Cechetto presented with 2013 Western Humanitarian Award

By Paul Mayne
April 04, 2013

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CechettoPaul Mayne, Western News


For his selfless work in rebuilding Rwanda’s shattered health-care system, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor David Cechetto has been presented with Western’s 2013 Humanitarian Award.

In 2000, Cechetto was approached by Western’s International Office, on behalf of the Rector of the National University of Rwanda (NUR) and the Rwandan Ambassador to Canada, to assist in rebuilding the Rwandan health-care system, which had been devastated by the 1994 genocide.

Although primarily a professor and laboratory scientist, Cechetto made his first visit to Rwanda and met the rectors for NUR and The Kigali Health Institute (KHI), who requested a partnership between Western and the two institutions. The re-building process needed to begin with the training of health professionals.

In 2004, Cechetto assembled a team from across Canada and Rwanda to assist colleagues at KHI, the primary nurse training facility in the country, in reviewing and redeveloping its program.

With funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the six-year project began and has since been completed, resulting in a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelors in Nursing Education at KHI. The program has graduated 130 new nurses since in 2006.

The Government of Rwanda was so pleased, it asked Cechetto to conduct a full academic review of the Faculty of Medicine at NUR. Cechetto was joined by senior colleagues from Schulich and the Faculty of Health Sciences to accompany him on a volunteer mission, where they participated in the examination of all aspects of medical education at the school.

Springing from Cechetto’s work, new programs between Western and Rwandan institutions have emerged in areas including law, business, communications, biofuels production, high-performance computing and gender studies.

In November 2008, Cechetto organized a stakeholders’ meeting in Kigali which brought together representatives from government, non-government organization’s and universities interested in being part of a coordinated delivery of health-professional education in Rwanda. Cechetto was part of the steering committee for the amalgamation of the Faculty of Medicine at NUR, the Allied Health Sciences at KHI and the School of Public Health.

In 2012, Cechetto received a $2.6 million CIDA grant to address maternal, newborn and child-health issues in Rwanda. On the side, Cechetto and his friends in Canada and Rwanda are active supporters of an orphaned-children’s home in Kigali, and together, have secured long‐term funding for the home.

In winning Western’s Humanitarian Award, Cechetto receives $5,000, which will be used to support postgraduate training of Rwandan health-care teacher. Previous winners of the award include French Studies professor Henry Boyi and Western Heads East pioneer Bob Gough in 2012; as well as Bioarchaeology PhD student Maricarmen Vega, Faculty of Information and Media Studies professor Sandra Smeltzer and Ecosystem Health professor Charles Trick in 2011, the award’s inaugural year.

- Paul Mayne


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