Student Profile: Ebola was dose of inspiration
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/01/student-profile-ebola-was-dose-of-inspiration/
(NOTE: In September 2018, Uganda Christian University launched a School of Medicine with 60 students. To “put a face” on Uganda’s future doctors and dentists, some of these students were interviewed at the completion of the first semester. This is a story about one of these students.)
By Frank Obonyo
As I sat down to write her story, one thing became clear. Beatrice Birungi’s aspirations are comparable to those of Dr. Bernard Rieux in the novel, The Plague.
In his fictional account, Rieux was one of the first people to urge the public to take stringent measures to fight the deadly epidemic that struck the French Algerian City of Oran. When it is placed under quarantine, Dr. Rieux continues to battle the plague despite signs that his efforts make little or no difference. Although he is separated from his wife, he does not allow his personal distress to distract him from his battle to relieve the collective social suffering.
Just like Oran City, Beatrice’s village Bumate in Bundibugyo District Western Uganda was swept by an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic in 2010 when she was just eight. Four of her relatives died because of the deadly virus, and the surviving ones were not allowed to take part in the burial ceremonies. In any African tradition, telling one that they cannot bury their loved ones can be tormenting.
As a little child, she saw her surviving relatives quarantined by the government to reduce any further spread of the virus. Ebola spreads through direct contact with infected bodily fluids—and the disease can cause people to excrete blood and other bodily fluids as they die. Thus, the precaution of the quarantine occurred.
Beatrice then made up her mind to study and become a medical doctor in order to raise awareness about Ebola prevention and treatment with the hope of saving her community. She is one of the pioneers of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Medicine.
“I want to become a doctor so that I can help my people should that kind of epidemic strike again,” Beatrice said. “I felt that there was much more that would have been done such as educating health workers on better understanding of the disease and strengthening clinical care.”
Time and time again, it has been necessary for Beatrice to have a strong will and determination. She has never been the type of student who looked down on herself. She has a heart to help the community and believes that an African girl deserves to achieve much even amidst all odds.
“Girls should not be put in this little picture of a small person who is only supposed to be beautiful and speak nicely,” she said. “They also can become doctors.”
She chose UCU’s School of Medicine because she was told by her dad and three other siblings who studied at UCU that she would receive a holistic education – one that addresses the hands, head and heart.
“We have a tight schedule at the School of Medicine but it is all about setting priorities right,” she said. “Our school is new, but there is a bright future for it. I love the small class because it enables us to interact with lecturers so freely, and we hope to get more and better equipment which will be used to train us into better medics.”
Beatrice also is a writer. She started working on a fictional story in 2017 and believes she will be a published author within the next two years.
Against equal opportunity challenges common to most African girls, Beatrice decided she would not allow negative people to keep her from achieving her goals. She has hope and a “no-give-up” spirit.
“I am proud to say that I have always been determined to pass and graduate as a medical doctor even though my society often believes that the girl child is only good for marriage,” she said.
More information about the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine can be obtained at https://www.ugandapartners.org/priority-projects To support science students, books and facilities at the medical school, contact Mark Bartels, executive director, UCU Partners, firstname.lastname@example.org or donate directly at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/