Tag Archives: Dr. Bill Roper

Research Leads to Better Patient Outcomes

As dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, I have the fortune of working alongside some of the best and brightest minds in health care. Through research, innovation and advanced health care delivery, they are responsible for tackling some of our most pressing health care challenges.

For instance, for the first time, a global research effort led by John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the UNC Diabetes Center, determined that a new Type 2 diabetes therapy proves better than traditional insulin injections.

The drug IDegLira proved to be more effective than basal insulin glargine injections at reducing the average amount of blood sugar over the course of several months. The new therapy was also associated with weight loss and a substantially lower rate of hypoglycemia – i.e., low blood sugar – compared with more commonly used injections, a major development in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Another area where our researchers are making breakthroughs is in autism and neurodegenerative diseases.  Dr. Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at UNC, led a team of researchers who published a study on the role that a new class of fungicides could play in autism and neurodegenerative disease. Along with his team, Dr. Zylka found a class of commonly used fungicides that produce gene expression changes similar to those in people with autism and neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The study, published in Nature Communications, describes a new way to home in on chemicals that have the potential to affect brain functions.

This is the kind of research that makes UNC one of the leading academic medical centers in the nation. More importantly, research drives better care and leads to more effective treatments.

For more information on the diabetes study, click here.

For more information on the fungicide study, click here.

A few more photos

I’m sending a few more photos of our trip while we are waiting in the Brussels Airport.

This is of Will making bricks at the Dufatanye Co-op.
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Will with the pitcher he made at the Co-op.
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The entrance to the faculty of medicine (the med school) at the National University of Rwanda in Butare.

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The rector of NUR (our chancellor's counterpart), Prof. Silas Lwakabamba

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Bishop Nathan Gasatura, his wife, Florence, their son, Daniel, and Will and me, in their home

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St. Paul's Cathedral, Butare

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Godfrey Kalema, his wife, Diane, a student, Theonest (with the UNC hat I gave him!) and Will, near the Dufatanye Co-op

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John, who drove us all over Rwanda, and Will ? in the Kigali Airport, just before we left

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Weekend in Rwanda

I had a very pleasant weekend in Kigali and beyond.

One of the places I saw was the Hotel des Milles Collines, which was featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.

Hotel Rwanda

On Saturday evening, I had a dinner meeting with the leader of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and several others. Our church in Chapel Hill is under his jurisdiction.

Dinner Saturday, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini is far left

Dinner Saturday, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini is far left

On Sunday morning, I went to the English service at the Anglican cathedral, St. Etienne, and heard the dean preach. He is Rev. Antoine Rutayisire. After the service, he introduced me to Dr. Richard Sezibera, one of the members at St. Etienne, who is the minister of health of Rwanda. We had a short visit and he invited me to meet with him in a couple of days.

left: Rev. (Dean) Antoine Rutayisire, Dr. Richard Sezibera

left: Rev. (Dean) Antoine Rutayisire, Dr. Richard Sezibera

Sunday afternoon, Will and I went to Nyanza, and visited the Dufatanye Cooperative, which is a local NGO that supports and provides opportunity for a number of people who are living with HIV infection. It was founded and now run by my new friend, Godfrey Kalema.

The people at Dufatanye are very poor, but they have done truly impressive things together they raise a number of crops, tend goats, rabbits, cows, raise fish in ponds, and make bricks and roof tiles.

Dufantanye Cooperative

Dufantanye Cooperative

Godfrey with finished tiles and bricks

Godfrey Kalema with finished tiles and bricks

Bricks air drying

Bricks air drying

Bricks awaiting the kiln

Bricks awaiting the kiln

Godfrey with finished bricks

Godfrey with finished bricks

Cows at the Dufatanye Cooperative

Cows at the Dufatanye Cooperative


Will is working at Dufatanye, helping the workers and learning how to make bricks!

I have gone on to Butare, where the National University of Rwanda is located, including the med school. I am visiting there today.

Another beautiful day in Rwanda!

The NUR Med School and the CDC

Today I had a very helpful meeting with Dr. Patrick Kyamanywa, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Rwanda. The med school is in Butare, where I will be in a few days, but he and I met in Kigali.

Patrick is a surgeon, with an active medical practice, who is now the acting dean of the med school. We shared insights about the opportunities and challenges of managing a school of medicine at a public university. He is very much a leader in the health sector of Rwanda, and works closely with the Minister of Health and others.

From him, as from others I have met, I gained important insights about Rwanda ? its past, present and future. He is a very impressive person in every respect.

Lunch with CDC Rwanda team

Lunch with CDC Rwanda team


Later I went to the US Embassy, where I met with the CDC team based there. About 30 CDC employees are assigned to Rwanda, and I got the chance to have lunch with a number of them, especially the Country Director for CDC-Rwanda, Dr. Pratima Raghunathan. She is a former EIS officer, who has been with CDC for more than ten years in a number of different assignments. She has been in Rwanda for two years.

CDC's global health mission has grown and developed very substantially since the time I was director (1990-93). In those days we had a global focus, and world-wide reach and impact, but it is now so much greater. With PEPFAR (The President's Emergency Fund for AIDS/HIV Relief) and other US government programs, CDC now has many more people and much more resources on the ground around the world, including here in Rwanda.

Ambassador Stuart Symington

Ambassador Stuart Symington

I was also able to see the US Ambassador, Stuart Symington, and to visit briefly with him. I am very proud of what CDC and the US Government more generally are doing in Rwanda.

Public Health and Health Care in Rwanda

Neonatal unit in CHUK

Neonatal unit in CHUK

Today I had the privilege of meeting with several health leaders here in Kigali.

I was introduced to them via my friend, Nathan Thielman, MD, who is a faculty member at Duke Med School. Nathan is an internist who does work in infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, and global health.

I visited with two Ob/Gyn physicians with whom he is collaborating here in a project to lower Rwanda's maternal mortality rate. It is currently about 350 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

I met Dr. Stephen Rusila, who is head of research at the Central Teaching Hospital of Kigali. It goes by its French acronym, CHUK.

The med school in Rwanda is in Butare, where it is a part of the National University of Rwanda. In North Carolina terms, Butare is the smallish university town ? the Chapel Hill, and Kigali is the large, capital city ? the Raleigh, or even Charlotte. All med students get their basic science teaching in Butare, but a sizeable number get clinical training at the Central Teaching Hospital in Kigali, much like we send students for clinical rotations to AHEC sites across North Carolina.

I also met Dr. Janvier Rwamwejo, who is on the staff of King Faisal Hospital ? it is widely said to be the finest hospital in the country.

We talked about their project ? and the efforts to train mid-wives and other health workers to recognize problem pregnancies and to manage them or refer them.

The infant mortality rate in Rwanda is estimated to be 65 per 1000 live births this year. That is in the middle of the range of the various African countries' rates. By contrast, the US rate this year is between 6 and 7 deaths, before one year of age, per 1000 live births.

P1010969 Tomorrow I am meeting with the dean of the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Rwanda, and the next day with the Minister of Health. This is proving to be a very enlightening and very pleasant visit.

I added some local beauty to my hotel room today ? I bought some flowers from the shop in the hotel lobby ? the arrangement is not nearly as attractive as those my wife does ? but it still brightens up the room!

I am now also posting photos to my Flickr page. You can see them here.

More at Shyira Hospital

Shyira Hospital


I spent two days at the remote and idyllic Shyira Hospital.

In many respects they lack much of what we take for granted in the US ? for example, they only have electricity for two hours each evening, when the generator is running.

But in other respects, they have so much that we lack ? peacefulness and even solitude. We went to bed shortly after the lights went out at 8:30pm, and got up before 6:00am, fully rested. The hospital starts its day at 7:00am.

Caleb King translating for me

Caleb King translating for me

Today, after morning report, I gave a talk, at the Kings' invitation. Caleb translated ? into French, which the staff understand. They also speak some English and everyone is fluent in Kinyarwanda, the national language.
I used a talk I gave a couple of years ago at Duke ? on spirituality and health. I think it all went fine.

Both yesterday and today we spent time rounding on the wards ? peds, adult medicine and obstetrics.

Will with a kindergarten class

Will with a kindergarten class

Today Will put together home-made Play-Doh, and taught the kindergartners how to make things. He is having a great time at Shyira.

This evening I left him there and returned to Kigali, where I'll spend the next couple of days.

Sunday in Musanze

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

St. John the Baptist Cathedral

Today we are in Musanze (formerly known as Ruhengeri).

We went to the early service (in English) at St. John the Baptist Cathedral. The Anglican service of Morning Prayer was very familiar, and all the songs were ones we knew. There were some other Americans and other non-Rwandans there as well.

After a break, I went back for a portion of the main service, which is in Kinyarwandan, the national language here. I did not understand a single word ? but the vibrant, enthusiastic service was really inspiring.

I was struck by how many young people there were ? in both services, lots of young adults and children. And especially young adult men ? noticeably different from many American churches, that lack them.