GW Physician Assistant Students Support Clinical Officer Training Program in Rwanda

Students posing around packed boxes

It is hard to imagine the needs of Rwandan health professional students half a world away, as Rwanda’s health care system is still in a re-building mode, almost 20 years after the genocide. Many students lack the learning resources available to students at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The GW Physician Assistant Program and the Rwandan Embassy are working to change this by asking for donated materials, such as lab coats, training supplies, and text books.

Lisa Alexander, Ed.D., M.P.H., P.A. ’79, director of GW’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program, served as a Fulbright Senior Specialist to the Ministry of Education in 2009-2010 to determine how best to meet the existing health workforce shortages, especially in rural primary care. Familiar with the growing international interest in physician assistants and similar models in many other African countries, she enthusiastically offered her assistance to Rwandan Ministry officials. After completing a feasibility study, she collaborated with faculty at the Kigali Health Institute to develop the curriculum. Even with these resources, the funding for the program was severely limited, despite of several attempts to secure additional governmental or international funding. 

Even with these challenges, the Clinical Officer Program accepted their first class of students in 2012 and is in the process of training their first cohort of 150 students to function as the country’s newest health professionals. They will become a model of the new generation of health professionals equipped with the knowledge and skills that enhance their ability to adapt, respond, and be flexible in the provision of care to patients, and their community.  

Materials such as lab coats, training supplies, and text books will be shipped through a jointly sponsored project between GW’s PA Program and the Rwandan Embassy.  First-year PA students started preparing the items for shipment this week. Any other training materials will be gratefully accepted.

To donate, please contact the PA program at 202-994-6661 and a pickup can be arranged.  All donations must be received by March 28, 2013.

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