There is much to celebrate as we mark the first anniversary this week of the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in Rwanda. Dr. Neo Tapela, director of noncommunicable diseases at Partners In Health, shared the following letter with her team at the cancer center:

Dear Noncommunicable Disease/Oncology Team,

One year ago today, we joined hands with Rwanda’s Ministry of Health, Partners In Health, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center, and Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation in the inauguration of the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence by President Bill Clinton and Honorable Minister Agnes Binagwaho as the first rural national referral center for cancer care in the region.

It's hard to believe that only one year has gone by given the tremendous achievements and challenges we've overcome.  In this short period of time, together we have: 

• Developed national protocols for cancer care that have been endorsed
• Strengthened national referral processes for cancer patients
• Developed baseline training curriculum in cancer diagnosis and treatment, with so far 87 nurses and 46 doctors trained
• Implemented other trainings, including in breast cancer surgical care, core needle biopsy, and cervical cancer screening, as well as for lab technicians at eight health facilities, to improve biopsy specimen preparation and referral
• Expanded Butaro’s pathology lab capacity, including set-up of telepathology for off-site interpretation by experts abroad while further capacity of Rwandan pathology specialists progresses
• Expanded consultation partnerships with Rwanda- and Boston-based specialists, including Rwanda-based specialist outreach to Butaro
• Graciously hosted many visitors, including collaborators who come to learn and are inspired by the work done, and potential donors who can potentially add to resources
• Implemented an electronic medical record (EMR) system to support clinical care and follow-up of patients, programmatic monitoring, and descriptive research
• Established a noncommunicable diseases (NCD) writing group to build NCD research capacity and share our experiences academically to expand service delivery
• Provided care for over 1,000 new patients at Butaro, and continued care overall of over 1,500 cancer patients at Butaro and Rwinkwavu Hospitals
• Continued to expand capacity for patient care, including additional staffing, training, and the soon-to-be opened Butaro Ambulatory Cancer Center (Infusion Center)

All of the above would not be possible without the compassion, resilient spirit, and tireless dedication to patient care of this team.  We truly owe this incredible success to all of you!

Murakoze cyane kubw'itange twakwigiyeho!!


Neo Tapela, MD MPH
Director of NCDs, Partners In Health, Rwanda
Special Advisor to Director General of Clinical Services, MOH, Rwanda
Associate Physician, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, USA