When she was young, Dr. Beata Mukarugwiro always wanted to work as a nurse or doctor so she could save lives. She is at the helm of promoting safe motherhood and new born baby health in Rwanda.
The 48-year- old Dr. Mukarugwiro was born in Muhanga District and is the sixth child in a family of seven.
“As a child, I used to go to the nearest health centre and see how the nurses took care of the patients. I felt compassion and that is when I decided that I‘d be in health when I grew up,” Dr. Mukarugwiro recalls.
Although she hadn’t yet decided if she would be a doctor or a nurse at the time, she knew that the only way her dream would come true was if she offered science subjects in school. “When I joined secondary school, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor.”
The soft spoken and hilarious Dr. Mukarugwiro attended Shyanda Primary School before joining Lycee Notre Dame de Lourdes Byimana and Lycee Notre Dame d’Afrique Nyundo.
She later joined the Medical School at the National University of Rwanda.
“At the medical school we were only two girls among thirty boys and it was challenging. We had to really work hard to make sure we met our objectives. The beauty of it all is that we loved what we did and focused on our main goal which was to save lives,” Dr. Mukarugwiro expresses.
She also said she is grateful for having chosen a profession that helps many people.
“I worked in the internal medicine section for a year before joining the maternity field. I have worked in only two hospitals in Rwanda and they are Mibilizi hospital for five years and Kibogora Hospital,” she explains.
Regarding her first time in the maternity ward, she said, “I remember there was a woman in so much pain because of the contractions. I stayed with her; encouraged her to be strong and assured her that that everything would go on well. After I helped her deliver, I was so happy to see the smiled on her face and watch her forget the pain while holding her baby in her arms. It was the greatest feeling.”
Mukarugwiro is currently the maternal new born health team leader in the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP)/Jhpiego.
Jhpiego is an international non-profit, global health affiliate of John Hopkins University. For almost 40 years in over 150 countries, Jhpiego has worked to prevent the needless deaths of women and their babies.
“Our focus is to implement evidence based intervention to save the mother and the newborns’ life. Among those interventions include child delivery by health care professionals, effective focused antenatal care for both mother and child,” Mukarugwiro explains.
Although there are several challenges in the maternity field such as limited skilled personnel and having to work long hours, the purpose of saving a life keeps Dr. Mukarugwiro determined to work harder.
“Through hard work, I gained more skills and experience but above all I’m happy that many women are having babies with a skilled health care professional by their side. Decades ago, women would deliver at home which caused a lot of complications to the mother and the child. But that has changed now, thanks to several factors,” she notes.
With never ending sensitisation, education and trained community health workers, expectant mothers will be able to go for antenatal care, give birth and receive post natal care services at health centres, thus, reducing maternal and newborn mortality rate in Rwanda.
“When you save the life of a mother while she is giving birth, you are saving an entire family and nation. The mother is the backbone of the family so, without her, nothing will be the same. This inspires me to continue contributing to the improvement of maternal and newborn health,” Mukarugwiro adds.
Just like all professions have challenges, one of her biggest concerns is people leaving the profession after training in search for better opportunities.
“We take time to train people in the maternity field especially in rural areas, but they eventually get better opportunities in urban areas and move on. In most cases, people in the community are already attached to them and it affects them very much.”
Besides being a leader in the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program at Jhipego, she is a mother of three girls.
“My eldest daughter is currently in medical school. She wants to follow in my foot steps,” Dr. Mukarugwiro expresses.
After a hectic day at work, she enjoys cooking as well as bonding with her family.
In regards to how she wants to be remembered, she said, “I want to be remembered as someone who made an impact on the life of mothers and their new born babies.”
Dish: - Matooke and beans
Music: - Gospel Music
Colour: - Blue
Sport: - Basketball and walking
Quote: - The best way to improve your society is to work hard with honesty