GHD Blog: Introducing Rwanda Physiotherapist Auguste Birori
May 20, 2021
by: Auguste Birori, BPT, MPH, MSC Global Health
Having access to education has not always been a privilege for everyone, especially for those in low-income countries. Sometimes the will and skills required are present for many young Africans, but sadly the resources to finance their education are not available.
After my high school graduation, I had a burning desire in my heart to become a doctor and work hand-in-hand with other health care professionals to find a solution to various epidemics around the world. Being inspired by an uncle who was attending physiotherapy sessions due to left hemiplegia post-stroke, I decided to study physiotherapy. Over a highly demanding period of four years from 2010 to 2014, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy and graduated among the university pioneers in Burundi.
In 2015, I returned to my home country and began working as a clinical physiotherapist at Kibagabaga Hospital in Kigali City. Also working for Rwanda Palliative Care and Hospice Organization (RPCHO) for home care-based rehabilitation, I was concurrently working for a clinic called ORKIDE as a part-time physiotherapist. During this time, I always worked with a great passion to best serve the patients who were desperately in need of assistance.
In October 2016, I received consecutive training offered by the Global Clubfoot Initiative on Clubfoot Management for children born with clubfoot. I am determined to work with my colleagues to eradicate this type of malformation. So far, I have been very grateful to treat 25 children born with clubfoot who have recovered very well. Additionally, I became successful in raising awareness to parents to bring their children with foot abnormalities to the hospital early through media.
In August 2018, I started the East Africa Physical Therapy Journal with my colleague in Africa. We were able to print out the first volume, but unfortunately, we could not continue due to lack of funds.
I have conducted research on other human disorders, like low back pain, incidence of periprocedural stroke, etc., and felt that I needed to find more advanced knowledge. In September 2016, I started my master’s degree in Global Health at Mount Kenya University to increase my research skills in a global context. To start a master’s degree was certainly a tough decision, as I was supposed to pay for the school fees myself. I took a loan for it, and a thank you goes to my parents and family members who really supported me in this endeavour. As a physiotherapist, my thesis was titled “Knowledge, Attitude and Practice on low back pain prevention measures among health care providers in Rwanda.” It was also presented at the WCPT (now known as World Physiotherapy) Congress in May 2019.
In November 2017, I took an exam for an International NGO (Handicap International, now known as Humanity and Inclusion) and was hired as a Community Disability Worker for the year 2018. Later, in 2019, I was promoted to an Inclusion Officer in a project funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for strengthening inclusion and access to services for persons with specific needs, including persons with mental health and psychosocial support needs in urban areas and refugee camps of Rwanda. As a physiotherapist, I had a remarkable experience where my team and I initiated a community rehabilitation centre in the camps and improved the wellbeing of people with disabilities (PWD) by advocating for their specific needs and introducing occupational therapy services in the refugee camps. In February 2020 until April 2021, I worked for Prison Fellowship Rwanda in the community-based protection department to ensure the protection of the persons of concern, especially those with specific needs, notably the elderly and PWD. Currently, I am gracefully working at UNHCR in a protection unit to ensure the wellbeing of refugees.
To my greatest pleasure, when I was doing my thesis and almost done with all of my Masters of Global Health degree courses, I presented two abstracts at the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT, now World Physiotherapy) Congress in Geneva. One was my thesis of masters, and the other was titled “Exploring the use of an interactive web-based platform to improve access to physiotherapy services delivery in Rwanda.” It is a great honour that I made it there and completed my task as a presenter. I am grateful that I met intellectually-oriented worldwide physiotherapy peers, like Jennifer Allen, who challenged me to learn new things and shared her experiences with me. I profoundly thank Professor Maureen Pascal from the USA, the Government of Rwanda, and Misericordia University, located at Dallas-USA, for tremendously supporting me to participate in the WCPT Congress 2019.
Coming back to Rwanda with a proactive spirit, I convinced my colleagues to start a project of physiotherapy home-based care. To best accomplish the task, we officially launched a website to facilitate the bookings of appointments with ease. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic of COVID-19 and insufficient resources, we did not start with the project as we had planned, but we intend to proceed as soon as we get an opportunity to do so.
As days go by, I find myself longingly engaged in more research. If I get the opportunity, I intend to carry on and get a PhD, which will equip me with more knowledge. I am delighted to contribute to the global health sector and I sincerely desire to broaden my contribution towards the most vulnerable people wherever I am.
Auguste Birori, BScPT, MPH, MSc Global Health
Helico Health CEO (Physiotherapy Home Care Services)
Certified in Spinal Cord Injury Management
Certified in Clubfoot Management using the Ponseti Method
Auguste Birori holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiotherapy (Honours) and a Master’s Degree in Global Health. He is a licensed, recognized physiotherapist with six years of experience in different health facilities and NGOs, such as KIBAGABAGA Hospital (2014-2018); Rwanda Palliative Care and Hospice Organization (RPCHO) (2016-2017); ORIKIDE Clinic (2017-2018, part-time); Handicap International (2017-2019) as a Community Disability Worker and an Inclusion officer in a refugee camp in Rwanda; and Prison Fellowship Rwanda (2020-2021) as a Community-Based Protection officer. He is currently working for UNHCR as a Protection Associate in a Refugee camp in Rwanda. Auguste Birori has seen a variety of patients, including those with orthopaedic and neurological conditions, and he has been featured on various TV shows for awareness and education. Auguste completed his Master’s degree in Global Health in December 2018 in order to achieve a broader reach, respond to the complex health challenges of the world, and underline global health issues and the various strategies required to tackle them, including disease surveillance, health systems management, and individual and population-based interventions.