By Steve Vivona
Pharmacist Dr. Joel Zive has spent much of his professional life
ministering to those afflicted with HIV/AIDS through his
Bronx-based family business. A 1992 graduate of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Dr. Zive was invited to
participate in a humanitarian mission to the African nation of
Rwanda last January, and returned profoundly moved by the
Tapped to help set up a pharmacy for medical study, Dr. Zive was
initially hesitant at the prospect of leaving his family and
traveling to a country with a dangerous reputation. The trip
resulted from a chance meeting with a colleague he met in Bangkok,
Thailand, while returning home from an international HIV
“While waiting to go home, I met Dr. (Kathryn) Anastos in the
terminal and struck up a conversation. During the late summer and
fall of 2004 we touched base briefly. After seeing a presentation
on Rwanda by a doctor who went to Kigali (in Rwanda) to further Dr.
Anastos’ research project, I called and asked her if she needed any
help. She called back a few days later and invited me out to
The project involved opening a clinic for HIV-positive women and
their children, many of whom were infected during the atrocities
committed during the decade-long genocide the country experienced.
The pharmacy was needed to track where and when the women were
receiving their medication as part of a study.
Dr. Zive noted he received a great deal of support from
colleagues, including Dean Robert Mangione. “Dean Mangione was a
good sounding board for my trip. In our conversations he made me
aware of aspects regarding the Rwanda trip I had not thought
about.” He also received donations of drugs, computer programs and
printers from friends and colleagues.
While there Dr. Zive said he was extremely impressed by the
character of the Rwandan people. “They were extraordinarily kind
and intelligent. The people I worked with were exceptional. Some
spoke several languages and were quite resourceful.” The clinic’s
team was comprised of Rwandan natives and exiles, he explained.
While he encountered some difficulties completing his task, such
as an unstable power grid and a scarcity of quality equipment, Dr.
Zive successfully completed his objective, navigating a system much
less efficient that its U.S. counterpart, and adapting his work to
suit the new environment. In his two weeks there he was able to
train native Rwandans in the programs to continue the tracking
aspect of the clinic project, which is ongoing.
Making the most of his limited free time Dr. Zive visited the
western part of the country experiencing the native culture,
attending soccer matches as well as visiting a genocide memorial.
He hopes his work there had as much positive influence as the
natives had on him.
“When I deliver pharmacy care to my HIV patients, I will be even
more compassionate than I was before. I will strive even more to
keep patient’s needs in mind when I make pharmacy business