Tag Archives: William L. Roper

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.
CIMG0286

Will with the pitcher he made at the Co-op.
CIMG0313

The entrance to the faculty of medicine (the med school) at the National University of Rwanda in Butare.

P1020116

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

P1020126

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

P1020134

St. Paul's Cathedral, Butare

P1020099

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

P1020152

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

P1020184

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.

Kigali and Gisenyi

Will with people we met on the road

Will with people we met along the roadside

Today was a very good day.

We did several things to get settled ? changed money, got cheap cell phones, got our passes for the mountain gorilla tour (which we will do in a couple of days).

Then we went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. It tells the incredible story of the 1994 genocide in very effective and moving terms. It is really impossible to do it justice in a short blog posting, but this country has been through horrific trauma, and is now making amazing progress in reconciliation and development.

Then we drove almost three hours to Gisenyi, which is on the shores of Lake Kivu, a huge, beautiful lake. There are a number of resort hotels there, and we went to a very nice one, and had a late lunch. It was magnificent — we sat overlooking the lake as we ate.

We are now in Musanze, where we will spend the next two nights. The town used to be called Ruhengeri.

Our day starts tomorrow with the early English service at the Anglican Cathedral, and then we will spend the rest of the day relaxing. The guesthouse has a pool and the weather here is great.

Then we set out early on Monday to see the gorillas.

Arrived in Rwanda

On the way here via Brussels, we got to spend an unplanned extra day in Belgium. Our plane flight was cancelled, and we had to wait a day for it to go.

Everyone was very kind to us ? they put us up in a hotel at the Brussels Airport, and served us great food.

We got to visit with several of our fellow pilgrims to Rwanda ? a couple from Little Rock on their way to visit their daughter who is working for an non-profit group in Rwanda, three college students who are going there to do volunteer work with another group for several weeks, a lady going home to Congo (she lives a five hour bus ride from Kigali, Rwanda), and an AIDS researcher who works in Rwanda. It turns out we know lots of people in common.

We arrived after dark this evening ? so have not yet seen much, but it is clearly hilly. After all, Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills.
Tomorrow we visit the main genocide memorial and then leave the capital city to visit some of the outlying areas.

En route to Rwanda

Greetings from Brussels ? our son, Will, and I are on our way to Rwanda for a long-planned visit.

This will be the fourth of our international visits together, in which we combine our interest in global health with an effort to learn more about the world ? especially those parts which are far away from Chapel Hill.

Will Roper in the Brussels Airport

Will Roper in the Brussels Airport

In 2007, Will and I went to South Africa, Malawi and Zambia. We focused especially on the UNC Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease work that has long been done in Malawi. We learned a lot, and Will got to work in an AIDS orphanage.

In 2008, he and I went to China, where we again met with UNC collaborators, particularly in the China CDC. And we got to take in some of the Beijing Olympics!

In 2009, Will and I went to Peru, with Drs. Luis Diaz and Doug Morgan, and we saw first-hand the work that they and colleagues are doing to advance our understanding of health and disease. This has direct relevance to our efforts in Latino Health in North Carolina. And we got to see Machu Picchu too!

This year it's Rwanda ? a small country in east central Africa ? with a troubled past, but an exciting present and future. The 1994 genocide in Rwanda is a major part of the history of the country, and we will be visiting genocide memorials and learning of the horror of what happened 16 years ago.

But we will also be learning of the widespread reconciliation work that seems to be bearing much fruit, and the rapid development of the country and its economy.

UNC does not yet have global health work in Rwanda, but I will be visiting with leaders in the Ministry of Health, and in the hospitals and medical school. I look forward to learning much about what others are doing in Rwanda, and to thinking about the further opportunities.

In addition, our church in Chapel Hill has a partnership with the Anglican Church in Rwanda, and our sister parish is St. Paul's Cathedral in Butare, Rwanda. I will be visiting with church leaders there and elsewhere in Rwanda.

All in all, we have much to learn and experience. It promises to be a great trip!

Much more to come.

Health Reform ? hurray

This week will long be remembered as a momentous time in American health policy and politics.

President Obama signed the landmark health reform legislation and the Senate seems poised to complete the complicated process with passage of a reconciliation bill making a number of changes in the earlier law.

I have long worked for far-reaching overhaul of how we finance and deliver health care in America, and I celebrate this major accomplishment.

We are all hearing several narratives from different quarters ? that predictably conflict:

After decades of trying ? by Democrats and Republicans, far-reaching health reform has passed into law.

This is a major victory for a more compassionate and communitarian society.

President Obama and his party can be proud of their leadership on achieving this.
This legislation gives the federal government a significantly greater role in directing the American health care system.

Republicans will campaign against a government takeover of health care, and they could see major electoral gains this fall and in 2012.

Will it work?

Can we afford it?

Each of us will choose which of those and other narratives to emphasize.

I am very glad it passed, even with its flaws and other consequences that we don't yet know about.

On the whole ? we badly have needed to cover the uninsured ? and this legislation, when implemented, will do that in a big way. The fact that not everyone will be covered is surely true ? but this is a major step in the right direction.

As the head of a major public safety net institution, I am very concerned about the proposed cuts in Medicare. I have to believe, and I do, that these will not occur ? to anything like the extent promised ? because of the predictable push-back of seniors and health providers.

So what that means is this will add hugely to the federal budget deficit ? not a happy prospect, to be sure.

I continue to believe that our nation must press ahead with additional health system reform, that delivers quality care at much lower costs. We can do that ? but it will stretch us like nothing we have ever done before. Just like this process has challenged our political system.

Here at UNC we are dedicated to reform, and we are determined to be a leader ? creating a new model for organizing and delivering care.

So … Health reform has passed … With much more to come! I believe we will be arguing about all of this for months ? indeed for years to come.

Stay tuned!

Charlotte summit addresses health care

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce holds a summit each year at which they focus on pressing matters affecting their area. This year's focus is health care in North Carolina.

The folks who have planned this year's meeting could not have chosen a more timely topic about which they can assist and educate the business community.

I will have the pleasure of speaking at tomorrow morning's meeting at the Hilton Charlotte University Place, and sharing with the audience UNC Health Care's unique perspective on what I believe to be a health care crisis in North Carolina.

I use the word “crisis” because persisting problems in our state and around the country, such as physician shortages and rising rates of chronic diseases have combined with current economic challenges to create just that.

Members of local and state Chambers of Commerce surely play a crucial role in how we we will respond. Small business owners and heads of multi-national corporations are all struggling to keep employees on the payrolls, and many have made difficult choices about increasing health care premiums.

UNC is both upstream of this crisis, because our researchers and clinicians are continually looking for ways to abate these issues, and downstream, because we feel the economic impact of unemployment and rising health care costs.

Last week, for a story in advance of tomorrow's meeting, I spoke with Charlotte Business Journal reporter, Jennifer Thomas, and shared with her the message I have delivered in other parts of the state, which is that we must act now to turn our crisis around. I made one slight adjustment to my earlier picture of health care in North Carolina: we now expect our uncompensated care for fiscal 2010 at UNC Health Care to reach $300 million, or more.

Jennifer asked about funds from the stimulus package, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that promises to provide funding to expand health care IT, extend COBRA benefits and add to our Medicaid coffers.

In a recent interview for HealthLeaders magazine about hospital IT, I pointed out that the stimulus money, because of its relatively short deadline, carries with a great risk. As I was quoted in the article,

“Unless we are careful, we may end up spending this money and not accomplishing nearly what ought to be accomplished. This notion seems to be driven by a too-simplistic idea that all we need to do is go out and buy a bunch of computers and wires and plug them all together and, bingo, great things will happen. We all know it’s more complicated than that.”

In the short term, these surely are welcome and necessary funds.

However, what we need most is substantive, national reform. Such changes, broad in scope, should have a very local impact to assist North Carolina businesses and all of our citizens.