Rwanda still suffers from communicable diseases which frequently lead to epidemics. In addition to other health workforce needs, Rwanda also lacks a public health workforce that can operate multi-disease surveillance and response systems at the national and sub-national levels.In 2009 and 2010 the Rwanda Ministry of Health and its partners from the Government of Rwanda (GOR) as well as the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Field Epidemiology Network, and other partners embarked on a series of activities to develop a public health workforce that would be trained to operate disease surveillance and response systems at the national and district levels. The Rwanda Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (RFELTP) is a 2-year public health leadership development training program that provides applied epidemiology and public health laboratory training while the trainees provide public health service to the Ministry of Health. RFELTP is hosted at the National University of Rwanda School of Public Health for the didactic training. RFELTP is funded by GOR, the US Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the World Bank; it is managed by a multi-sectoral steering committee headed by the Minister of Health. The first RFELTP cohort has 15 residents who were recruited from key health programs in GOR. Over the first year of implementation, these 15 residents have conducted a variety of field investigations and responded to several outbreaks. RFELTP has also trained 145 frontline health workers through its two-week applied short courses. In the future, RFELTP plans to develop a veterinary track to address public health issues at the animal-human interface.