From Traditional Healing Home to Medical Studies at UGHE: Medical Student Merci On a Path to Becoming a Pediatric Surgeon

UGHE medical student class of 2028 – Merci Uwingeneye ‘s childhood in a rural village exposed him to the world of traditional medicine and healing. Born in the western province of Rwanda, he grew up in a community where health care was a challenge. His mother’s role as a practitioner of natural remedies and traditional medicine ignited Merci’s curiosity about healthcare systems. Witnessing his mother opening their house as a refuge for those desperately seeking treatment fueled his passion for serving the community. 

“Growing up in a rural community with limited healthcare services was a defining experience for me. Seeing my mother’s work as a traditional healer inspired me to serve the community,” Merci says. 

At 17, a personal experience of his sister’s illness solidified Merci’s determination to become a pediatric surgeon. Witnessing the compassion and expertise of doctors and nurses treating his sister ignited his commitment to the medical field.  

He fondly recalls, “Watching doctors caring for my sister during her illness ignited my interest in medicine. I want to be a pediatric surgeon who provides equitable healthcare to all.” 

His ambition to provide equitable health care to vulnerable individuals, especially children, originated from these experiences. 

A Dream Takes Root 

Merci’s dream of becoming a medical doctor blossomed in high school, fueled by the desire to treat diseases and make a difference. In pursuit of becoming an impactful doctor to the most vulnerable led him to UGHE. UGHE’s mission resonated deeply with his vision of providing equitable medical care to all regardless of their socioeconomic background.  

Being admitted at UGHE, Merci’s academic journey took a significant turn with an online course led by the late Dr. Paul Farmer. He vividly remembers the principles he instilled and the impactful introduction to medical anthropology. Besides, interacting with expert Professors further enriched his classroom experiences rendering them more engaging and thus making his academic journey enjoyable and impactful. 

He says, “Paul Farmer’s teachings and interactions with professors have been memorable. UGHE’s academic environment is both enriching and enjoyable.” 

A Community-engaged and Balanced Environment 

MBBS Students Merci Uwingeneye and Ada Mola enjoying riding bicycle at Butaro Campus

Understanding the importance of balance, Merci cherishes UGHE’s extracurricular offerings. Engaging in recreational activities like sports, hiking, and community involvement not only refreshes the mind but also contributes to personal development. Collaborating with the Butaro community in Umuganda Programs showcases UGHE’s commitment to community engagement. 

“Engaging in extracurricular activities like sports, clubs, and community programs brings balance to the rigorous medical curriculum and also inspires me to become a conscious and responsible community member,” he explains. 

One of standout aspects of UGHE as an institution is its community partnership. Through community-based training, students like Merci learn from community health professionals and witness healthcare challenges at a local level as well as learn how to actively contribute to impactful interventions to solve them. UGHE’s close ties with the community foster a collaborative environment that amplifies the impact of education in building holistic health care systems. 

“UGHE’s partnership with the community sets it apart. The community-based training equips us to tackle real-world health challenges,” he says. 

Transforming into a Change-Maker 

Merci Uwingeneye, an MBBS’28 student, practices treating patients in the simulation lab.

UGHE equips Merci as a future global health champion. Aspiring to become a pediatric surgeon, he envisions giving back to the community, promoting health equity, and advocating for health care as a fundamental right for all, particularly the most vulnerable. UGHE’s influence turns him into a change-maker, armed with skills and passion to drive transformation in healthcare. 

He asserts, “UGHE empowers me to be a change-maker doctor, promoting health equity and contributing to a healthy future for all.” 

With future physicians and global health leaders such as Merci Uwingeneye, UGHE as a Partners In Health initiative is advancing its mission to strengthen health systems and advance equity in global health care, thereby contributing to a healthier and more equitable world.