Pamela Meharry, PhD, CNM, RN, first arrived in Rwanda in 2015, part of an ambitious initiative to train the healthcare workforce in the post-genocide country in east Africa.
She was there to co-teach in the newly created Bachelor of Science in midwifery program at the University of Rwanda.
But in a short time, Meharry saw a need for more than a bachelor’s program, envisioning an advanced degree where midwifery leaders could be cultivated on Rwandan soil.
“The midwives I taught with had either gone abroad to Australia, Canada, Scotland, South Africa, or Uganda for their midwifery master’s degree, or completed a master’s program in another discipline,” she says. “When I first started talking about a master’s in midwifery, [my colleagues] said, ‘you’ll have 50 people signed up on day one to join that class. So many midwives wanted to do it, but there was no program.”
Following years of planning with other stakeholders, Meharry’ s vision will become a reality in April, when the inaugural class of students will begin in the Master of Science in midwifery program at the University of Rwanda.
Reducing mortality rates
The University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) School of Nursing hired Meharry – who was working in Connecticut as a midwife and instructor – to travel to Rwanda under the banner of the Human Resources for Health Program, the largest U.S. academic global health consortium to date.
During the Rwandan genocide in 1994, an estimated 800,000 people were killed, and the small nation faced a severe shortage of qualified physicians, nurses, midwives, and other healthcare workers. UIC Nursing was one of five U.S. nursing schools selected to participate in the program.