On Thursday afternoon we gave a talk to the medical students studying at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in Butare. The system here consists of 6 years of medical school, directly out of high school. The first few years are basic science oriented, followed by clinical years (internship), and 2 years of general medicine (community service) at a district hospital after graduation. Only after these 2 years can they choose to do a speciality.
Both anesthesia and surgery have difficulty attracting candidates to residency, because the salary is not as good. Many students go into public health or general medicine where they can benefit from the huge amount of international aid funding that goes into HIV/AIDS or malaria. The medical students expressed concern that even in these areas, a lot of the funding goes into epidemiology and "administration", rather than any clinical medicine.
Part of the purpose of our talk on Thursday was to give the medical students an idea of the field of anesthesiology, the scope of practice, the physiology being played out in front of you in the OR, the team environment, hands-on procedural skills, and involvement in resuscitation (codes, traumas, etc). We brought a CPR mannikin from the skills lab, and taught them how to bag-mask ventilate and do chest compressions, which they were all very keen on. I described a bit about how your average day might go in CHUK hospital as an anesthesia resident, and talked them through our case of the 2.7kg, 5 month old baby with achalasia, along with the anesthetic considerations. There were lots of interested questions as we gathered around the mannikin to practice some of the skills.
This was so inspiring for us to have such an enthusiastic crowd, and we hope that this will translate into some stellar candidates for the anesthesia program here.