Grace Bagabe is an undergraduate student studying biomedical engineering here at the U of A. This past summer, she had the opportunity to participate in Engineering World Health’s Summer Institute, which was held this year in Rwanda. Below, she reports on her experience:

I had the opportunity of participating in a summer program in Rwanda known as the Summer Institute with Engineering World Health. I was with 18 other students from different universities all around the US, namely Texas A&M, Duke, Rice University, among others. This was a 2-month internship, where we spent the first month doing language and technical training and the second month repairing medical equipment in local hospitals. The students were required to learn French and Kinyarwanda which are two of the three national languages of Rwanda. During the language training I mostly assisted the teacher and helped my peers since I already speak the languages.

For the second month we all travelled to our assigned to hospitals in different parts of the country. Along with my partner, I got the opportunity to shadow interesting surgeries as well as troubleshoot and install various types of medical equipment. I spent most of my time in the Neonatology Department where I worked on many broken baby incubators and infant warmers. This was the busiest department due to the inflow of babies everyday but a limited number of working incubators. This was personally my favorite department because we were able to see how our work was making a huge impact to the hospital. We also worked on other medical equipment such as ultrasound machines, oxygen concentrators, surgical saws, autoclaves, suction machines, etc.

Fixing medical equipment was our primary project, however we were also required to work on a secondary project in our respective hospitals. My partner and I saw a need in the Pediatrics Ward to create activities for children that spend many nights at the hospital. Therefore, we decided to paint a playground in front of the Pediatrics consisting of educational games teaching kids the alphabet and also how to count from 1-10. In addition, we decorated the rooms in the Pediatrics and also donated children’s books, games and toys.

Overall, this was an incredible experience. It was great to be able to use my engineering skills and the principles I’ve learned in my courses and apply them to the real world. I would definitely encourage other students to apply for this program. It enables you to repair and design context-specific medical equipment using the limited resources available. I found it rewarding tackling engineering challenges faced when working in an environment that does not have the resources I’m used to. I would also like to thank the BMEG Department for sponsoring me and making this opportunity possible.

—Grace Bagabe