Posted on 19 April, 2016

Florida’s Teresa Duncan is in Rwanda on a mission, with a mission.


The paediatric intensivist, based at Joe DiMaggio Children’sHospital in Hollywood (Florida), wants to establish her own not-for-profit volunteer driven medical charity.

Teresa is traveling with Open Heart International to learn first-hand how the organisation improves the global quality of life through service delivery, training and capacity building in Kigali.

“I have been coming to Rwanda now for four years on other missions, but I am interested in creating one,” Teresa says.

“It is interesting – it is a little bit overwhelming and daunting because where do you start with something like this?

“I have a big vision.”

Teresa recently traveled to Geneva for an international colloquium for developing sustainable congenital heart disease programs. This is where is where she met Open Heart International coordinator Darren Wolfers.

“It was interesting in the meeting because we were there speaking about how are we going to do this with 150 other people, while sitting around the kitchen table having tea or coffee,” she says.


“I realised when I was there I wasn’t the only other person that had some dream that wasn’t completely insurmountable.”

Teresa went back to Florida and spoke to her fellow colleague and heart surgeon who she had travelled with to Rwanda.

“I asked about heading over with Open Heart International to get some insider knowledge,” she says.

“Open Heart is so well rounded and they have been doing this for so long.

“Darren said why don’t you come onboard, we need intensivists and then you can see what we are all about and get an idea about the inner functionings.”

Teresa is impressed with the team so far and is enjoying the camaraderie.


“The Australian team are a well-oiled machine,” she says.

“Everyone knows their part and do not overstep their boundary and work well together.

“I think people who do this come from a similar thread of life and if you travel that far to live simply and work hard, you make lifelong friendships from it.”

Teresa says these trips make you a better clinician.

“It is good for the soul and it is good for the Rwandan people,” she says.

“I hope on this trip I learn as much as I can from the Rwandans, Tanzanians and the Australia group because every time I come, I learn something new and we have everything to gain.”


Tags:  East Africa,