Traveling to Rwanda

March 29, 2023
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Middlesex Health’s relationship with a teaching hospital in Rwanda began more than a decade ago due to the efforts of Dr. Cliff O’Callahan, Middlesex Health’s chair of pediatrics. In 2012, he began to lay the groundwork for a pediatrics residency program that would allow medical residents to visit and learn at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali, the main teaching hospital in Rwanda.

Middlesex Health medical residents are able to participate as part of the Middlesex Health Family Medicine Residency Program’s global and community health track. In 2017, Dr. O’Callahan started bringing Middlesex residents to Rwanda for one month each year, and that has continued since — with the exception of the years when the pandemic got in the way. 

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“These are the kind of experiences that I would really want every young physician to experience, because it can have the power to transform one's thinking about humanity and make a medical provider more empathetic, more dedicated and more socially conscious,” Dr. O’Callahan says.  

The relationship between the University of Rwanda pediatrics residency program and the Middlesex Health Family Medicine Residency Program is mutually beneficial. Middesex is able to help medical staff and patients in Rwanda. In turn, Middlesex residents have the opportunity to learn about health care in a resource-limited country that deals with diseases and conditions that are rarely seen in the United States. 

As for Dr. O’Callahan’s role, he teaches pediatric residents and medical students, mentors the residents as they complete research projects and follows up and mentors graduates of the program. Dr. O’Callahan also helps physicians from Rwanda secure more educational experience through speciality fellowships with other health systems.

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Dr. O’Callahan recently returned from this year’s trip to Rwanda. Dr. Jessica Gale, of the Middlesex Health Family Medicine Residency Program, and Dr. Lauren Costigan, a pediatric resident with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, traveled with him.

Of the more than 20 residents who have traveled abroad with us over the years, none have been able to rearrange their lives to live abroad in a low middle income country health setting, but all of them have been flavored by the experiences and some have chosen practices and a method of working in medicine that is tempered by immersion in another culture,” Dr. O’Callahan says. “Their reflections after these experiences reveal a profound impact of being immersed in a completely different and very scary medical environment where so much of what we expect is unavailable. They see illnesses and conditions much farther advanced than we would have seen here because of access to care. They have seen and worked alongside people who, on a daily basis, surmounted great obstacles to provide good care with very little.”

Featured Provider

Cliff M. O'Callahan, MD, PhD

Cliff M. O'Callahan, MD, PhD

Specialties / Areas of Care

  • Inpatient Pediatric Infant Care
  • Transgender Care & Support
  • Primary Care
  • Family Medicine


  • Middletown, CT

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