May 17, 2022

UMMS to help Rwanda train pediatric cardiologists

A faculty member has garnered a Fulbright scholarship to spend the upcoming year in Rwanda developing the nation’s first pediatric cardiology training program.

University Teaching Hospital in Kigali
A view of University Teaching Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda, where Dr. Bradley is partnering to launch the new training program.

Professor of Pediatrics David Bradley, MD, will spend 10 months at University of Rwanda starting in July to implement a curriculum that he has been developing over the past year with Rwandan partners.

“I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity,” Bradley said. “Rwanda is a place that, having made great advances in primary care, is ready and eager to work with academic specialists to improve training pathways and expand specialty programs.” 

Bradley’s curriculum, written in collaboration with Ministry of Health officials, Rwandan physicians, and leaders at the University of Rwanda, has been designed for young physicians who have completed pediatrics residency. It is modeled on US programs but adapted to the setting with an increased focus on diseases like rheumatic fever that are far more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa than they are in the US.

Much of the clinical training, at least initially, will need to be done outside of Rwanda because of the limited workforce—there are simply not enough Rwandan doctors qualified to do the teaching. (Bradley estimated that there are just two physicians specifically trained in pediatric cardiology in the entire country.) The Aswan Heart Centre, in southern Egypt, has already been identified as a likely host location for the Rwandan trainees. Bradley visited there this spring during a trip to lay the groundwork for the project.

David Bradley
Dr. David Bradley

“It is difficult to offer to relevant training experience in the US. The settings are very different,” Bradley said. “Aswan happens to be one of the jewels of Africa, in terms of cardiovascular care. The two institutions were already connected and they are eager to train the Rwandans.”

During his time at the University of Rwanda, Bradley will be working with his collaborators to refine the program logistics and details for the both the on- and off-site aspects of the program, as well as delivering guest lectures to the University’s medical students.

Bradley has long engaged in global health work, with extended visits to Gabon as a medical student and then to Ecuador after residency. Shorter-term activities in both Central America and Africa followed at various times throughout his career.

“Those experiences really stuck with me. I always sensed that the global health would return to my career in some way,” he said. “While I’ve had the privilege of offering the highest level of care to my Michigan patients, I’ve been cognizant that these tremendous resources are unavailable to most children in the world.”

Some of Bradley’s Michigan Medicine teammates have provided support and advice on the work through the project’s initial phases, conducted largely via videoconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that work on the ground is beginning in earnest, he is hoping to be able to further engage his colleagues.

“A variety of partnerships and exchanges could arise from this collaboration, at both the faculty and student levels, which is very exciting,” Bradley said. “We have such a strong clinical teaching tradition here at UMMS, and it’s an enormous resource to tap into and share. I hope to spend the upcoming year finding ways to leverage those I work with every day to enhance this project.”