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Harvard Medical School recognises Rwandan palliative care physician for global health work

02 May 2017

On April 28, 2017, at the annual Global Health Catalyst Summit held at Harvard Medical School in Boston, USA, Dr Christian Ntizimira, Rwandan palliative care physician, was recognised for his extensive work in global health.

Receiving the prestigious ‘Harvard Global Health Catalyst: Distinguished Young Leader Award’, the Harvard Medical School and Global Health Catalyst communities acknowledged Dr Christian’s innovative approaches to palliative care, his advocacy around the integration of palliative care into health systems, and his active role in the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control.

Awardees are nominated and chosen by the Harvard Global Health Catalyst organising committee and past award winners.

“I would like to thank the Government of Rwanda through our Honourable Minister of Health,” Dr Christian said in his acceptance speech. 

“The Ministry of Health has created a platform on which advocates, activists and civil societies can continue to work with our Government to support the implementation and integration of palliative care in Rwanda.

“For those who don’t know, Rwanda became the first country in Africa in 2011 to adopt a stand-alone National Palliative Care Policy. 

“A four-year Strategic Plan was also created, outlining implementation steps focused on integrating palliative care at all level of the public health system.

“This is one of the tools that enable and empower people like myself, who passionately put great effort into improving patient treatment, which is getting better and better every day, particularly in the developing world.”

Also honored with the 2017 Distinguished Global Health Catalyst Award were:

  • David Kerr (Professor, University of Oxford), Winner of the Harvard Global Health Catalyst: Distinguished Leader Award
  • Ahmed Elzawawy (President of ICEDOC: International Campaign for Establishment and Development of Oncology Centers), Winner of the Harvard Global Health Catalyst: African Ambassador Award
  • Melvin Foote (President of Constituency for Africa), Winner of the Harvard Global Catalyst: African Diaspora Ambassador Award
  • Dikembe Mutombo (NBA Legend and Basket Ball Hall of Famer), Winner of the Harvard Global Catalyst: Humanitarian Award.

Meeting annually, the Global Health Catalyst Summit provides a forum for global health stakeholders to network, exchange knowledge and strengthen high-impact international collaborations that can save lives while also reducing global health disparities.

Participants at the GHC Summit travelled from countries around the world, including nations in North America, Europe, and Africa.

Participants of the 2017 Summit included a delegation from Rwanda led by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr Diane Gashumba; the Honorable Rwandan Ambassador to the USA, Professor Mathilde Mukantabana; and representatives from MOH and Rwandan Biomedical Center.

Also in attendance was the African Union Ambassador to the USA, the Honourable Minister of Health of Namibia and global health leaders and policy makers from the World Health Organization, World Bank Group, African Union. 

US Congressional Representatives and leadership from Diaspora organisations, private sector industry, and community civil societies as well as internationally recognised physicians and researchers, cancer advocates, and professional sports celebrities also attended the 2017 Summit.

Dr Christian Ntizimira is a Rwandan physician who was trained at the University of Rwanda in the College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS).

Through a training course at Harvard Medical School, Dr Christian further his skills, becoming a Palliative Care Expert and Educator from Harvard Medical School.

Dr Christian is among the founding members of the Rwanda Palliative Care and Hospice Organisation (RPCHO), a non-profit organisation that advocates for access to pain control and palliative care in primary care.

In his former role as Director of Kibagabaga District Hospital in Kigali, Dr Christian, as a Palliative Care Expert and Educator, pioneered the integration of end of life care into health services for patients with chronic illnesses in acute care and community settings. 

Through this programme, more than 1,500 health care providers learned about palliative care, leading to a five-fold increase in the prescription of morphine, an essential pain medication.

Dr Christian has also recently been recognised internationally with two additional awards for his efforts to integrate palliative care into oncology treatment and care.

In 2016, he received the annual Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) Young Cancer Leader Award, and he was honoured with the annual African Organization for Research in Cancer (AORTIC) African Cancer Leadership Award in 2015.

In his accepting remarks, Dr Christian said: “This award recognises the patient’s voice and the voices of the families of those who are ill. This is not a personal achievement; this is an award for the patients and families in Rwanda who are facing serious illness.

“They deserve to be treated with dignity and humanity, especially during difficult times. This award shows me that it is possible to impact global health by starting at a local level.

“By engaging global health partnerships and keeping an attitude of collaboration, openness, and innovation, disparities can be tackled.”

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