highly recommend other learners visit this site if given the opportunity. This experience has further solidified my choice of a career in pathology, as being able to arrive at the correct diagnosis is critical to allow patients to receive the correct treatment in a timely manner.”


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