Anisha Hegde: Kigali, Rwanda

I love seeing panoramic views like this one from pretty much any point in Kigali.
I love seeing panoramic views like this one from pretty much any point in Kigali.

Muraho from the land of milles collines! I have been here for a month now, and each day has been the best kind of adventure. After the non-stop intensity of the first year of medical school, I am enjoying reacquainting myself with the world outside the UVa medical education building and with why I chose the medical profession in the first place.

I am interning and doing research in the Rwandan Ministry of Health for two months. I have the privilege of working with the Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the Honorable Minister of Health, on a chapter that details her efforts to boost vaccination rates in Rwanda.

Exploring Lake Kivu by boat
Exploring Lake Kivu by boat

We are also working on a vaccination advocacy piece, and I am looking into child and infant mortality data retrieved from the country’s 2015 Demographic Health Survey. It is an especially exciting time to be here doing health work since the Ministry just announced that Rwanda has met the health Millennium Development Goals. I love stories, and Rwanda’s narrative is incredibly powerful: filled with learning from a painful past, hopeful rebirth, indomitable grit and rebuilding of a rich culture.

It was an honor to be in attendance at the interagency meeting that celebrated the Day of the African Child.
It was an honor to be in attendance at the interagency meeting that celebrated the Day of the African Child.

All the opportunities that have come my way this summer have resulted from a little bit of intentional searching on my part and a lot of goodwill from perfect strangers-turned-mentors – and that formula did not stop with my arrival here. I was itching for clinical experience, so an infectious disease doctor invited me to round with her at the teaching hospital. I was curious to see how a district hospital functioned, so an internal medicine resident showed me around the Ruhengeri hospital. Between public health research at the Ministry of Health and seeing the practice of medicine in resource-strapped hospitals, the teaching I received in the classroom this past year has come alive and been reinforced.

My work keeps me blissfully busy, but on the weekends I get to explore this amazing country. In Kigali, I enjoy wandering weaving in and out of fabric stalls and fruit stands in city’s many markets,

CHUK: the largest public teaching hospital in Rwanda
CHUK: the largest public teaching hospital in Rwanda

devouring passion fruit and avocados, practicing Kinyarwanda with patient souls, and running long distances uphill because views from the top of all thousand hills are breathtaking. Public transportation to destinations outside Kigali has given me glimpses into rural vistas, dotted by terracing agriculture and children playing soccer against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. The destinations themselves have afforded me opportunities to trek, observe different flavors of Rwandan life and eat my fill of fish and goat brochettes.

Daily I pinch myself to make sure that I am not dreaming. Here’s to another month to learn more about this beautiful country from its beautiful people!

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