Early Beginnings

Dr. David Cechetto’s interest in Africa and involvement with overseas medical projects has evolved throughout his career.  For 15 years Dr. Cechetto served on a Western program called Medical Electives Overseas, which placed medical students in developing countries for placements in their final year of school.  In December of 1999, Western was contacted by the director of the national University of Rwanda requesting Western to partner with the University of Rwanda to rebuild the medical school after the genocide that had taken place in 1994.  As Dr. Cechetto was the head of the Medical Education In-Service Overseas committee for Western he was contacted by the International office about this potential partnership.  

Dr. Cechetto had several important connections with Rwanda that influenced his decision to get involved.  Therese Bishagara, now a senator in Rwanda, she saw the opportunity that working connection with a Canadian university would be of great benefit for Rwanda.  Dr. Cechetto was put in touch with the ambassador from Rwanda, Laurent Nkongoli.  The ambassador told Dr. Cechetto that he couldn’t consider doing a project in Rwanda without visiting first.  The ambassador helped to arrange for Dr. Cechetto to visit Rwanda in January of 2000; planning his itinerary for his time in the country.  “It was quite life changing, because first of all the country was still in shock from the genocide.   I went to parliament, met parliamentarians and to just sort of begin to understand what they had gone through and where they're at and their hopes for the future.”

After visiting, it became clear to Dr. Cechetto that he wanted to be involved with the inter-university partnership.  In 2000 and 2001, Dr. Cechetto and his team started to put together letters of intent for funding.  The director of the National University of Rwanda, Emile Rwamasirabo, he had a strong vision for how partnership could help the medical school.  The letters of intent had started out  being primarily focused on medicine with only a small portion addressing nursing.  However there were a number of political reasons the medical school was not ready for a partnership on this scale.  So with the support of Therese Bishagara the plan was reworked to focus on developing the nursing program to establish a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  Eventually, five years later, in February of 2006, President Kagame asked Western to come back to Rwanda to assist in rebuilding the medical school.  They were given funding to work with the medical school to work with various elements of curriculum review and revision.

After the project with the medical school was finished, the Global Fund asked Western to do an assessment of the health care quality in Rwanda.   The assessment targeted every hospital and the vast majority of health centres with over 2000 questionnaires and surveys.  This gave them clear insight into what some of the gaps were in the Rwandan health care system.  One of which was emergency care; which was particularly true of maternal, obstetrical, neonatal and paediatric health.  The health care professionals exhibited a lack of comfort and facility in these areas of emergency care..  

At the same time, that the Canadian government came out with a call for what Muskoka Initiative proposals focusing on maternal newborn child health.  With the research from the Global Fund assessment of the health care in Rwanda Dr. Cechetto put in a strong application and received funding from the Muskoka initiative.  This commenced their work in the Eastern Province primarily focused on training in MNCH.