Siobhan “Chevy” Lazenby
Volunteer 2006, Intern 2014, OceanPath Fellow 2015 – 2016
Chevy first met Dr. Ciku Mathenge, the co-director of the Rwanda International Institute of Ophthalmology (RIIO), in 2006 in Nakuru, Kenya. She’d never worn scrubs before. Not many 14-year-olds have – unless they’re on a bring-your-child-to-work day with a parent who’s in medicine. Chevy, on the other hand, found herself shadowing one of the first female ophthalmologists in East Africa at the eye unit in the Rift Valley Provincial Hospital. Her job, after jumping into pastel scrubs, stuffing her hair into a net, and disinfecting her hands, was to refill Bunsen burners and hold lime green tennis balls up to patients’ eyeballs who were about to undergo cataract surgery. “Though my tasks were menial and my impact was minimal, I was deeply moved by the restoration of sight,” she says. Chevy and Dr. Mathenge stayed in touch and after studying in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania with McGill University’s Canadian Field Studies in Africa program in 2014, Chevy returned to intern with Dr. Mathenge; this time in Kigali, Rwanda. Chevy gained experience in screening patients using non-contact tonometers and refractometers, and left Rwanda (to finish her B.A.&Sc. in Montreal, Canada) with an insatiable desire to ameliorate conditions in meaningful, unassuming and sustainable ways. In 2015, Chevy was named an OceanPath Fellow, allowing her to return to Kigali to work in partnership with RIIO and the Rwanda Diabetes Association for 9 months. Chevy is currently managing the development of community-designed eye health resources for people living with diabetes in Rwanda and amplifying the awe-inspiring work of the Tubahumurize Women’s Association. She plans to pursue a Masters of Public Health and is interested in exploring opportunities in social epidemiology, women’s health, data visualization and design.
Reine Kelly Kwizera
College Student, Minnesota, USA
Kelly interned within the department of optometry at Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital in Kigali and was in charge of data entry during the RAAB survey. “I gained a lot of experience working with people,” she says. Interested in the field of public health, Kelly maintains that her field work experience with RIIO gave her valuable insight into conducting epidemiological studies. Kelly’s experience with RIIO prepared her for future career duties as a public health officer or epidemiologist.
Opthalmologist, Wills Eye Hospital, Philadelphia PA, USA
Alessandra worked with RIIO as a team leader for the RAAB performed under the guidance of Dr. Mathenge and Dr. Nkurikiye in conjunction with The Fred Hollows Foundation. They travelled as a team of four throughout Rwanda, screening villagers in their homes at predetermined locations around the country and evaluated the etiology of decreased vision detected on screening tests with further exams. Alessandra’s main duties included the delegation of responsibilities within her team and conducting ophthalmic examinations of villagers found to have decreased vision. “I gained a great deal from my time with RIIO, some of it quite intangible,” she says. “I gained the knowledge and experience of what it takes to conduct a large-scale epidemiological study in a foreign country, and how extremely important fidelity to protocol is when trying to secure meaningful, clean data.” Alessandra says that Dr. Mathenge and Dr. Nkurikiye were outstanding role models and that the relationships built during her time in Rwanda will serve her well in future global health endeavours. “After my experience with RIIO, I feel more confident in my ability to provide a meaningful contribution to epidemiological studies abroad if the opportunity presents itself.” Alessandra is currently working as an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
Intern 2017, Ashinaga Africa fellow
After completing my foundation year in health and science at Dublin International Foundation College (DIFC), I looked for a place where I can get experience in my home country before I start my medicine course. RIIO came into my mind as my first choice, and I did not hesitate to apply for such an incredible opportunity; in fact, I chose to intern at RIIO because it has facilities that helps interns get exposed to the medical services as well as learning how doctors and nurses treat patients. Unlike other medical internships, I chose RIIO because it focuses only on eye care which makes it special for me as a student who is going to study medicine; definitely, RIIO provides sufficient knowledge about the eye entirely.“I have been exposed to all services delivered by RIIO’s partner Dr. Agarwal’s eye hospital. It has been one of my favourite time to taste on medical service delivery. I got an opportunity to interact with patients as well as getting an overview of how health services are done in Rwanda. RIIO has been the first step that opens my eyes medical-wide. Both frequent assignments and advices from doctors prepare me become a successful medical doctor. I am glad that I was given the chance to intern at RIIO”.
Irakoze Ornella Chelssy
Intern 2018, College Student, Butare
It has been my good working community that made me say that I can live in any society. Administration department has been the best move in my understandings due to good staff coordination and communication. It was not that easy but I managed to maximize my courage to catch up with the administration skills which lightened my domain.RIIO is the best training institution due to many opportunities to get to know things that are hidden in ophthalmology. I appreciate that I’ve got a certificate in the school screening work and compliments that I have been a good screener (I did it for 3hours without stopping and it felt normal yet it was my first time). That’s how I found myself liking the ophthalmology department.
“In a nut shell, I have reached the middle of my success in RIIO, working experience is the base of everything because it showed me that I am capable of everything which I put all my energy in”.