The First International Rwandan Pain Conference 2019

Mar 8, 2019

Submitted by Mary Lynch, MD
IASP Member Canada

On January 16 and 17, 2019 the inaugural International Rwandan Pain Conference was held. Dr. Gaston Nyirigira, the recipient of the 2018 IASP Award for Excellence in Pain Research and Management in Developing Countries, and the conference organizing committee did a great job of getting the word out. With an outstanding attendance of 250 people, the conference had to be moved to a larger venue! Health care professionals from across the nation were present. It was an inter-professional group with physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, psychologists, non-physician anesthetists and administrators present. There were also participants from Uganda and Ethiopia. The Head of the Anesthesia Department at CHUB (University Teaching Hospital Butare), Dr. Theogene Twagirumugabe, was one of the featured speakers. The Director General of CHUB spoke at the opening and closing and a representative from the Ministry of Health spoke and remained for the entire conference. The conference had the support of decision makers at all levels.

The participants were very engaged. I was especially impressed when the groups at the workshop on Pain Research identified 25 excellent research questions within 30 minutes. Our 4 group facilitators, Eugene and Joseph (Rwandan anesthesia residents) and Stephen and Chris (Canadian anesthesia residents from Halifax and Toronto respectively), did an excellent job. When a sudden tropical downpour onto the roof above our heads made it almost impossible to hear each other, the groups just moved in closer, almost touching heads like a rugby scrum. Our goal was to interest participants in sending a pain research team to the next micro-research workshop. This was a success and there were at least 20 who indicated they would be interested!

Gaston was the consummate host. It was a delight for me to see his transformation from an anesthesia resident in training to inspiring leader, articulate and elegant. I had the chance to meet many of the participants and in every case they were optimistic and enthusiastic for change, and were inspired to bring what they had learned back to their own communities across the nation and in Eastern Africa.

But I can’t forget the medical students. The medical students were with us for the entire 2 days of the conference. They took care of the registration desk and anything else needed. They were wonderful and also attended the scientific sessions. The women even wore some traditional dress and all together they were quite sensational.

The second International Rwandan Pain conference is already being planned and I have no doubt that momentum will continue to build. Congratulations on a wildly successful event to Gaston and all involved!

Dr. Rediet Shimeles, Dr. Gaston Nyirigira, and Dr. Mary Lynch

Dr. Patricia Livingston and Dr. Gaston Nyirigira with a fellow conference participant.

Medical student volunteers.