UCU student meets medical idol: ‘She is my hero’
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2023/02/ucu-student-meets-medical-idol-she-is-my-hero/
By Pauline Luba
Mulungi Jemimah Mulamba and Dr. Juliet Sekabunga Nalwanga are separated by as many incidents in their lives as they are united.
One point of convergence for the two Ugandan women is that they chose the same career path — human medicine. Another unifying factor is that both are daughters of academic parents. Mulungi’s father, Peter Mulamba, is an agricultural engineer and lecturer at Uganda’s Makerere University, and her mother, Esther Lilian Mulamba, teaches physiology at Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) School of Medicine. Nalwanga’s father, Prof. Sekabunga, was a respected academic and a well-known pediatric surgeon at Uganda’s national referral facility, Mulago Hospital. Another of the points of intersection is that Nalwanga and the mother of Mulungi are both academics at UCU’s School of Medicine.
Recently, Nalwanga and Mulungi met in class at UCU’s School of Medicine, the former as the teacher of the latter. Mulungi is in year four, pursuing a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, and part of Nalwanga’s roles at UCU is to teach neurosurgery courses to year-four students.
Before 2018, Mulungi hadn’t even heard Nalwanga’s name. However, an achievement that the latter had in the same year threw her in the limelight. Nalwanga became the first female neurosurgeon in Uganda, a feat that earned her global recognition in a field where specialists are rare. By 2021, with a population of more than 40 million people, there were only 21 neurosurgeons in Uganda. The World Health Organization recommends one neurosurgeon for every 100,000 people.
“She is my hero and a living testimony that one can have a successful career in medicine while still balancing out other sectors in their life,” Mulungi said of Nalwanga.
Mulungi is still debating on which field to specialize in for her post-graduate studies. Three areas — neurosurgery, cardiothoracic surgery and gynecology — are on the table. Can the charm of her idol, Nalwanga, sway her towards neurosurgery to create another point of convergence for the two?
“I like neurosurgery because the brain has always fascinated me, cardiothoracic surgery because modern habits are leading people to develop new conditions and gynecology because I’m interested in the work of bringing in new life,” Mulungi said, further creating a mystery on what she will finally zero in on.
But maybe it’s too early for the fuss. The 22-year-old still has another year of study, and another year of a mandatory medical internship before graduation.
What is for sure is she intends to use her profession to help women, especially when it comes to giving birth. “Women should not be paying hefty sums to health facilities to be able to give birth or for postnatal care,” she said, adding that she hopes for Ugandan facilities that will cater for women with issues related to antenatal and postnatal care.
She says the main reason she applied to join UCU was because she wanted the university’s strong Christian foundation to reinforce her religious beliefs. One of her favorite programs is the lunch-hour, Christian fellowship that is conducted at the university every Tuesday and Thursday. Mulungi says her goal is to become a medical practitioner whose faith leads her practice. She is a firm believer in the mantra that medics administer medicines to patients, but the healing power of the sickness remains with God. In the future, Mulungi hopes to practice medicine alongside ministering the word of God.
For Mulungi’s early education, she attended Kampala Parents School for her primary learning and Nabisunsa Girls School for her secondary education. Both schools are in Kampala. Mulungi says she made a decision to study medicine when she was just 11 years old – a vision anchored in her desire to help people.
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