Monday evening, Margaret and I landed in Kigali to being our month long adventure as volunteers with the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society International Education Fund (CASIEF) in Kigali, Rwanda. The program is an educational program, focusing on helping the residents become teachers and future leaders and educators.

The Centre Hospitalier  Universitaire de Kigali (CHUK) is a sprawling complex with many different buildings – pediatrics, OB/GYN, emergency, the Operating theatre, clinics, and ICU. Interestingly, ENT had its own building and there were so many people waiting outside – I wonder if there is a high incidence of ENT problems here! Since we were too late to join in the Operating Theatres today, we had the luxury of spending time having a tour and a bit of an orientation. We met up with Dr. E, who very kindly gave us a tour.

We started with the SIM centre, which was a joint project between Rwanda University and Dalhousie University – I have attached a photo of the sign on the sim centre. I will admit, I felt a bit proud to see Dalhousie written there. Dr. Patty, the volunteer coordinator of CASIEF, and a friend of mine, worked tirelessly in the development of this centre. It has many pieces of equipment now, lots of mannequins, an old anesthesia machine and 2 lovely people who are trained to help you plan your simulations for teaching.

Then we toured the rest of the complex. In the ICU, Dr. E asked the anesthesia resident to present some cases to us. I found this awkward, as I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to offer some thoughts….in any case, I thanked the team for their time and we moved on.  Whenever I have started work at a new place, I always feel more comfortable standing back and trying to learn about how things are done before offering any thoughts, opinions, or suggestions. This seems even more important here, where their resources are so poor relative to Canada, that the treatment and anesthetic plans are necessarily very different from what I know! And yet, we are here for such a short time, there seems to be an expectation and possibly need for us to jump in right away.

We also toured the clinic areas and the Ob/Gyn area. In the maternity ward, we ran into Dr. M, an Ob/Gyn from the US who is staying in the apartment with us (or rather we are staying with her). She has been here for 3 weeks and leaves on Friday. She took us on a tour of the labour ward and proudly showed how they have remote fetal heart rate monitoring at the nurses’ station.

During this tour, I was struck not by how much was different but by how much was the same. The conversations about resources and how best to help patients, the paperwork, the rounds presentation, the constant conflict of not having enough ICU beds – all the same. Some things in healthcare remain universal.

Tomorrow, our first day in the OR.