Dr. Kayumba Kizito, Director of TRACnet
ISDS created the Member Highlight series as a way to highlight member achievements, interests, and inspirations in an effort to showcase successful and highly active ISDS members. This month's highlighted member, Kayumba Kizito, hails from Rwanda.
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I was working in Treatment and Research AIDS Center (TRAC) and I was looking for a master's program that I could focus on after my medical studies. By searching online, I had opportunity to read about epidemiology and I was interested. I therefore followed an online course of epidemiology at Bordeaux School of Public Health, Epidemiology and Development. While working with Voxiva Inc. as TRACnet Project director, we had to design an electronic disease surveillance system for Rwanda in 2010. I had to use the knowledge acquired in epidemiology and I found out that solving health problems using technology with the knowledge in epidemiology and statistics was a perfect fit for me. I then decided to complete my studies with a master program in epidemiology and I'm now confident with enough theoretical and practical expertise in disease surveillance.
What do you do?
Since 2009, I'm a Director of the TRACnet system. TRACnet is an internet based and phone based national system that collects, stores, analyzes and disseminates HIV and disease surveillance data in Rwanda. The overall goal of TRACnet is to promote health care by the effective and efficient use of data by program managers and political leaders in Rwanda. I coordinate all activities leading to the conception, requirements gathering, designing, testing and deploying electronic system building on TRACnet technology. I also support the Rwanda Biomedical Center to assure the TRACnet data quality and data use at all levels of the health system.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy seeing that data reported and analyzed is being transformed into useful information that supports decision making. I like the way we timely detect outbreaks and alert surveillance officials for quick investigation.
What excites you in the work you do?
I'm excited by the way technology has improved disease surveillance in Rwanda. In 2009, disease surveillance was paper based with late and incomplete reports that could not allow the timely outbreak detection. Now, technology has evolved this situation.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
Pamela Johnson, who had an idea of using mobile phone to handle the problem of reporting during an outbreak of cholera in the Peruvian Navy, inspires me. I feel delighted to be working with a group of experts who are solutions oriented, especially for promoting disease surveillance in developing countries.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)?
My proudest professional accomplishment is to have been able to lead the conception, the design and the deployment of the national electronic disease surveillance system in Rwanda. We started the system conception in 2010. We elaborated the requirements specification document, then we designed the system and we completed the trainings of all the end users in public and private health facilities in Rwanda in December 2013. Thanks to the algorithms and thresholds that we set in the system, the system detects outbreaks and alerts the disease surveillance officials about the probable outbreaks. I'm proud of it because it is unique technology which has improved timeliness and completeness of reporting and helped officials detect outbreaks rapidly, investigate them and mount a quick response within the country and across our borders.
How long have you been involved with ISDS?
I have been involved with ISDS since 2012. I got membership for ISDS in early 2012 and I attended the 2012 ISDS conference in San Diego, CA in December 2012.
Why are you an ISDS member?
As an epidemiologist, it is quite advantageous for me to interact with a community of disease surveillance actors to share the best practices. Because of ISDS's diversity in membership, it is easily the best place to integrate professionally.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership?
ISDS helps me to share valuable knowledge with experts in disease surveillance from all over the world.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)?
In my opinion, the biggest issue in disease surveillance is to harmonize the surveillance systems between countries in order to facilitate cross-border surveillance.
If you weren't Director of TRACnet, what would you be?
I would be a pediatrician. I'm sensitive about children's sufferance and it makes me pleasure to take care and protect children.