For 10 years, Dr Rachna Pande has made Rwanda her home. Working as the Head of Department, Internal Medicine in Ruhengeri hospital, she is part of a team that provides care for sick people in the area. Having moved to Rwanda to join her husband who was working in Rwanda, she is now involved in helping trainee doctors to improve their skills and in disseminating health education to the public, and is a contributor in this paper’s Health Magazine.
Briefly tell us about your childhood; where and when were you born and what was it like growing up?
I was born in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh in central India in May 1960. I have two brothers. My father was a governmental official and because of this, he was posted to different places. Therefore, we stayed in several places while growing up. I had a very enjoyable childhood. There were lots of children in the neighbourhood so we had a lot of fun playing and studying.
How was it like growing up as a girl in India?
Well, the society in which I grew up was pretty conservative. On my part, I was lucky to have parents who were relatively liberal. Still, I couldn’t escape the usual strict rules such as leaving or returning home after dark or even going to public places unescorted.
In your time as a doctor, what are some of your observations concerning health?
I work at the hospital but during my leisure time, I work within the communities. In treating patients both in and out of the hospital, I have come to realise that many health related problems are simply related to nutrition and other life style related factors which can be corrected. I have also realised that medicine though fairly well advanced does not provide cure for many chronic diseases. Hence stress should be on life style factors.
What has been the scariest moment in your career?
In 1984, I was a resident doctor at Bhopal Memorial Hospital in central India. A storage tank containing methyl isocyanate (MIC) at the Union Carbide pesticide plan leaked gas into the densely populated city of Bhopal, India. People in hundreds thronged the hospital sick and dying. It was scary to see people dying at such a fast rate.
Is there anything that you miss about India that we don’t have here in Rwanda?
I miss the festivals of India. We have a very colourful culture with some festival practically every month from January to November. Here in Rwanda, there are some festivals celebrated by the Indian community in Kigali. But they are on a small scale and I being far am not able to attend them regularly.
When you leave Rwanda, what lessons will you take with you?
First of all, I will miss the good climate and the warmness and gentleness of people here. But the biggest lesson I shall take when I leave is, regarding patience. I have seen people being so patient and calm in the most difficult situations, and that for me, is worth adopting.