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Health care education in Rwanda

Thomas Mackey (BSN ‘74) works with the Clinton Health Access Initiative to help train nurses in Rwanda.

Alum in the Field

Current faculty and students aren’t the only Loyolans working for improved nursing education around the world. Alumnus Thomas Mackey (BSN ’74), a longtime nursing professor at the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston, is working with a team of educators from around the country to enhance medical and nursing education in Rwanda. The nursing part of the initiative, organized through a partnership between the Rwandan government and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, aims to send American professors to live and work in Rwanda in order to educate and upgrade the certification level, over the course of seven years, of all of the country’s 6,600 nurses.

Mackey, who is spearheading the efforts of the nursing component for the University of Texas School of Nursing, has long been committed to health care overseas. In the late 1960s, he spent two years doing medical work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the aftermath of a 1964 rebellion.

“I was a 19-year-old kid delivering babies. I was learning what I was doing by looking at medical books,” Mackey recalls.

The experience was both shockingly different from what he had known in the U.S. and hugely formative. Mackey remained involved in international activities, and has since been to South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.

When he was approached, because of his interests and experience (he also speaks French and Swahili), about the new collaboration in Rwanda, he initially had his doubts.

“I was skeptical at first because of the lack of support I experienced in the Congo,” he says. But he went to visit anyway, and was surprised to find that the country and its infrastructure far exceeded his expectations. He became convinced that the health initiative could be successful. The first U.S. educators are expected to be on the ground in Rwanda in the spring of 2012.

Mackey, who received the Damen Award from Loyola in 2007, is facilitating the nursing component from the University of Texas for the time being, although he says he may find himself spending a year in Rwanda at some point.

Story courtesy of Loyola magazine (Fall 2011).