The seed for the website Top Upgrade was planted during a month-long leadership training course for physical therapy professionals, which took place in Kigali, Rwanda in 2015 with support from HVO. During the course, participants were divided into groups of five to work collaboratively on special projects. Jean-Damascene Bigirimana Ngamba, PT, became so passionate about his group’s project—a website for Rwandan physical therapy professionals—that he continued his work on it after the course ended.
In November 2016, with the help of a $200 donation from the Misercodia University Students Club, Jean-Damascene launched his website. Since that time, with support from his mentor, HVO volunteer Maureen Pascal, DPT, he has grown the website to serve not only physical therapy providers, but other allied health professionals as well. Today, the website is focused on offering online Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses to health workers throughout Rwanda.
Jean-Damascene hopes that the website will increase the number of patients who are referred for physical therapy services by raising awareness of the important role physical therapists can play in a patient’s overall treatment plan.
“Rwanda physiotherapists are facing the challenges of getting clients enrolled [in] physio services,” he explains. “Some district hospitals have very few clients. Many physiotherapists are still jobless and can be hired if awareness is raised about the role of physiotherapy to the public.”
Top Upgrade offers courses for physical therapists seeking to improve their knowledge and case management skills when treating patients with a variety of commonly seen conditions, including recovery from a traumatic injury, rehabilitation after experiencing a stroke, and post-operative rehabilitation for women who have undergone a C-section. Jean-Damascene hopes to expand the site to also provide referral links and contact information for physical therapy practices in each district in Rwanda. Physicians treating patients for the above-mentioned conditions, or who are otherwise in need of physical therapy services will be able to use the site to connect their patients to services in their area.
Jean-Damascene also hopes that the website inspires his colleagues to pursue advanced degrees and other ambitious professional aspirations.
“The website will raise their level of thinking and interest most of them in starting their own private clinics and research in physiotherapy fields,” he says.
So far, the site has already inspired one physical therapy professional to pursue an advanced degree—Jean-Damascene himself.
“With all I managed to do for this project,” he says, “I met different people who suggested [that I] carry out a master’s degree in physiotherapy.”
Jean-Damascene is currently seeking out scholarship funding to finance his continuing education. He hopes that after attaining his master’s degree he can share his newfound knowledge and skills with his Rwandan colleagues by organizing and teaching courses through the website he created.
HVO has launched a Global Giving campaign to support the continued expansion of Top Upgrade. With your help, Jean-Damascene can grow his website to better serve health care professionals throughout Rwanda and the east Africa region. Make your gift today!