Opening of cancer center in Rwanda is “privilege beyond words”

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.

Dr. Larry Shulman, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Chelsea Clinton, President Bill Clinton, Jeff Gordon, and Dr. Paul Farmer

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.