Caring for a Campus: Nurse Andre Ndayambaje Leading Health Services at UGHE

Posted on May 12, 2020

Andre Ndayambaje, health services coordinator at UGHE
Andre Ndayambaje, health services coordinator at the University of Global Health Equity, and a 2019 alum, has dedicated his career to maternal and newborn care, nursing and midwifery, and helping those in need.
Photos courtesy of Andre Ndayambaje/UGHE

Andre Ndayambaje said the first baby he ever held was his sister’s—in a tragic setting that he will never forget.  

“It was during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, and my sister gave birth in the forest,” Ndayambaje said. “It was raining and cold, and I didn’t know what to do when I held the newborn covered in blood. We were saved by the loud sounds of my crying for help. From that moment, I wanted to be a nurse or midwife, someone who could help another in times of need.” 

Ndayambaje has more than fulfilled that ambition.

Andre Ndayambaje trains a midwife in newborn care
Andre Ndayambaje teaches a midwife how to help a newborn baby breathe.

He’s worked for 11 years as a senior nurse midwife in critical care units, providing neonatal care, and has been a master trainer, educator, activist, and project manager for maternal and newborn health programs. He’s held executive positions with organizations supporting nurses, including serving as president of the Rwanda Association of Neonatal Nurses. And he’s a 2019 graduate of the master’s in global health delivery program at the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), a Partners In Health initiative in northern Rwanda.

Now, as UGHE’s health services coordinator, Ndayambaje provides mental and physical checkups for the nearly 100 staff, students, and faculty living on the university’s campus in the rural community of Butaro.  

As the world celebrates International Nurses Day, the World Health Organization continues its ongoing Year of the Nurse and Midwife, and, of course, amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, the role and contributions of nurses like Ndayambaje have never been more important.

Ndayambaje said the pandemic has revealed the extent of nurses’ and midwives’ work, and their vital roles in health care.

“It has greatly added to the workload for nurses and midwives,” he said, of COVID-19. “Mothers are still coming for care as the cycle of life continues, and nurses are still handling other conditions (and) routine health problems, on top of caring for patients with COVID-19. It doesn’t go away in times like these.”

Personal sacrifices to keep patients safe also are increasing, unfortunately, during the global battle against COVID-19.

“There are nurses in almost every country who have lost their lives at the hands of this pandemic, nurses suffering physical and mental hardship in the face of long hours and emotionally draining patient circumstances, and nurses’ families who will suffer either the absence of a mother or father, or else risk increased exposure to transmission at home,” Ndayambaje said.

Andre Ndayambaje, center, with colleagues in eastern Rwanda
Andre Ndayambaje, center in black jacket, stands with colleagues while serving as a maternal and newborn specialist for a USAID project in Rwanda's Eastern Province. 

But that doesn’t change his dedication, or his optimism.

“As a nurse-midwife, I feel so proud of my colleagues across the world who are reaching patients where others don’t dare to reach,” Ndayambaje said. “By fostering collaboration between health workers, investing in fragile health systems, and providing the right tools to nurses on the frontline, we will beat this virus, and outbreaks to come.” 

Read more about Ndayambaje and the university’s new Center of Nursing & Midwifery, via UGHE.