Dr Claire Karekezi, Neurosurgeon at the Rwanda Military Hospital
Over the course of her career, Dr Karekezi has worked in Morocco, the United States and Canada, returning to Rwanda in July 2018 to become the country’s first female neurosurgeon. In this interview she highlights the role C/Can has played in providing “the big picture” of Kigali’s cancer needs over the last two years.
Q: If you had to define C/Can in a few words, what would they be?
Dr Karekezi: I would say that it’s an initiative that is very innovative, that is going to improve cancer care in the city of Kigali and, of course, that is going to create new partnerships across a range of sectors.
Q: What has been the impact of C/CAN on Kigali thus far?
Dr Karekezi: C/Can’s presence here means that Kigali is going to take the lead in cancer care in Rwanda, it means that we are now on the way to taking steps toward improving the way that we manage cancer care in the capital. We now have an approach that will not only help people with cancer in Kigali, but in other cities in our country, as well as contributing to improving access to quality cancer care around the country. In short, the impact of C/Can has been huge, a major force for good.
Q: As part of your work with C/Can, can you outline the main challenges the City has identified and addressed here in Kigali?
Dr Karekezi: When Kigali decided to join C/Can, the first thing we did was to carry out a needs assessment process so as to identify all the challenges involved in improving the management of cancer care in the city, and one of the first things that came out of beginning that process was the recognition that we needed to address questions as basic as creating a register of people suffering from cancer in Kigali, which is obviously one of the starting points for any plan of action. From there, we have gone on to identify a range of other challenges, foremost among them, the lack of infrastructure, as well as complementary treatments that can include cancer drugs or radiotherapy. And then, of course, we still have to address the lack of trained personnel, the frontline people who deliver cancer care to patients on a daily basis. The task we face collectively is building up an accurate picture of the whole situation, evidence-based, so that all city stakeholders involved, public and private, government and patients, can work together with the goal of improving cancer care.
Q: Based on your experience since Kigali joined in 2018, would you recommend other cities to join C/Can?
Dr Karekezi: Absolutely. From my experience and involvement over the last two years, I can say that C/Can is leading a powerful initiative that is helping us to work together across different sectors to build up a comprehensive picture of our cancer needs in Kigali. This is a learning process and one that we can now share and replicate in other cities in Rwanda, which will be of enormous help in improving access to quality cancer care at the national level. C/Can has been the catalyst, the start of something good and grand not only in Kigali, but for the whole Rwanda.