The Western Section of the American Urological Association made it possible for Dr. Jullet Han to serve as an IVUmed Resident Scholar in Kigali, Rwanda under the mentorship of Dr. Frank Burks.
Dr. Han shares her experience:
“I fit as much as I could into my tiny suitcase, hoping for the best: 5 scrubs, one white coat, and anti-malarial/HIV prophylaxis medications. Check, check, check. I didn’t know what to expect as I embarked on my trip to Rwanda. I wondered what I had gotten myself into, as I was venturing into a foreign country with a group that I had briefly met over a conference call a month prior. But, a part of me was very excited, as I was going to be able to do surgeries in a hospital in a low-income country, work with locals, and immerse myself in a culture that is completely different than my own.
“My experience in the hospital was completely eye-opening. In many ways, the operating room suites were no different than what we had back home– a scrub sink, anesthesia machine, overhead lights, trays of sterilized instruments, etc. But three things really struck a chord with me. The first was that the trays of instruments were seemingly collected from years past, and every tray had a different collection of instruments. Despite the lack of tools, the local surgeons made use of the instruments, operating with whatever they had. They didn’t need the fancy angled needle driver to throw the stitch down in the urethra, they could do it with the thick long needle driver that was really made for the pelvis. No needle driver in this tray? Well, the tonsil should work. The surgeons had the bare minimum to operate, but they made it work and the patients received the same surgeries that they would’ve gotten back home. Second, I was fascinated that they generated very little waste with each case. Anything that could be re-used – Bovies, grounding pad, suction tubing, intubation supplies – things that we wouldn’t even think twice as a disposable back home were washed and re-sterilized for the following case. I spoke with Claudine, one of the instrument washers, as she was washing instruments with a toothbrush. I told her that I was really impressed with how they reused things that we would normally throw away, and how little waste they generated. She told me, “This is Africa, we don’t have the luxury to waste things here.” How was it that this small hospital in Rwanda far outpaced us in terms of minimizing our carbon footprint in the operating room? Lastly, it was all hands-on-deck in the operating room. They didn’t have a dedicated scrub-tech for cases, so the residents (including me and even the attending, Dr. Stein) all took turns being a scrub-tech so that everyone could have a chance to operate.
“There are only ten urologists serving a country of 12.6 million, and I was able to meet more than half of them.Dr. Rwamasirabo – the founder of the urology residency there, Dr. Umurangwa – the first and only female urologist in the country, Dr. Emuhawenimana – one of the graduates who we operated with, and many more. Despite its infancy, these ten urologists are paving the way for urology in Rwanda, and I’m so grateful that I was able to be a part of it. Thank you to IVUmed for making it happen. I definitely hope to go on more trips in the future – both as a resident and as an attending!”