Umuhoza on the inspiration behind her award winning medical research

24-year-old Alice Umuhoza, a medical student at University of Rwanda (UR), was awarded for her study on ‘clinical care perspectives and knowledge on women cancers burden at the grassroots generation of health practitioners: The hindered killers in women are less focused.’

Umuhoza received the award at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-Merck Africa Research Summit (MARS) in Mauritius.

The summit aimed at bringing together researchers from across Africa to discuss the generation, sharing and dissemination of research data and to contribute to building research capacity in the African research community, with special focus on “The Role of Scientific Research in responding to Cancer and Vaccines Development – two emerging challenges in Africa”.

It is during this summit that different people including Umuhoza showcased innovative research projects, programs and initiatives across African universities and the wider African research community.

Umuhoza during the interview with The New Times

Umuhoza was awarded as the 4th among MARS Best African Women Researchers Award. She is the only person from East Africa who scooped an award in this year’s event.

About her research

Umuhoza’s research focused on cancer knowledge among fellow interns preparing to enter healthcare profession.

“I won this award due to my research that has had an impact on the population, it will help people to be careful and help them live well. My motivation to conduct this research was due to the fact that when we are going to treat the disease, we base on the epidemiology of the US yet their risk factors, lifespan, and life style are different from ours (Rwanda).”

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

She decided to carry out research so that Rwandans can know about the symptoms, causes and prevention of the different cancers.

“I came up with the idea because as medical students who will be doctors in future, there are some diagnosis of diseases and if we don’t know the treatment of these diseases, we will not refer the patients for treatment on time but rather when the diseases are advanced and it’s too late.”

She researched about which knowledge medical students from University of Rwanda have on cancers based on the cancer presentations they have encountered in the hospitals.

The results from her research were an eye opener.

“In Rwanda we know that cervical cancers and breast cancers are the most common but to my observation, gastric cancers are at about 60%. This reveals that there are many cancers that are not given enough attention. Maybe more research will be done about it but it was what I found,” she said.

The award

This was the second time that the sixth year medical student attended such a summit. Last year’s summit which was held in Ethiopia, she presented an abstract about malaria and pregnancy in Ruhengeri district and was selected although she did not win any award.

That is why this year’s award came to her as a surprise.

“I did not think that I would be awarded this time because most of the researchers were either Masters or PHD holders or professors. I was the only undergraduate student.”

“It was like a dream come true because I always dreamed of being a great researcher so that we don’t always emphasize on statistics from US or Australia. It’s also not so costly. This is an encouragement for me because it shows that I become a great researcher,” she said.

More research

An intern at University Central Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), her experience at the hospital is driving her to conduct more research.

“From my observation, since I began my internship I realized that many newborn babies are more prone to hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell. When I ask about their history, many of these are first born babies.”

“To my observation I think that Rwandan women do not plan for their pregnancies and therefore do not take good care of their unborn babies which may affect the baby in the first two weeks. They also do not realize early enough that they are pregnant and do not care about the environment and medication.”

“Those who plan for the babies should take iron to protect the baby. I will conduct the research to create awareness for the health of the baby,” she said.

She advises young girls to pick up interest in research.

“Last year I was the only girl from Rwanda who attended the summit and the only girl from East Africa this year who was awarded. I encourage young girls to participate in these programs and work hard to achieve their dreams,” she said.

The story was published by The New Times and can be accessed here   

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