Eric Rucogoza_MSc alumni

Programme: MSc Cancer & Therapeutics

Year of study: 2019-2020

Undergraduate education: Bachelor of Pharmacy, University of Rwanda

Current role: Analyst in Sustainable Health Financing Program, Clinton Health Access Initiative - CHAI, Rwanda

Eric Rucogoza

What made you decide to study the MSc Cancer & Therapeutics programme at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London?

I took the decision to study this programme when I was working as a pharmacist at Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence in the North of my home country, Rwanda. There, from my observation of the care given to cancer patients, I realised that I needed further knowledge and skills to be able to provide appropriate cancer care and to better contribute to the development of treatment plans for cancer patients.

As a pharmacist, my interest was in drugs used and how their use can be improved to meet the needs of the patients. I searched for different universities and chose Queen Mary among them. However, my dreams could not have been realised if I had not obtained the Commonwealth Scholarship. I am always grateful to the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

What aspects did you enjoy most about the programme?

The first thing I enjoyed was the interaction between students and lecturers as well as the support provided by the Teaching Office to international students. Lecturers were always available for students whenever they needed them. Secondly, I enjoyed the clarity of the programme, which provided the full package needed for our different career aspirations, be it in clinics, research, industry, and many others. Third, I enjoyed the cultural and professional diversity among students, where we could share our different experiences and learn from each other at the same time. The fourth aspect I enjoyed was the location of BCI, which is at the centre of London and is ideal for someone who wants to visit and enjoy all the wonderful aspects of the city.

Can you describe your career path and touch on your current role?

I started as a pharmacist for a Non-Governmental Organisation, the Partners In Health - Inshuti Mu Buzima (PIH-IMB), which promotes health equity in all aspects, and provides preferential health care to the poor, to which they would not have access otherwise. I coordinated pharmacy activities in rural areas where PIH-IMB was operating. My duties were mainly the supply and delivery of drugs and other health commodities used in the treatment of non-communicable diseases. I was also in charge of ensuring that health care professionals are well trained to use drugs and other medical materials appropriately. My longest tenure was at Butaro Cancer Centre of Excellence, where, in addition to the duties described above, I was in charge of the supply and the use of drugs and medical materials used in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

It was during this time that I decided to direct my career path to cancer treatment. After completing my MSc, my current role fits well in my career path, where I am interning in a Cervical Cancer Program, which is piloting a project on the eradication of cervical cancer starting from the lowest level of the Rwandan healthcare system. I will be applying the current knowledge and skills that I got from my MSc programme, as well as gain hands-on skills.

How do you think your MSc will help you with your current role / future career path?

My MSc programme equipped me with up-to-date knowledge and skills in cancer treatment and the current direction in cancer research. As a pharmacist, who is aware of how heavy a burden cancer is to Rwandan patients, and how very limited we are in research and treatment infrastructures, the completion of the programme was an enlightenment. I now understand what is lacking and how it can be obtained, and what my contribution can be, which investments could be done and where emphasis can be put. My future career path is to become a researcher in cancer treatment. My interests are in women's cancers (particularly breast and cervical cancers) and paediatric cancers (particularly blood cancers).

Do you have any advice for prospective students who are considering this course?

I would like to recommend this course for prospective students, especially for the following three main reasons: 1) The programme is very interesting and thorough, and opens many horizons in different career paths. Therefore, students should be ready to work hard and remain focused; 2) The lecturers and Teaching Office are very helpful for anything a student may need, and students need not worry if they are coming from outside of London; 3) The diverse student body allows you to meet a variety of people with different training and experiences.