Dr Christian Ntizimira, a Rwandan Physician and Palliative care activist, has been awarded the prestigious ‘Harvard Global Health Catalyst: Distinguished Young Leader Award.’
This took place during the annual Global Health Catalyst Summit at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States on April 28.
Dr Ntizimira was recognised for his extensive work in global health, his approach and advocacy around the integration of Palliative Care in health systems.
His active role in the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Control was another aspect that was acknowledged.
In his award accepting speech, Dr Ntizimira thanked the Ministry of Health and the Government of Rwanda for providing a platform through which such advocacy can be done.
“The Ministry of Health has created a platform on which advocates, activists, and civil societies can continue to work with our government to support the implementation and integration of Palliative Care in Rwanda,” he said.
Rwanda became the first country in Africa in 2011 to adopt a stand-alone National Palliative Care Policy. A 4-year strategic plan was devised, outlining implementation steps focused on integrating Palliative Care at all levels of the public health system.
“This is one of the tools that enable and empower people like myself, who passionately put an effort into improving patient treatment, which is getting better and better every day, particularly in developing world,” Dr Ntizimira told The New Times on Monday.
“This is not a personal achievement; this is an award for the patients and families in Rwanda who are facing serious illness. They deserve to be treated with dignity. This award shows me that it is possible to impact global health by starting at a local level. By engaging global health partnerships and keeping an attitude of collaboration, openness, and innovation, disparities can be tackled,” he said.
Ntizimira is a Palliative Care Expert and Educator from Harvard Medical School.
He is among the founding members of the Rwanda Palliative Care & Hospice Organisation, a non-profit organisation that advocates for access to pain control and palliative care in primary care.
In his former role as Director of Kibagabaga Hospital in Kigali, he pioneered the integration of end of life care into health services for patients with chronic illnesses in acute care and community settings.
Through his programme, more than 1,500 health care providers learned the concept of Palliative Care, leading to a five-fold increase in the prescription of morphine, an essential pain medication.
He has recently been recognised internationally with another two awards for his efforts to integrate Palliative Care into oncology treatment and care. In 2016, he received the annual Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) Young Cancer Leader Award, and was also honoured with the annual African Organisation for Research in Cancer (AORTIC) African Cancer Leadership Award in 2015.
Awardees are nominated and chosen by the Harvard Global Health Catalyst organising committee and past winners.
Also honoured with the 2017 Distinguished Global Health Catalyst Award were: David Kerr (Professor, University of Oxford), Winner of the Harvard Global Health Catalyst: Distinguished Leader Award.
Ahmed Elzawawy (President of ICEDOC: International Campaign for Establishment and Development of Oncology Centers), Winner of the Harvard Global Health Catalyst: African Ambassador Award.
Melvin Foote (President of Constituency for Africa), Winner of the Harvard Global Catalyst: African Diaspora Ambassador Award
Dikembe Mutombo (NBA Legend and Basket Ball Hall of Fame), Winner of the Harvard Global Catalyst: Humanitarian Award.
The Global Health Catalyst Summit is held annually and provides a forum for global health stakeholders to network, exchange knowledge, and strengthen high-impact international collaborations that can save lives while reducing global health disparities.