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Doctors See Success at Butaro Cancer Center

11 Jun
PIH feature

Photos by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health


Dr. Cyprien Shyirambere examines 6-year-old pediatric oncology patient Frank Mugisha, whose name has been changed, for privacy, at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence in rural northern Rwanda. Medical staff at the PIH-supported facility have treated several thousand patients, young and old, since it opened in 2012.

Five years after opening, the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence is achieving extraordinary successes in rural northern Rwanda, amid daunting challenges.

Doctors at the Partners In Health-supported facility are treating about 1,700 patients every year, young and old, on the campus of the public Butaro District Hospital. The campus lies amid lush, green hills in a remote region not far from the Ugandan border. Many patients, family members, and caregivers travel to Butaro from across Rwanda or from surrounding countries such as Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where high-quality cancer care is scarce or nonexistent.

Some of Butaro’s greatest successes can be found in its youngest visitors—children who come to the cancer center with slim hopes buoyed by fighting spirits, often with cancer that is in late stages because of treatment delays or misdiagnoses elsewhere.

Patients in the pediatric ward last spring included Frank Mugisha, 6. In March, Frank completed 30 months of treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and could be seen around Butaro playing and spending time with family members. Butaro staff will continue monitoring him for the next five years.

Dugan, who’s been a clinical officer in Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward for about a year, said relapse is a constant concern.

“It takes a long period of follow-up to be sure you’ve really cured someone,” she said.

Frank’s story is one of hundreds.

Inside the pediatric ward at the Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, a PIH-supported facility at Butaro District Hospital in rural northern Rwanda. Children in the ward often mix in schoolwork, activities, and playtime between treatment and checkups.

While Butaro is very successful, a shortage of health care workers is a key challenge – one that severely impacts Africa. Butaro’s staff often is boosted with support from Dana-Farber and PIH programs.

Jen Haley, for example, is a former Dana-Farber cancer nurse who worked at Butaro as an oncology nurse educator from September to December 2016, through a PIH program.

Haley said she helped nurses at Butaro learn to watch for symptoms at various treatment levels, improve the overall quality of treatment, and educate patients’ families and caregivers about cancer and related care.

“Kids are so resilient. One minute you’re giving them a shot and the next minute they’re running up and giving you a hug,” Haley said.

Butaro’s staff has to be equally resilient, amid limited resources.

They don’t have a CAT scanner, an intensive care unit, or enough nurses. Stocks sometimes run out of needed medicines, and radiotherapy machines are a distant hope.

Shyirambere said he draws strength from successes. Treating children with cancer can be incredibly emotional, he said, but the reward is seeing young patients come back for positive follow-ups, return to school, and resume healthy childhoods.

“You feel like your day has been excellent,” he said.

SAAPHI would like to thank Partners in Health (PIH) for their great work in Rwanda and other parts of the world.

This is an abridged version of an impact story that was originally published in September 2017 at Check out this photo gallery to see more images from Butaro’s pediatric cancer ward. Also, be on the look out for more SAAPHI and PIH webinars to learn more about their global public health work and look out for job opportunities from PIH from the SAAPHI listserv.

SAAPHI Releases New Video Highlighting Who We Are…

4 Sep

SAAPHI LogoWho We Are — The Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues

Deadline Nearing: SAAPHI Call For Abstracts

4 Sep

Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues



American Public Health Association 142nd Annual Meeting – New Orleans, LA


November 15-19, 2014


ABSTRACTS DUE: September 26, 2014

The Society for the Analysis of African American Public Health Issues (SAAPHI) is soliciting abstracts for the 2014 annual scientific symposium to be held in New Orleans, LA on Saturday, November 15, 2014 at the SAAPHI pre-conference meeting. The overarching theme of this year’s pre-conference meeting is Healthography: The Relationship of Place & Health throughout the African Diaspora.

Topics of the abstracts should center on the SAAPHI theme and/or the APHA theme. While abstracts reflecting new and innovative information in any area of public health disproportionately impacting African Americans will be reviewed, presentations on the following topics are of particular interest:

  • Life Course Research (focusing on populations from birth to the elderly)
  • Gender Issues
  • Research focusing on African Diasporic Populations (African-American, Afro-Latino, West Indian and African populations)
  • Social Determinants of Health

In addition, abstracts that reflect integrative approaches to individual and community health promotion using evidence-based research, intervention guided-research, and health policy advocacy are also encouraged.


All abstracts will be peer-reviewed, evaluated, and ranked for originality, quality, topic applicability, and relation to SAAPHI issues. Please address how your research can inform current or future policies. If your research project includes an intervention, please address its sustainability. For secondary analysis, please address how this research can influence or inform current or future policies. 

*Students and early professionals are especially encouraged to submit abstracts pertaining to their academic research. Please designate in your submission whether you would like your abstract to be reviewed for an oral presentation, poster presentation, or both.


Awards will be presented following delivery of the presentations and posters at the 2014 SAAPHI annual meeting.  Winners must be members of SAAPHI or become members at the time of the meeting.


  Abstracts must be submitted online to

  Abstracts must be 250 words or less

  Abstracts should follow the standard format: Purpose/Objective, Methods, Results and Conclusion

  Authors will be notified by October 3, 2014


NOTE: Presenters who fail to show up for their scheduled presentations without previously notifying the program planner of cancellation will not be permitted to present papers or posters at the SAAPHI annual scientific symposium for two years following the “no-show.”


19 May

2014 SAAPHI Call For AbstractsCALL FOR ABSTRACTS!!!!

SAAPHI 2014 Pre-Conference.

Saturday November 15, 2014

HEALTHOGRAPHY: The Relationship of Place & Health Throughout The African Diaspora.

African American Health Program Community Day 2014 — Free Event in Maryland

17 Apr
Register for this FREE Health Fair: 
Please join the African American Health Program on Saturday, April 19 for AAHP Community Day 2014! In honor of National Minority Health Month, this event will inform, educate, and empower African Americans and people of African descent to address health issues impacting their lives, their families, and their communities through the following activities:
  • Interactive Resource Fair and Information Booths
  • Onsite Health Screening (blood pressure, HIV testing, diabetes, cholesterol, vision, BMI)
  • Live Cooking Demonstrations
  • Energizing Group Fitness Activities
  • Men’s Health and Wellness Walk
  • Science Demonstrations for Youth
Kick off the morning of the AAHP Community Day with Kendis Gibson, Weekend Anchor, ABC7/WJLA-TV for our Men’s Health and Wellness Walk (All males young and old).  Meet at Jesup Blair Park, located at 900 Jesup Blair Dr., Georgia Ave. & D.C. Line, Silver Spring, MD 20912 (near Montgomery College, Georgia Avenue entrance). Registration for the Men’s Health and Wellness Walk begins at 8:00 AM and the walk starts at 9:00 AM.

Internationally and Nationally Recognized Speakers!

  • KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. Griffin Rodgers, Director, NIH, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
  • African American Health Program: (Dr. Abimbola Idowu; Heather Ross)
  • Dr. Marilyn Gaston and Dr. Gayle Porter, The Gaston & Porter Health Improvement Center
  • Tracye McQuirter, Author, International lecturer, and Public Health Expert
  • Mr. Niiobli Armah, NAACP, National Health Manager
  • Dr. John L. Ferrell III, Family Medicine, Team Physician for DC United
  • Dr. Jawara Keith Hunter, Anesthesiologist, Men’s Health
  • Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wiley, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH

Our Partners
  • Montgomery College
  • Montgomery County (MD) Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
  • Capital Digestive Care
  • Montgomery County Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. 
  • Dr. Khalfani Walker, Elite Dental Services
  • Xi Sigma Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated
  • Montgomery County Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
  • The Kaiser Permanente African American Professionals Association
  • Montgomery County NAACP Youth Council
  • Montgomery County Chapter of NAACP
  • Black Ministers Conference of Montgomery County, Maryland

SAAPHI WEBINAR: Innovative Strategies for investigating & reducing stress-health related disparities in African American women” April 30, 2014 1-2:30PM (PST)

6 Apr

SAAPHI WEBINAR: Innovative Strategies for investigating & reducing stress-health related disparities in African American women

Be sure to register for the upcoming SAAPHI webinar entitled “Innovative strategies for investigating and reducing stress- related health disparities in African American women.” Our featured guest speaker will be Cheryl L. Woods Giscombé, PhD, PMHNP.

Webinar Registration at:

FREE WEBINAR: African-American Women and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know

26 Feb

February is American Heart Month, and it is also African-American History Month. Are you interested in learning why African-American women are disproportionately impacted by heart disease? Are you looking for information on resources that are available to help African-American women improve their heart health?

If so, you are invited to register today for the second annual African American Women and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know webinar, sponsored by the National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease.

An introduction by Nadine Gracia, MD, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, will be followed by a presentation by Jennifer Mieres, MD, FACC, FASNC, FAHA, Professor of Cardiology & Population Health, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. The presentation will be followed by Q&A.

For more information and to register: