Global leadership - one of the University of Illinois at Chicago's prime missions, as well as that of the College of Nursing (CON). In 2011, the CON was selected as one of five colleges of nursing nationally to participate in an innovative seven year program in the east African nation of Rwanda. The commitment from these nursing institutions is to aid the government of Rwanda in addressing the critical shortage of medical, nursing, and dental workers, to address the poor quality of health professions education, the country's inadequate infrastructure and their inadequate management of health facilities.
The Rwanda Human Resources for Health (Rwanda HRH) Program is a transformative new program by Rwanda's government in collaboration with the Clinton Health Access Initiative. In late September, Dean Terri E. Weaver represented the UIC at the 2012 invitation only Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York. Along with representatives from other U.S. academic institutions, the CON reaffirmed its commitment to this program on a global stage - standing alongside the likes of former President Bill Clinton, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Minister of Health Agnes Binagwaho.
Sharing her experience at the event, Dean Weaver says it was humbling to be in the presence of so many national and international leaders. "It is believed that this is the largest cooperative global health effort ever undertaken between universities in the developed and developing world." reiterates Dean Weaver from an earlier comment made by President Clinton.
In early July, Dean Weaver and several faculty members traveling to Rwanda met President Clinton in Chicago for a meet and greet. Clinton spent time with the UIC contingent and thanked them for being a part of this project. The first team of seven UIC faculty members then left in August to begin their year-long commitment serving as Nurse Educators and Nurse Mentors in Rwanda. Alongside our representatives are faculty from Duke, Howard University, New York University and the University of Maryland.
"Participation in the Rwanda HRH Program is already proving to be a hallmark opportunity for our university and will continue to demonstrate the strength of our health science leadership and continue to attract international interest in our programs," Weaver said.
Advancing the nurse workforce and nursing education in Rwanda is a primary target of the project. The nation has pledged to substantially boost the skill level of nurses and is committed to increasing the number of nurses and midwives with advanced certificates five-fold to over 5,000 along with multiplying the number of nurses with bachelor's and master's degrees to provide much-needed faculty. A well-educated nursing workforce is critical to meet the challenges that Rwanda continues to face - that of AIDS, malaria, malnutrition, and high infant mortality.
Once international funding is phased out, there should be sufficient Rwandan educators, infrastructure, and domestic funding to sustainably support the health care system and health sciences education system in the years to come.
The Rwandan Minister of Health, Honorable Dr. Agnes Binagwaho and Dean Emerita of CON, Dr. Mi Ja Kim.