Partners American Consultant Message: Partnership value for Uganda Christian University School of Medicine (Part II)
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/04/partners-american-consultant-message-partnership-value-for-uganda-christian-university-school-of-medicine-part-ii/
By Brendah Ndagire
In February 2019, Uganda Christian University Partners’ USA- based Consultant, Doug Fountain, conducted a series of consultation meetings in Uganda and other African countries. He met with medical education experts involved with the Christian Medical and Dental Association (USA), representatives from Johnson and Johnson Global Community Impact and Novartis Social Business, medical education leaders from Kabarak University, Kenya, and local leaders from the Ministry of Health and Mengo Hospital. This interview, edited for clarity, explores why building partnerships is an important aspect of growing and sustaining Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Medicine.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Doug Fountain. I am a consultant with Uganda Christian University (UCU) Partners, in support of the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine. Also, I am Executive Director for a Christian organization called Christian Connection for International Health. I’ve worked in health care for almost 30 years.
What does your role with UCU Partners entail?
As a consultant, I am supporting UCU Partners to develop a strategy for providing the resources needed to support the School of Medicine. In the past, I worked with UCU and helped to start the Department of Health Sciences. About a year ago, I finished working with an NGO and set up a consulting group to support organizations like this, and UCU Partners was actually the first organization that reached out to ask, “Can you help us with the School of Medicine?” I have been working with (UCU Partners) since June 2018.
Why are partnerships important to the School of Medicine?
There is no way that UCU can start a medical school on its own. It has to have partnerships that bring a combination of human resources, education materials, books, financial support, and research opportunities. The financial support helps implement the first phase of the project, such as to build the school and attract and retain high-quality staff. Partnership takes the form of donation of products, goods, (and) services like volunteers to work.
What can UCU do to best equip current medical and dental students?
It is going to take a combination of supporting them to have the right attitude and to have the right technical skills. This gets formed in part by the Christian character of training – an attitude that emphasizes dignity of the patient, compassionate care and high ethical standards. Those are critical, but then (the university) has to make sure that it is providing training that is current and informed by evidence-based practice. The medical field is always evolving with new information, research, and new insights. The medical school has to give the most important information to students as they come through. Medical practitioners have to think fast because what they memorized 30 years ago may no longer be the best practice. They have to take some time taking in new information, conducting research and figuring out how to adapt their practice to new evidence.
Uganda Christian University is a provincial institution of the Church of Uganda (CoU). Where do you see the role of the CoU in the School of Medicine project?
The Church’s role is critical. There are very few instances in the world that I know of, where such a large Church structure has both a well-developed university and hospitals, including Mengo. The Church is providing a vision for health that says, “we will seek to have the CoU health services be the best health services available.” We hope to see this thinking grow to include more support for medical training in the CoU system and, eventually, employment of graduates. There should be a syncing between the School of Medicine, the broader Church and all its health facilities in Uganda.
What already existing private or public health institutions can be partnership opportunities for UCU?
A university could offer to do research projects with UCU in which they support a part of the training that is happening. For instance, imagine training in cancer care. There may be research funding available to help UCU figure out oncology patient care better and the partner may provide some equipment, training and financial resources to help the School of Medicine do this. There are also grants that come from foundations and corporations. Corporations are interested in building capacity of the health systems to provide good quality care. I think there are many partners out there who haven’t yet thought about how to engage with medical education. For example, if (an institution) is doing a malaria control program, then can the NGOs think about sending people for advanced training?
During your time here, you also met with one of UCU’s potential partners, Medical Teams International. As a Christian NGO, where do you see its role in accompanying UCU School of Medicine?
Medical Teams International provides medical care for over 800,000 refugees in Uganda. And it is not just refugees; they also provide health care for more than 400,000 people through their network of 58 health facilities. So they employ lots of medical doctors, clinical officers, and nurses. Since it is a faith-based institution, they are potential employers for future UCU School of Medicine graduates.
What do you see as the challenges involved with the UCU School of Medicine?
I don’t think there is anything easy about raising resources for the School of Medicine. Sometimes people assume that medical and dental students are better off, they are privileged, and heading to jobs that would be better-paying jobs. The reality is most of the students who have come to participate in these programs do not have the means to pay for their basic education. It is really a testimony to the faith of students who have come to study that they will find the resources. We need to educate our donors to be able to support the School of Medicine. One of the threats to high-quality medical education is when universities start up programs but cannot get quality resources together. They start occupying clinical training spaces, and starting producing graduates that are crowding the field, and they haven’t been able to measure up to the quality of other high-quality programs. UCU has to be able to measure up so far, and have a high-quality program.
Recognizing other challenges, such as the limited space for learning, the need for laboratory equipment, lack of full-time staff, the expense of medical school, and the need for quality medical doctors in Uganda, how do we mobilize people to support this needed initiative?
Keep raising awareness of the need and continuously telling stories of the amazing students who are part of the School of Medicine. We have very committed students who want to make a change in the health sector and do a great job serving people. We have to tell their stories. Since this is a pioneer class, you have to create the path. This means UCU has to find the basic resources. Currently, it has 60 students. In 5 years, there will be 300 students in total. It would need more classroom space. And UCU is already thinking about that.
As a UCU Partners Consultant, what gives you hope and joy when you think about this project?
There is a lot of good faith from students and partners that the university is a high-quality (University). If it is committed to something, it will see it through well. UCU has a great history with its Nursing program, Law program and other programs that have made a huge impact in the country and beyond. It is easy to believe that the School of Medicine would do the same. What we see with the Nursing program alone, 14 years after it was launched, is it helping to change the face of nursing in Uganda. What would it look like if 14 years from now a Christian medical program is able to change the face of medical care in Uganda?
More information about the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine can be obtained athttps://www.ugandapartners.org/priority-projects. To support the School of Medicine, contact Mark Bartels, executive director, UCU Partners, at firstname.lastname@example.org or donate at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/.