MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Gail VanVoorhis, M.S.N., has many years of experience with simulated healthcare education, whether using a potato to practice dressing a bloody wound or employing a manikin to simulate the birth process. Now, that knowledge has earned her a job training healthcare professionals in Rwanda.

VanVoorhis, a teaching assistant professor, clinical instructor and clinical practice lab director with the West Virginia University School of Nursing, will depart Thursday for the Republic of Rwanda, an African country still trying to rebuild after the 1994 genocide.

She will be working with the Human Resources for Health (HRH) Program, an initiative launched in July 2012 by the government of Rwanda, through the Ministry of Health. Committed to meeting the health needs of its citizens by 2020, the HRH Program aims to build Rwanda’s healthcare education infrastructure and workforce to create a high quality, sustainable healthcare system by addressing the country’s most challenging healthcare obstacles.

The Ministry of Health has partnered with top U.S. institutions of medicine, nursing, health management and dentistry, which are sending faculty to schools and hospitals throughout Rwanda. VanVoorhis will be employed by the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

“I will be working as an advisor for simulation and skills labs for the nursing, medical and dental schools throughout the country,” VanVoorhis explained. “This is a seven-year project. I am coming in on year two and staying for one year.”

VanVoorhis is no stranger to global health work. She has taught CPR classes and presented ethics lectures in Kenya and has worked as a volunteer nurse in Saint Lucia.

“In other jobs, I’ve worked as a nurse and taught classes,” she noted. “This trip to Rwanda is different. I’m not going to teach unless I’m teaching faculty.”

At WVU, VanVoorhis is a committee member of the West Virginia Simulation Training and Education for Patient Safety (STEPS), a facility at the Health Sciences Center that delivers inter-professional healthcare training. While in Rwanda, her office will be located at the Kigali Health Institute, and she will travel to medical, nursing and dental schools as well as hospitals to conduct training.

“Right now, all they have is a very low-tech birth simulator for obstetricians and midwives,” VanVoorhis said. “More supplies are ordered and should come in during my year. It’s similar to what I’ve done at WVU, starting with no simulation and building it up.”

Thanks to a donation from Laerdal, VanVoorhis is also taking a MamaNatalie Birthing Simulator with her to Rwanda.

“The whole goal is to make this country have better healthcare by training its own people,” VanVoorhis said. “Rwanda is trying desperately to improve its country and life for its population.

“I feel very privileged to be part of the project,” she added. “I’ve been learning more about the history of Rwanda and being part of the rebuild is exciting.”

To follow VanVoorhis’ experiences in Rwanda, follow her on Twitter at
For more information: Amy Johns, Director of Public Affairs, 304-293-7087
ah: 07-31-13