As a young man growing up in the village, I watched my grandmother grow progressively blind from what I later came to learn was cataracts. She became suicidal and her life came to a halt. For those who grow up in the village you know the role of a grandmother to the community, she was the one left to care for the domestic animals, raise all the kids while everyone went out to work, made sure we the kids were fed and cared for amongst many other roles within the homestead. So with her blindness, her roles stopped and the family was slowly disintegrating. That was before a medical camp was done by Lions eye hospital, and with eye screening, she finally underwent free cataract surgery and her sight was restored. As a young boy watching all this from a distance, I was fascinated at just what had transpired and which miracle had restored her sight. Later as I made my way through medical school, I came to understand what ophthalmology was and it was obvious what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the surgeon to give the miracle healing to millions of old people out there who needed that assistance. Come August 2021, the opportunity presented itself when the young village boy now a grown man and doctor walked into RIIO and began my 4-year residency. What really caught my eye from the first day was just how small but well-equipped the school was. We were only a class of four. Four! For someone who was in a medical class of 300 or so students, this was an eye-opener. It meant very close interaction with the lecturers, other students, and staff. Which obviously meant you get better attention at a personal level and eventually become a better surgeon. The facilities are ultramodern, a very well equipped wet lab, good reliable wifi, and a very comfortable appealing interior design. You certainly feel a lot of thought was taken into designing the whole school. Another thing I love about RIIO so is the lecturers by Prof Ciku and the many anecdotal stories she gives us about her experiences in Kenya and Rwanda. The senior residents have also been very friendly and helpful which is a big boost. The biggest challenge I have had so far was the language barrier, but it’s a challenge for me to learn French and Kinyarwanda. Certainly, RIIO feels like a big family away from home.
In pursuit of purpose, I ended up in the Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology to begin my dream career. This was the first time I was leaving my country for a foreign land. Like Abraham of old, it felt like leaving the known for the unknown & uncertain. Nevertheless, I didn’t hesitate to heed the call. This past (almost) two months have been wonderful. I especially like the learning style, the paperless approach to doing most things & the friendly staff that make my time here all the more bearable & worthwhile. I have definitely grown and look forward to more exciting times of learning & GROWTH.
My first 30 days at Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology were full of new experiences of learning. Before joining RIIO, I spent more than 18 years in school, from nursery, primary, high school as well as undergraduate medical school, all of which were almost similar in learning and teaching methods. After medical school, I realized I had some deficiency in ophthalmology knowledge, and I embarked on the way of learning some principles in that strange field, which landed me in RIIO as a resident. There is familiar jargon residents like to use when talking to graduates in other fields, saying that “we are not students but Doctors in the specialization”. on my first day in RIIO, I had that confidence, like I had the knowledge that needed only to be sharpened, but it did not take much time for me to realize I needed to cool down and behave like a virgin paper ready to be printed on the ophthalmology knowledge. The learning environment in RIIO is well structured and in the first few days in RIIO, I was able to foresee the performance expected for a resident to train as a good ophthalmologist. There is so much to discover as a new resident like surgeries under a microscope and many more and our training is organized in a more practical than theoretic way. The older residents were very welcoming, and we realized there is so much we will learn from them. Staff and Directors also treated us with equity and contributed to sharpening our love toward a successful ophthalmology carrier.
In Rwanda, eye conditions are still a burden of our society. There is a gap of Ophthalmologists countrywide, existing specialists are only based in the Referral Hospitals and some private clinics. From a five year experience I had as General Practitioner in different District Hospitals of Rwanda, I realized that my undergraduate background in Ophthalmology is not sufficient to serve patients with eye problems, and for this reason, I have joined Ophthalmology residency at RIIO school of Ophthalmology where I am now gaining more experiences from different experts all over the World, clinical skills that are parallel to the surgical skills through wet labs where special instruments are used enhance our learning quality. I hope, I will be one of the professional Ophthalmologists in Rwanda and I will contribute more to the improvement of our eye care quality.