Kigali Medical Benefit Will Help Send Rwandan Students to Medical School – UMUSEKE – News indeed
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 In a country with a population of almost 11 million people, there is only one medical school to train doctors — that is, until September 5, when the Kigali Medical University will officially open its doors to a class of  60-80 bright young students looking to change the future of Rwanda. 

Kigali Medical University Buildings
Kigali Medical University Buildings.

There is a massive shortage of doctors in Rwanda, due partly to the fact that there is only one small, competitive medical school that has limited capacity, and partly because of the 1994 genocide in which many doctors were killed while others fled the country. Currently, there is only one doctor available for every 20-30,000 people in need.

Because of this lack of doctors, especially in rural areas, the life expectancy of the average Rwandan is only 51 years old and one in five children die before their fifth birthday. Oftentimes, people and children die from simple respiratory infections or other treatable diseases, simply because they don’t have access to the doctors or medicine needed.

Recognizing the dire need for his country to produce more doctors, Gerard Urayeneza decided to create a new medical university along with his cousin, Vianney Ruhumuliza.

Local obstetrician-gynecologist John Streit, who has worked in Saratoga Springs for 33 years and has been to Rwanda 16 times since 2005 (often through the Medical Missions for Children nonprofit), became involved in the Kigali Medical University Foundation after meeting Urayeneza at a conference and being asked to join the effort. Since then, Streit has become the president of the Kigali Medical University and is helping create the new university, which will have an English curriculum.

“It’s very hard to get into the [current] medical school and people who ran the first private college got frustrated that they couldn’t get more of their students into medical school,” Streit explained. “They had these bright kids who wanted a career in medicine but couldn’t get into the medical school, so the answer was to just build a new school, and that’s how it all came about.”

Streit said that most doctors and specialists practice in the city of Kigali, making the availability of medical care difficult to obtain in the rural parts of the country. The new medical school will help to train more doctors who will spread care throughout Rwanda.

“The idea with this medical school is to create doctors who will be able to do most things and have them dispersed throughout the country,” Streit said. “They don’t need people like me going there for a couple weeks to perform surgeries,” Streit said. “They have plenty of bright—and I mean bright—young kids capable of becoming doctors, and they have a very high work ethic.”

With the university’s construction completed, the foundation is now raising funds to help pay the first year’s tuition for as many students as possible so they can attend the school.

“I was there last fall and we were meeting with prospective students and one of them asked, ‘How come medical is so expensive?’” Streit said. “And it is, by Rwandan standards.” Urayeneza explained the need to construct a building, hire faculty and obtain equipment was expensive. “For my son to go to medical school in the U.S., it was $50,000 a year. In Rwanda, it’s $2,000.”

For every $2,000 raised at the fundraiser, a deserving male or female student can attend their first year. After that first year, students become eligible for college loans that are repayable at a year-for-year basis.

Saratoga Daily News

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