DSC_0058The Frank Ogden School of Medicine at Hope Africa University began when President NKURUNZIZA approached Rector BUCONYORI, his friend and assistant in drafting the peace accords, to start a medical school to train physicians from Burundi, for Burundi. The rector agreed with little more than a dream and a prayer, and nine months later began classes. In a somewhat unprecedented move, Rector BUCONYORI appointed Dr Innocente IRAKOZE, a female OB/GYN, as founding dean of the medical school. It would be clear from the outset that FOSOM/HAU did not mean to do business as usual in African medical education and its students have already won a reputation for being knowledgeable and, better yet, having practical skills coveted by medical students at other institutions.

Currently, the medical school boasts 40 faculty members, 281 students and has graduated 17 doctors into the central/east African workforce. (For comparison, Burundi’s entire population of over 10 million souls is cared for by a cadre of doctors only 300 strong. As most of those have no training after medical school, a.k.a., residency training, this would be equivalent to the entire population of Los Angeles County being cared for by only the interns at its public hospitals.)

Students in the preclinical years (years 1-4) take 30 units/semester while students in their clinical years (years 5-7) spend their days (and nights) in hospitals and clinics around Bujumbura and Kibuye. FOSOM students get to rotate at all the major hospitals in the capital alongside students from the University of Burundi, the nation’s premier university. But it is at the rural Kibuye Hope Hospital and her urban sister site, the Van Norman Clinic at Hope Africa University where they get their hands-on experience in caring for the sick and wounded patients of Burundi. It is into this milieu that six specialty physicians from the US have come and committed to heal and teach. Known internationally as “the McCropders,” their presence at Kibuye Hope Hospital as professors of Medicine, Pediatrics, Surgery, OB/GYN, Emergency Medicine and Ophthalmology marks the opening of a new era in advanced medical education within Burundi. Beyond simply advancing the cause of clinical excellence for an underserved population, the faculty of FOSOM hopes to create the programs that train specialists in surgery and family medicine and inspire future generations to go to the unreached communities and thrive there.