What was your childhood like?
My name is Gerard Misago and I am 34 years old. My childhood was good. I am from a rural area in Kigali, Rwanda, and the only thing there was to do was enjoy being with peers/colleagues. During vacation, we would sit together, pray together, and look after cows. I am the youngest of the family with 3 older brothers and 3 older sisters.
Why did you want to become a doctor/work in medicine?
My uncle was a nurse at the nearest health center which was a smaller health facility. He treated me for malaria which was the only disease I ever had, and since then I started liking the profession of taking care of sick people. I formed the will to become a doctor but didn’t know how. A little after I started high school, I knew I needed to know sciences. I like sciences, when talking about the sciences, my eyes and my brain get ready for it. But I am also very interested in geography and history. I studied hard in the sciences so that I could prepare for my future career. I planned it from a young age. In my second high school, once I started studying the sciences, you had to choose one thing to focus on, so I chose biochemistry so then I could study medicine in university.
Where did you study medicine/ what university did you go to?
I went to study at the University of Rwanda for General Medicine for 6 years, 1 year of internship and 4 years of pediatrics.
How did you choose your major/specialty?
In my undergraduate program, I actually didn't declare pediatric as my specialty. But, after my internship year, I started in the hospital and they were encouraging me to do pediatrics. I chose to do it after noticing most of the kids die because they are not getting proper care. After working with pediatricians, I noticed that when they respond quickly, the children can recover quickly and I want to be able to contribute to that.
After graduating medical school, I was appointed by the minister of health to a rural hospital where I was working as a pediatrician and I became a clinical director (head of the department). I was able to do some successful projects like trying to reduce mortality and trying to reduce hospitalization time for sick children because the longer they stay in the hospital, the more likely they are to acquire other diseases.
Are pediatric cardiac surgeries performed at all in Rwanda?
We have a long way to go but we started. We are not reaching the maximum but we are on the right track.
When did you hear about Save a Child's Heart?
I heard about Save a Child's Heart after reading the call for the application for pediatric cardiology. I applied with the help of the Minister of Health in Rwanda, because I was doing very good in pediatrics. It was a big opportunity for me.
Were you always thinking of doing a fellowship abroad?
Since the second year of my residency in pediatrics, I started to think about cardiac care. After finishing residency as a general pediatrician, I was yearning for any opportunity to study pediatric cardiology wherever I could. I knew that abroad I might get exposed to more technology that is not available in Rwanda. I also considered that new kinds of diseases that might not be present in our countries would make studying abroad more interesting and I could learn more about diagnostic tests, etc.
How does it feel to be in Israel for your training with Save a Child's Heart?
I am very happy to be here and feel like the people are very welcoming. After a few days, I felt at home. I am Christian and there are a lot of sites, so to feel that I am nearby them it feels motivating and makes me happy being here. I will be here for 3 years for my training in pediatric cardiology.
What do people think back home about you being here?
Starting with my colleagues, when I was coming here, they were excited. Israel is one of the countries someone would wish to come to study in. There is adequate health care, technology, as well as Christian sites. Everyone was excited for me to get good knowledge, and the hope that I would bring many things back with me. My family was also excited for me as I am advancing in my medical career and that I would be able to be a specialist.
What is your hope for the future?
My hope for the future is being a good pediatric cardiologist, because I care a lot about helping sick children. I feel very depressed when I see a young child with a congenital defect and if I am unable to manage it, they will suffer a lot physically and psychologically, so I wish to get a lot of knowledge to treat as many kids as I can.
Where will you work when you return home?
Now, I am under the supervision of the Minister of Health, so they will appoint me to a new hospital rather than the previous rural hospital when I return because there is no space or materials for pediatric cardiology there and it is mostly basic medicine.
Anything else you’d like to say about Save a Child's Heart?
Save a Child's Heart is a wonderful organization that I want to thank very much. It is astonishing when you see all the kids they treat and all the smiles they put on the children's faces without any boundaries like race or religion. I want to thank them for bringing me here to train in pediatric cardiology. This way the are making their project sustainable for years and years, to treat the young and tot teach and educate new doctors- that is a big thing that they do. You see that some of the children that are treated come back to train here later in life as a nurse or doctor, and that is the biggest accomplishment.