Today we spotlight Dr. Patricia Come, one of our many Team Heart Heroes.
Patricia has been at our side since Team Heart’s first year in Rwanda in 2008. As a volunteer cardiologist, Patricia spent several years dedicating her own vacation time to medical missions, screening and diagnosing patients. Watching her screen young teens for rheumatic heart disease is like watching a tight coil of wire pop open. She radiates electric energy engaging with patients in a mixture of learned Kinyarwandan words, French and gestures, becoming their champions! She cheerfully trained others and watched with pride as young cardiologists stepped up for the exhausting week-long screening allowing her to turn her full attention to her passion, teaching.
Two years ago she shifted her focus to education and building Rwandan-led sustainable cardiac care. She led the initiative to develop a teaching curriculum that has formed the basis for the adult cardiology standards and practice in this resource-poor but growing environment.
In our mission to address the burden of rheumatic heart disease in the country, Dr. Pat as she is known by everyone, is a key player in educating students, interns and residency levels for medical trainees.
What attracted you to the cause and Team Heart in particular?
I had the opportunity to volunteer previously in a number of medical missions. Team Heart offered a unique opportunity to work in a program of sustainable development and that really appealed to me.
What are your activities and what do they involve?
My volunteer work from 2008 through 2018 was directed toward screening patients with symptoms compatible with heart disease (usually severe shortness of breath with exertion). Using physical examination and echocardiography, we were able to make precise diagnoses of congenital and acquired heart disease. Rheumatic fever is prevalent in Rwanda and can lead to severe heart valve dysfunction. End-stage rheumatic valve disease is often identified in very young individuals, and most patients referred to us were in their teen-aged years.
In 2019 and 2020, I largely shifted gears to the provision of Cardiovascular teaching at the student, intern and residency levels for medical trainees.
What motivates you to stay involved?
I have loved watching Rwanda develop the expertise in cardiovascular care which will enable our Rwandan colleagues to replace Team Heart in the very near future. To watch Team Heart assist in the development of such a sustainable program has been incredible.
In your opinion, what is the most important work Team Heart does?
The development of an excellent, sustainable, Rwandan-led program of excellence in cardiovascular care, including heart surgery.
What contribution or achievement to Team Heart are you most proud?
I am proud of the development of the screening team which evaluates about 100 patients every year.
What do you hope Team Heart will achieve in the near future?
The development of a world-class center of excellence for cardiovascular care in East Africa.
How will you pump your heart during the challenge, September 22-29?
I will kayak and hike!
More than 1000 people have volunteered with Team Heart over the last dozen-plus years, donating thousands of hours to run this program. We thank every single individual. Share Dr. Pat’s story and help raise funds for the Pumping Heart Challenge.