Rwandan biomedical lab led by Georgetown alumnus

A recent graduate from Georgetown, Rev. Jean-Baptiste Mazarati, S.J., (G’12) has been appointed to the position of deputy director general of Rwanda Biomedical Center’s National Reference Laboratory (NRL). 19 years after the genocide that crippled Rwanda, Mazarati hopes that his team at the lab will be able to improve the quality of life of Rwandans so that the country may continue to develop and emerge from the horrors of its past.

“Our country is landlocked, [so we don’t have] many natural resources,” Mazarati said. “Our main resource is our people. The government has made an investment in ensuring that Rwandans are educated and healthy enough to drive our nation’s development.”

Mazarati, having completed doctoral work in tumor biology at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, is striving to use the NRL in order to improve the diagnostic power of disease testing within Rwanda’s decentralized healthcare system. According to the World Health Organization, 29% of deaths in Rwanda occur due to non-communicable disease and citizens of Rwanda have an average life expectancy of 52 years.

“As so for many developing countries, Rwanda is still striving to eradicate all infectious diseases – HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis [and more],” Mazarati said. “We are running programs to see malaria eliminated, and we are taking on the daunting task to fight noncommunicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and so on.”

Mazarati would like to conduct research on the same level that he was able to at Lombardi, adapting to the lack of resources in Rwanda. He hopes that his time working with Rev. Kevin FitzGerald, S.J., and Dr. Anton Wellstein at Lombardi will help in transitioning his work to benefit the populace of Rwanda.

“[The health minister] wants Rwanda to engage with the world,” FitzGerald said. “On both those levels – [providing better health care and improving the nation’s global reach],  Jean-Baptiste is going to be able to make a contribution. He has the education, but he also has the experience of having lived and studied in Europe and the United States.”

Mazarati began his studies at Georgetown to “reconnect with science and research after years in theology.” At Georgetown, his research focused on the effects of normal bone marrow cells on the spread of cancer in the human body. He says that service to others and education are two traditions he enjoys most of being a Jesuit priest and a scientist.

Photo: Georgetown University

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