The dirt roads in northern Rwanda now lead to a cancer center where patients can receive care for a disease that was, until now, considered a death sentence there. The Butaro Cancer Center of Excellence, which was dedicated on July 18, has allowed Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center to extend a helping hand in this tiny, densely populated country in Africa.
Inaugurating the center were Bill Clinton, former U.S. president and founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation; Honorable Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwanda Minister of Health; Jeff Gordon, NASCAR champion and founder of the Jeff Gordon Foundation, which has provided funding for the project; Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, co-founder of Partners In Health; and Lawrence Shulman, MD, Dana-Farber’s chief medical officer, who describes this work as a “privilege beyond words.”
In collaboration with Partners In Health, where he serves as chief oncology advisor, Shulman and his Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center colleagues helped establish the new center, with the goal of teaching the Rwandan team how to care for cancer patients. Several Dana-Farber nurses are working three month rotations there, and cancer experts back in Boston consult by phone and e-mail. Shulman is also helping to develop guidelines for cancer prevention, screening, and treatment throughout the nation, one of the poorest in the world.