January 29, 2014 — Nearly 20 years after the genocide that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Rwanda, Jesuit Father Jean-Baptiste Mazarati is among those in the country working to ensure its residents receive the best health care possible. Fr. Mazarati serves as deputy director general of the Rwanda Biomedical Center’s National Reference Laboratory (NRL).
“With the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda hit the bottom, and it is now slowly but surely emerging from its nightmare,” said Fr. Mazarati, who lost family members during the 100 days of tyranny that began in April of that year. “Rwanda has put many mechanisms in place to make sure the country emerges from its ashes.”
Fr. Mazarati, who completed his doctoral studies in tumor biology at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2012, oversees biomedical services at the NRL.
“As so for many developing countries, Rwanda is still striving to eradicate all infectious diseases — HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis [and more],” Fr. Mazarati said. “We are running programs to see malaria eliminated, and we are taking on the daunting task to fight noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.”
Noncommunicable diseases account for 29 percent of the deaths among Rwanda’s more than 11 million citizens, and the average life expectancy is about 52, according to the World Health Organization.
“I would love to enhance our diagnostic power, expand our dedication to health sciences in our educational system and help open new opportunities for clinical research at the National Reference Laboratory and throughout our hospitals’ network,” Fr. Mazarati said.
Fr. Mazarati has also received assistance from one of his Georgetown professors, Jesuit Father Kevin FitzGerald, who met with members of Rwanda’s health ministry last summer.
“[The health minister] wants Rwanda to engage with the world,” Fr. FitzGerald said. “On both those levels — providing better health care and improving the nation’s global reach — Jean-Baptiste is going to be able to make a contribution.” [Source: Georgetown University]