Author Archives: Maddy

About Maddy

I am a rising senior in Tulane's Department of Biomedical Engineering. This summer, I will be working in Rwanda with a program called Engineering World Health. My primary role will be repairing and installing medical equipment in a small village hospital, but I will also be working with local doctors and engineers to design new medical equipment with the constraints of a developing nation's health care system in mind.

Until next time, Rwanda! – Maddy Bishop-Van Horn

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post because it means that my internship and my time in Rwanda with Engineering World Health are really over. I sit now in a bustling sandwich shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire—it couldn’t be more different from the market in Butare, Rwanda. These are my reflections on this summer: what I’m most proud of, what I’ve learned, and how it has changed me.

Things I am proud of:

  1. The relationships that I made. This summer I met some truly incredible people from Rwanda and all over the world. I learned quickly that, in the developing world, working effectively is all about establishing close relationships with people at all levels of authority. The friendships and connections that I made in Rwanda have changed me for life.
  1. Medical equipment I repaired. Over the past month, my hospital partner and I repaired 17 pieces of medical equipment in three hospitals in the southern province of Rwanda. This equipment ranged from infant incubators to oxygen concentrators to ultrasound machines. Most of the equipment was put to immediate use by very grateful nurses. As a student and an intern, to be able to leave behind something so concrete was quite powerful.
  1. Fundraising. Along with a group of local volunteers, we are working to raise money to buy livestock for the hospital farm in order to provide vulnerable patients with meaningful and sustainable sources of protein.

To read more about this project, to share with your friends, or to donate, please visit:


What I have learned:

Travel. Extend your comfort zone. Start a conversation with someone with whom you may not share a common language. Talk to doctors and CEOs and janitors and taxi drivers. Understand your strengths and put yourself in a position to succeed. Be assertive, tactfully.

This experience has solidified my resolve to work in the international engineering industry with a focus on developing nations. When I return to Tulane for my senior year, I hope to find and internship with a company in New Orleans that is focused on international, developing markets. I cannot wait to return to Rwanda and to other developing nations to learn more about their specific needs and hopefully be a part of a solution.

Muraho, nitwa Maddy (Hello, my name is Maddy)

Hello from Butare, Rwanda! My time working in Rwanda with Engineering World Health has reached it’s half-way point.

It is hard to put the things that I have learned into words because every day is full of things that I have never experienced—every moment I learn something new. I spent the first month of my time in Rwanda taking classes in Biomedical equipment repair, French, and the native Kinyarwanda language. Here’s a sampling of Kinyarwanda:

Muraho hello

Murakoze thank you

Mwaramutse good morning

Amahoro peace

Komera stay strong

I know enough Kinyarwanda to greet people, talk about family, buy things, and find my way around—enough to survive here. I can tell my accent is getting better because occasionally Rwandans will start chattering away to me. At the same time, this shows me how much more I have to learn.

I worked alongside some Biomedical Equipment Technician (BMET) students at their school in Kigali, Rwanda. Their program is very focused on training technicians, where the Biomedical Engineering program at Tulane focuses more on equipment design and understanding of theory. The students that I worked with were very, very smart. I think it’s a shame that they do not have the design training that I have. They understand the problems that developing hospitals face better than I will and would be well suited to design solutions given the resources.

This month, I am working at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Butare (CHUB), a large teaching hospital in Huye, Rwanda.

Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Butare

Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Butare

CHUB is a fairly advanced hospital for the developing world, but it is very different from any hospital that you would find in the United States. The pace of work is much slower, which is good and bad. I like the slow pace because I have time to talk to doctors and nurses about their work and their lives. Rwandans are very friendly; what Americans my consider intrusive questions are very common. People I’ve just met often ask me if I’m married and am I catholic. It definitely took some getting used to.

My partner, Carisse, and I have spent a lot of time updating an inventory to be used by Engineering World Health and the hospital itself. Today we took inventory of a storage closet. It was packed full of mostly working equipment that is not needed because CHUB recently received a donation from the CDC of a bunch of new equipment. Carisse and I are trying to figure out a way to redistribute this unneeded equipment to other hospitals in Rwanda that could benefit from it. On Friday we will meet with the hospital director to talk about our ideas. We will also ask him if there are any secondary projects around the hospital that he would like us to work on while we are here.

The daunting storage room at CHUB

The daunting storage room at CHUB

This internship has definitely improved my troubleshooting skills and my confidence in my technical abilities. One of my first days at CHUB, my partner and I worked with a local technician to trouble shoot an ophthalmoscope that was not working. We determined that the problem was in the power supply, and that someone had switched the live and neutral electrical leads. We whipped out our soldering iron and heat shrink tubing and quickly fixed the problem. Of course, not all repairs are as simple.

This experience has shaped me and surprised me in many ways. Rwanda is a pretty wonderful place to live, and it is developing very quickly. There are beautiful paved roads (much nicer than New Orleans’ roads!), getting access to phone and internet is probably easier and definitely cheaper than in the US, and cold bucket showers really aren’t so bad. Plus, monkeys hang out at the hospital. (!!!)

My evening commute

Friends along my evening commute

I’m already starting to get sad about leaving this beautiful, beautiful place that has taught me so much.

My First Week in Kigali, Rwanda – Maddy

I’m having such a wonderful time in Kigali, Rwanda so far! It’s hard to know
where to start. I feel like I’ve been here forever, but it’s only been a week.

Kigali is a beautiful, beautiful city and I’ve felt very safe everywhere I have gone.

View of Kigali from the Kigali Genocide Memorial

View of Kigali from the Kigali Genocide Memorial

My homestay is within the grounds of a technical school where I am taking classes for the first month. I live with a house mom, house dad, and their adorable one year old son, Adore.


My house’s backyard, chickens, and the stove that they cook food on

The housekeepers speak little English and only a bit of French, so I am learning the native Kinyarwanda language quickly. Despite the language barrier, we laugh a lot together and I can tell we are going to be great friends.

There is electricity about 70% of the time, but there is rarely running water. The water comes on for a few minutes some nights and we rush to fill as many buckets as we can to use for showering and flushing the toilet. However, everyone I have met has a phone, many have smartphones. I was able to buy a USB Internet modem for my computer: 5GB of Internet cost 15000 Rwandan francs, or about $20. Hopefully it will last me a while.

So far, my days have been focused on settling in to Kigali, learning Kinyarwanda (and some French), and trying to get a better understanding of healthcare needs in the developing world. We visited a lab where Rwandan students are trained to become Biomedical Engineering Technicians (BMETS). There, we took apart some equipment to see how it works and the technicians talked about common problems and how to repair and test them.

In July, my partner and I will move to a city in the northern province, Musanze to work at Ruhengeri Hospital. This month, I just want to learn as much as I can so I can be as effective as possible during my month-long stay in Ruhengeri.

A Summer in Rwanda with Engineering World Health – Maddy Bishop-Van Horn

My name is Maddy Bishop-Van Horn and I am majoring in Biomedical Engineering (BME) with a minor in Mathematics. I found my internship through a Tulane BME alumni, who came and talked to Tulane’s Biomedical Engineering Society last fall about his experiences working in global healthcare.

Now for the exciting news: This summer, I will be living and working in Rwanda with an organization called Engineering World Health! Engineering World Health (EWH) is a non-profit organization that aims “to inspire, educate, and empower the biomedical engineering community to improve health care delivery in the developing world.” One of the ways EWH is accomplishing this mission is by sending engineering students and young professionals to developing countries to work in hospitals, repairing and installing medical equipment that might otherwise go unused.

On May 30th, I will begin the long, long plane ride to Kigali, Rwanda, where I will be living for the month of June. There, I will be trained in troubleshooting and maintenance of the available medical equipment with the available tools. I will also take language immersion classes in French and Rwanda’s native language, Kinyarwanda.

In July, I will be deployed with one other EWH volunteer to a small village (I don’t know which one yet) to live and work for the remainder of the summer. I will live in a homestay at night and take a public bus to the hospital to work under the supervision of a local biomedical engineering technician. At the hospital, I will have many responsibilities. I will take an inventory of all medical equipment, and then begin working to troubleshoot and repair broken but vital equipment. I will work with the local technician to translate user manuals from English to French and Kinyarwanda. I also hope to talk to doctors and nurses about the kind of equipment they wish they had and what would make their lives easier.

I have a lot of goals for this summer. I hope to make life-long friends. I hope to learn more about global health and where I, as a biomedical engineer, fit. I hope to repair equipment that can save lives, and I hope to challenge my own perspectives.

I am incredibly excited for this summer, and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you. Next post will be from Kigali, Rwanda!

Until then,