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Advocate Claudine Humure envisions an equitable future for Rwandan amputees

September / October 2022 | Volume 21 Number 5

During her talk at the Fogarty International Center at NIH, Claudine Humure (center) smiles as the event wraps up with Theresa Cruz on her right and Roger Glass on her left.Fogarty International CenterDr. Theresa Cruz (left), Director, National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, and Dr. Roger Glass (right), Director, Fogarty International Center, co-hosted the presentation by Claudine Humure (center). Humure plans to open a prosthetic clinic in Rwanda.

Fogarty and the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) hosted a presentation by Claudine Humure, an amputee and health advocate, who discussed her plan to start a prosthetic clinic in Rwandan. Orphaned during the Rwanda genocide, Humure lost her right leg to osteosarcoma at the age of 12. A few years later with the assistance of Partners in Health (PIH), she was treated with chemotherapy and fitted with a prosthetic leg at Mass General Hospital in Boston.

“It really felt like a privilege because I had grown up seeing many people with amputation in wheelchairs or on the streets of Rwanda," Humure recalled. “In many low- and middle-income countries people with disabilities in general, not just amputees, are excluded from any type of support or life necessities."

Despite improvements in the Rwandan health care system, the disability community remains at the lower rungs of society, according to Humure. Once patients have healed from their amputation, they are sent home and are seemingly forgotten. It was different for her: 

“PIH gave me a second chance at life.  In the same way, I want to change the lives of people living with amputation in Rwanda and beyond by establishing a prosthetic center."

Her first prosthesis only lasted a year. After being unable to find a qualified prosthetist in Rwanda, she returned to Boston. That's when her journey with advanced prosthetic technology began. She interned with MIT's Biomechatronics Group and D-Lab, prosthesis provider Next Step Bionics & Prosthetics, and 3D design firm Autodesk while getting her bachelor's degree at Wheaton College, Massachusetts. She also worked with Boston Marathon Bombing victims at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.

Claudine Humure stands on a hill overlooking city. Her high-tech prosthetic leg, top of which is shown, helped her achieve greater mobility Photo courtesy of Claudine HumureHumure’s high-tech prosthetic leg helped her achieve greater mobility. She hopes to bring better quality prosthesis to other Rwandans.

Humure is working toward a master's degree in Prosthetics & Orthotics at the University of Washington in Seattle with the goal of becoming a Certified Prosthetist and Orthotist because she believes, “I will be able to reach more people with this education under my belt."

Theresa Cruz, Director of NCMRR, asked her, what is the greatest need for research in low- and middle income countries? "It is about the numbers," replied Humure. How many people are living with amputation in Rwanda, where are they located, why aren't they accessing services available to them? “If we can do more research on getting the numbers to the surface, we will educate the community, we will educate the people in power." It is necessary for stakeholders to know about the need that is too often hidden from view, she said.

While Humure's goal to start a prosthetic clinic in her home country of Rwanda is still in the ideation phase, her hope is to one day supply prostheses to amputees who are unable to afford the costly ones available today. She anticipates that her work in 3D printing could help reduce the cost. She designed a 3D-printed adjustable prosthetic socket for transfemoral (above the knee) amputees, which garnered her an OZY Media Genius Award in 2017.

The center will focus on clinical care, clinical research, and continuing education and training for prosthetists and orthotists living in Rwanda with a focus on new technologies.

Humure envisions her “future prosthetic center will help restore hope and boost morale for the people living with amputation in Rwanda." She also hopes to “bring amputation data to the surface and raise the voice of the amputee community in Rwanda and sub-Saharan Africa." Director Roger Glass echoed this sentiment: “[Humure] is just the kind of person Fogarty would like to see grow and have a research center of excellence in Rwanda, with the skill set to think about frugal innovation for tens of thousands of people not only in Rwanda, but across Africa."

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Updated October 6, 2022

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