How long have you been a member of AAAM?
In Spring 2018 I met Tom Bishop of Amend who invited me to join him at the UNRSC meeting in NYC where I met then-AAAM President Dr. Gary Smith. Dr. Smith sold me and I circled back to my newly forming collaboration with Dr. Terry Smith and Dr. Jason Luck. We put together a poster on traumatic brain injuries due to motorcycle crashes in Rwanda that was accepted for presentation at the conference later that year.
What inspired you to join AAAM?
See above. Additionally, Rwandan medicine is really challenging, motivating me towards opportunities to prevent injuries over treating them.
What are your main areas of interest in the field of Automotive Medicine?
The entire continuum. Ideally, prevent the crash. If you can’t prevent the crash, prevent the injury. If you can’t prevent the injury, do the best job possible to care for the patient and optimize their outcomes.
What do you find most rewarding about working in this field?
How much I learn through collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines and countries.
What challenges have you faced over the years and how have you overcome them?
Losing my professional identity as an emergency physician as clinical work became miserable. I haven’t really overcome this but am so grateful for interesting and satisfying new opportunities working on road safety in Rwanda.
What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?
I spent my summer after college in Guadalajara, Mexico flying with the Zapopan Policia and riding with Cruz Verde ambulances.
How do you think the field is changing and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon?
Road safety professionals committed to justice will pivot their work to adapting successful road safety approaches in countries like Sweden to African countries.
What advice would you give to someone interested in this field?
Don’t just adapt the road safety things you know how to do to African contexts; teach African students how to work on road safety independently.
What’s one thing – either field-related or not – you learned in the last month?
That scuba diving in cold water is not for me.
Is there anything else you would like to share with your colleagues?
Rwanda is transforming the safety and efficiency of its roads and I’m so happy for the opportunity to contribute. 3 years ago we started investigating the question of how much impact the lack of helmet standards makes on head injury outcomes after motorcycle crashes. Helmet law compliance is nearly 100% in Rwanda, and there is a thriving motorcycle taxi industry that requires drivers to provide a helmet for all passengers. However, there is no minimum standard of impact protection required for helmets sold and used in the country nor are there regulations that mandate replacement if damaged and so on. Ultimately this work along with a very new AAAM member Dr. Innocent Nzeyimana (left in this photo at the 2020 Global Ministerial Road Safety Meeting in Stockholm Sweden) lead to many other Road Safety projects and collaborations with different Rwandan institutions that shared our goals and interests. Innocent is the president and founder of a local NGO named healthy people Rwanda and one of the few that works on Road Safety in the country. So far we have been successful at supporting the Ministry of Infrastructure to win a three-year award from the United Nations Road Safety Fund to establish helmet standards in Rwanda while a complementary award from the FIA foundation will support the installation of helmet impact testing equipment so that standards can be verified. Additionally, we build a foundation able to support innovation around injury prevention methodology and support Rwanda to be able to independently test their own helmets.
Innocent and I also worked together with the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) of Canada to win a research grant from the Global Road Safety facility of the World Bank to complete a comprehensive study of the national automated speed enforcement program that Rwanda is rolling out. Rwanda is a very small country, only about 300 km in diameter, but has already installed about 350 cameras that are triggered to capture a photo of the license plate of a vehicle that is traveling over the speed limit. Rwanda has already established a robust system that links national identification with mobile phone numbers and the registration of vehicles. As such, the entire process can be automated so that when the license plate number linked to a registration is detected on a vehicle traveling over the speed limit a violation is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle that was over speeding via text message. This text message includes a link to an online payment portal and instructions about the need to pay the fine within three days of receipt unless additional fines are to be added to the original violation. Our study included an intensive investigation to determine the automated speed enforcement program design and implementation processes that were utilized by the government of Rwanda over the past several years. Additionally, we used the data available to us to perform an intermittent time series analysis aiming to identify the impacts of the program. To supplement the available data we collected new data to understand the average speeds traveled past overt automated enforcement cameras and hidden cameras and sites with similar characteristics to understand how these cameras impact driver behavior. Finally, we conducted a nationally representative population survey to understand the knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of the Rwandan population related to automated speed enforcement and Road Safety.
Lastly, Innocent and HPR are also partners in the https://www.trans-safe.org consortium that includes many African and European partner institutions that won a four-year, €4 million award from the European Commission aiming at radical transformations in African road safety. In addition to HPR the University of Rwanda is included in this consortium.
In this photo, taken in Tampere, Finland, I am with our colleagues from TAMK University of applied sciences and Dr. Alphonse Nkurunziza who is a transport engineer and the Director of the African Center of Excellence in transport and logistics that we are building at the University of Rwanda. A former student of Alphonse, Moise Bitangaza, is also joining the Center of Excellence and is pictured here as well. We visited our collaborators from TAMK and Novia Universities of applied sciences, with whom we successfully competed for a team Finland knowledge award from their department of education that aims to fund international collaboration and encourage bilateral faculty and student mobility. Our project will build capacity in Rwanda for safe and sustainable Transport Logistics.
We are very fortunate in Rwanda to find interested colleagues like Dr. Fran, the president of AAAM, who are keen to lend their expertise in designing and launching a new injury biomechanics lab at his university in Spain. Similarly, Dr. Terry Smith was instrumental in our successful applications for funding from the UN Road Safety Fund and FIA foundation in support of motorcycle helmet standards and he plans to visit Rwanda and build capacity for helmet impact testing and innovative research around head injury prevention. Finally, at the 2019 AAAM conference, I am grateful to have met Dr. Richard Frampton from Loughborough University in the UK. Our discussions facilitated two applications to the UK National Institute for Health Research around improvements in Road Safety data in countries like Rwanda. All of these stories and this name-dropping is meant to illustrate the quantity and broad diversity of interesting opportunities related to understanding and improving Road Safety in African countries. Small, friendly organizations like AAAM are ideal vehicles by which to welcome new, less-experienced colleagues who might find bigger professional organizations intimidating. We welcome all interested colleagues who want to consider how your experience and training might add unique value and inspire new research questions about African Road Safety. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I’m happy to facilitate connections.