UCU Launches School of Medicine with foresight, planning, prayer
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2018/09/ucu-launches-school-of-medicine-with-foresight-planning-prayer/
By Patty Huston-Holm
This, according to Dr. Ned Kanyesigye, sums up not only the reason that Uganda Christian University (UCU) started a medical school, but also what makes UCU unique in doing it.
That Uganda needs more doctors is without question. The World Health Organization reports 1 doctor per 13,000 Ugandans compared to the 1 per 400 citizens in the United States. To churn out these doctors, Uganda needs more medical schools. What gives UCU an edge in producing medical practitioners is not only institutional oversight for knowledge and skill, but also the moral and ethical ties to Christianity.
“We know the need,” said Dr. Ned, Dean of the UCU School of Medicine (SoM). “But we’re about quality and not quantity. Our country’s infant mortality rate is high and our life expectancy is low.”
The first 60 students – 50 in medicine and 10 in dentistry and more than half female – started classes in the UCU School of Medicine in early September of 2018 with hopes to graduate in 2022. The selection process was painstaking as five credentialed professionals wove through 500 applicants with impeccable high school transcripts. That number was reduced to 150 who were scrutinized for reading habits, writing and overall communication ability, science expertise, faith, and knowledge of current affairs.
Criteria without wealth consideration
“Whether they had money was low on the criteria,” said Edward Kanyesigye, who is known as Dr. Ned. “I was poor and overcame it. But clearly they must pay fees or be forced to drop out. ”
The first class of 60 includes bright, energetic young people from all parts of Uganda with a few from African countries of Eritrea, Nigeria, South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania. They study and live within a hospital complex in Mengo, a hillside community 1.5 miles from the heart of Uganda’s capital city of Kampala and near an archway leading to the King of Buganda palace. They learn from lecturers and books and through practicums at the Mengo hospital.
“We got them exposed to cadavers right away,” Dr. Ned commented. “We prepared them in advance, and all were engaged.”
“Who got the idea for a medical school?” Dr. Ned pondered the question out loud. In the midst of the planning and a year before the opening, he sat behind his office desk in the UCU Mukono campus Academic Building. “I can’t say it was me. There was collective thought. The Province of the Church of Uganda was talking about it for years. Based on successful health-related programs here at UCU, it was a natural progression.”
In July of 2014, a team of UCU faculty and other Province of Church of Uganda stakeholders (including Mengo Hospital management) met to discuss medical service gaps in Uganda. Seated around a table at Silver Springs Hotel near Kampala, around 30 people looked at data verifying the need beyond Uganda’s already existing 10 medical schools, discussed what a quality health professionals training might look like and examined possible facility and personnel requirements.
Instrumental to the startup was Dr. Miriam Gesa Mutabazi, a senior medical doctor (obstetrician gynecologist by training) and now executive director of the Save the Mothers program at UCU. She assisted with the new school on a consultancy basis to coordinate the day-to-day process of “growing the medical school project.” She was influential in putting together the curriculum and convening meetings of the medical school’s working group on the project.
Adding dentistry and medicine was a natural outgrowth of UCU health-related programs that evolved in the institution’s 21-year history. In the months before the UCU School of Medicine official launch on September 14, 2018, the UCU Department of Health Sciences became the School of Medicine, folding in the already existing programs of nursing, public health, and Save the Mothers health administration with the new medicine and dentistry tracks.
“Nobody said ‘medical school’ right away,” Dr. Ned. “But most of us, including the Vice Chancellor (Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi), knew that was why we were there at that meeting four years ago. In the end, it was unanimous.”
UCU-Mengo Hospital collaborative
The Mengo Hospital and UCU collaboration was a given with UCU’s quality standing among East African universities, UCU’s nearby Kampala campus and Mengo’s reputation as Uganda’s oldest hospital and its modernization in the 121 years since its inception. In addition to acknowledging the need, both partners already had shared values of ethics, holistic practices, compassion and “witness of Jesus Christ.” A medical school supports the UCU strategic plan to increase science programs and its design to enhance evidenced-based practice and research. The programing also aligns with the Uganda’s goal to expand science-related careers.
As with any new project, there were bumps in the road, Dr. Ned recalled. The start date was later than the original plan due to the approval process of the National Council of Higher Education. Under God’s plan that “in all things God works for the good of those of love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28),” however, Dr. Ned pointed out that the delay translated into a higher quality program. The added time allowed more study about staffing, facilities, curriculum, student applications, tuition, governance and overall design.
Data was a main driver. More than half of Uganda’s citizens have no access to public health facilities, and 62% of health care posts are unfilled. Women and their babies are dying during the birth process. Respiratory and blood pressure issues are increasing alongside HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes.
In addition to foundational programs required of all UCU students and renovated space, the start of the program includes:
- Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry curriculum guided by full-time lecturers and part-time teachers;
- Old Testament Bible Study;
- Clinical specialists (pediatrics, medicine, surgery, gynecology); and
- Hands-on skill training to compliment video, textbook and lecture content.
Subsequent years could enable allowing some students to opt out of courses based on their high qualifications, including experience; conducting internships and practicums at various locations; and attaining degrees beyond the initial two (medicine, dentistry) to those in pharmacy, biomedical laboratory science and nursing science.
“We continue to be besieged by calls and emails from potential students wanting in,” Dr. Ned said. “Medicine is a highly competitive field. We want applicants who are ready to apply social responsibility, empathy, integrity, individual and team skills and problem solving and to engage in lifelong learning.”
Among outcomes required for the UCU School of Medicine graduates is wellness. They need to practice and teach disease prevention and cure and describe and prescribe for illnesses and injuries.
Need for student sponsorship
That the first class of UCU School of Medicine is up to the tasks is without question. The biggest hurdle is money for staffing, equipment and students. Tuition is $4,100 a year (includes room and board) for each of the five years. Sponsors are needed. In addition to full support:
- Every gift of $150 will provide library materials for one student.
- 25 donors giving $50/month will buy the physiology simulator.
- $500 scholarships will help offset the costs for students since most Ugandans live on $2 per day.
- 4 donors giving $2,500 will help the School obtain the anatomy software needed this year.
“While we spent time in both prayer and study for this to happen, clearly we need support,” the dean said.
For Dr. Ned, this new venture is just one of many in his career that has taken him throughout Uganda and in various medical-related leader and teacher positions that include practicum related to patient care, tobacco control and the fight against HIV/AIDS, among others. He is finding the possibilities exciting not because of any personal legacy but because of ability impact positive change.
“We are in the business of mankind so wherever the need is, we hope we can help meet it,” he said.
More information about the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine can be obtained at https://www.ugandapartners.org/priority-projects or http://ucu.ac.ug/component/k2/item/25-ucu-to-launch-her-medical-school.
Support from the United States can be addressed to Mark Bartels, executive director, UCU Partners, at email@example.com or https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/ To support the UCU School of Medicine from Uganda, send mobile money on 0772 770852 (Uganda Christian University) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patty Huston-Holm of Ohio in the USA is a visiting UCU faculty member, working on various writing projects and serving as the volunteer communications director with the UCU Partners NGO that is based in Pennsylvania, United States.