Last week, the headquarters of Inshuti Mu Buzima (IMB), Partners In Health’s Rwandan sister organization, turned into “Harvard East,” when more than 20 participants from the Rwandan health sector and PIH/IMB completed a five-day Harvard-Rwanda Global Health Delivery field (GHD) course. This marked the third year of the course, a joint effort by Harvard Medical School, the Rwandan Ministry of Health and PIH/IMB. The goal: empower local health providers, policy makers, and thought leaders to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice in global health.

“A lot of progress has been made in Rwanda’s health sector, and we don’t want to move backwards,” said Maurice Gatera, head of the Vaccines and Preventable Diseases Division at the Rwanda Biomedical Center. Gatera was one of the 25 students who lived and studied in the Rwinkwavu Center for Operational Research and Training over the course of the week. “The global health knowledge we have received in this course will help us continue making progress. Many examples from around the world were shared, [including] how progress can be achieved through different health interventions.”

The course combined several methods of instruction, including small group discussions, live interviews with health care leaders, case studies, and field visits, during which students were able to see theories discussed in the class put into practice. 

Without health, we slow down development, and without development we slow down access to health,” Dr. Agnes Binagwaho said.

Rwanda's Minister of Health Dr. Agnes Binagwaho has been instrumental in developing and implementing the GHD course, which is designed to give all leaders from the Rwanda health sector a solid foundation in the global health discipline. “Without health, we slow down development, and without development we slow down access to health,” Dr. Agnes Binagwaho said. “It’s very important that the participants feel it, and understand it—to help them to think more strategically.”

Strategic connections and new friendships were forged throughout the week, and former GHD course students helped lead discussions and lectures. All participants received a Harvard Medical School certificate at the end of the course.

Dr. Felix Cyamatare, clinical director at PIH/IMB, a former GHD student, served as faculty member this year and was encouraged by all that he saw. The lessons learned will be a driving force of positive change in Rwanda. “I was humbled by the honest discussion that were had between Ministry of Health and Partners In Health colleagues,” Cyamatare said.