DEC 2013

EyeWorld is the official news magazine of the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery.

Issue link: https://digital.eyeworld.org/i/227001

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Page 16 of 74

A Rwandan continued from page 13 Mass grave marker at Kigali Genocide Memorial Center Source (all): John Nkurikiye, FC Ophth(SA) that I had always been at the top of the class throughout medical school. My frustration did not last for too long because on October 1, 1990, the Rwanda liberation war started and I joined RPF. During the war, I performed a lot of general surgery, and when the war ended my ambition of specializing was still alive. I wanted something that was a new challenge, something I knew nothing at all about, and something that combines both medical and surgical care. In my mind the options were OB-GYN, ENT, or ophthalmology, and the choice to pursue the latter was clear to me. If I were to choose again, I would not hesitate to choose the same! Dr. Chang: Rwanda has overcome many challenges during the past two decades. What is the biggest challenge for delivering eyecare in your country? Dr. Nkurikiye: The biggest challenge is our shortage of medical manpower—both quantity and quality. If we can overcome this, the other issues are things that money can solve. Dr. Chang: You and your wife Ciku are very committed to providing eyecare to the underserved people of Rwanda. What inspires this commitment? Dr. Nkurikiye: First of all, this commitment is what made the two of us meet, fall in love and finally get married. The burden of blindness in Africa is huge and as you know 80% of these problems are treatable or preventable. Unfortunately the elderly, usually unemployed, are the most affected by these blinding diseases. The only way to help these people is to develop a good commu- nity ophthalmology system in the country. When we go out there and help restore sight for these underprivileged people, it costs us almost nothing and yet for them, it makes a huge difference in their lives. This is what keeps us going, and we believe everyone deserves a chance to regain vision—whether they can afford to pay or not. Ciku and I still have an unfulfilled dream of building a community eye surgical center that provides affordable care to all Rwandans who need it, in an environment of clinical excellence. We will be preoccupied with this goal before we can retire. Dr. Chang: Many of our readers know little about the genocide in Rwanda. As we approach its 20th anniversary, what lessons must the rest of the world learn and remember from this horrible tragedy? Dr. Nkurikiye: I think what happened in Rwanda could still happen in other parts of the world. The solution is to have good leaders who care for their people, to establish good governance, to fight poverty and ignorance, and provide equal opportunity to all. Sometimes these good leaders have to make tough decisions. These may be disapproved by international observers who are quick to judge without fully understanding the history that has to be dealt with in order to ensure a stable future for all. The culture of accountability should be developed at all levels of leadership. There has never been a genocide that was not government sponsored and outside intervention always seems to come too late. Prevention is therefore the only solution. EW Contact information Nkurikiye: nkurikiye.john@gmail.com

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