RRecently, Dr Paulin Ruhato Banguti, a consultant anesthesiologist at King Faisal Hospital, won an international award - the WFSA Innovation award for his countrywide Anesthesia Practice Network (APN) for education, mentorship and patient safety in Rwanda.
Although Banguti is an excited man after the recognition, behind the smiling face is a bumpy journey on his way to becoming an accomplished medic.
Born in 1975 to Venance Ruhato and Josephine Mpabadashima in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Banguti is the seventh child in a family of 14.
“My mother was a housewife while my father worked as a miner, that is how he raised money to support us,” Banguti narrates.
Banguti, who attended Ecole Primarie De Dima in Kapata and Katanga, and Institute Technique de Mutoshi for his secondary education, says among the subjects he studied, chemistry turned out to be his favourite.
“When I completed secondary school, I was retained to serve as a tutorial assistant for two years,” he says.
Joining medical school
For two years Banguti taught, until 1995 when he had to decide what to do next. His parents, although they wanted him in school, could not meet the financial demands at university. His elder brother, an Electronics engineer by profession, took on the weight.
“One day, my elder brother asked me what I wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything besides chemistry. He suggested that I take on medicine because then I would be more relevant to society.”
Banguti decided to leave his parents’ home in Lubumbashi to join Medical School at Université Catholique de Bukavu, despite the fact that he had no background in Biology, unlike his new classmates who had studied the subject in high school.
His choice of the medical field as a profession would prove even more relevant as there were a number of insurgencies in the region at the time, including attacks by rebel forces led by Laurent Kabila against the president of then Zaire (now DRC) Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga.
“There were so many casualties and very few medical professionals,” he recalls.
However, the unending conflicts at the time severely affected his studies.
“I had a lot of breaks during my studies in this period. Instead of 9 months for an academic year, we would spend 15 months and I ended up doing my course for 8 years.”
Branching into anaesthesia
After completing medical school, Banguti joined Kabutare Hospital in 2004 as a General Practitioner where he spent only six months before transferring to Ruhengeri district hospital in 2005.
At Ruhengeri, Banguti worked in Obstetrics and maternity.
“At that time Ruhengeri hospital was known because of Dr. Toll who had migrated from Cambodia to France because of war. As Toll performed surgery, I was inspired and while working with our anaesthesiologist Herve, I became involved in resuscitation. He then introduced me to the critical care and anaesthesia departments.”
In July 2005, Dr. Banguti married Elizabeth Uwema.
Shortly after this, when the National University of Rwanda launched postgraduate programs in anaesthesia, gynaecology, surgery, internal medicine and pediatrics, Banguti was advised to apply for a master’s course. His first choice was gynaecology and anaesthesia second.
On October 1, 2005, Banguti was admitted to the postgraduate anaesthesia programme; he was disappointed.
“Truth is, I didn’t like it at first because I had missed out on my first choice,” says Banguti, smiling. “However, Dr Munyarugamba the then director advised me to take on the programme because he thought it was perfect for me.”
Unlike most anaesthesiologists, Dr Banguti spent an extra 7 years doing the anaesthesia course. Four years for the masters at University of Rwanda and 1 year in Canada training in non technical skills, plus 2 more years in Belgium training in cardiac anaesthesia.
Winning an international award
Banguti’s recognition comes after his efforts to increase safety in medical practices during anaesthesia. He explains:
“You realize we are over 12 million people in the country with around 50 hospitals and 120 operating rooms.
Surgeons are about 40 and gynaecologists are around 50 whereas the general practitioners are many. Most general practitioners are young and some surgeons are inexperienced. This means there is a risk for mortality to rise.”
In addition, there are 13 physician anaesthesiologists mostly located in Kigali and 400 non-physician anaesthesiologists.
Banguti’s argument is that in order to fill the gap of experienced anaesthesiologists, a network is needed.
“We have created a network between anaesthesiologists, surgeons and general practitioners all over the country to promote patients’ safety as well reduce on the burden of surgical disease. It is a set of safety protocols to improve maternal health and we are always in touch with different professionals all over the country.
Consultations can be made by practitioners from any district hospital and through this network even using a phone call, and advice can be disseminated to help make patient operations as safe as possible”
Dr Paulin Ruhato Banguti is married with two girls and two boys and is currently the Director of the Anaesthesia programme at the University of Rwanda. His innovation is changing the face of changing anaesthesia practices in Rwanda.
Also some of his works such as SAFE (safe Anaesthesia from Education) have been published in the Canadian Journal of Anaesthetics, and others in the British Journal of Anaesthesia.