In September 2018 UCU opened the School Of Medicine, admitting over 60 students. This story highlights the great need for education in this area, written by the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi.
“My grandson, coming up on two years in 2018, is a stark reminder of what Uganda doesn’t have in medical care. Despite all my education and connections, as well as those of my wife, Ruth, we were powerless to find anyone in our country who could fix his tiny heart that was broken from birth. My daughter and her husband flew with their five-month-old son to India, while we remained behind and prayed.
Today, as I cuddle him in my arms, melt under his smile and watch him run around our kitchen, I am reminded that men, women and children die more often in poor countries like mine.
The World Health Organization ranks Uganda’s healthcare as one of the worst in the world. Data verifying our provider deficiencies are:
- One of every 300 births ends a mother’s life.
- Malaria causes 14% of our deaths.
- One million people have HIV.
The Uganda Ministry of Health noted these among many other facts and factors in a development plan issued in 2015. Among data in this report are 45 infant deaths per 1,000 births and a Ugandan average life expectancy of less than 60 years. To put our need in perspective, the USA infant mortality rate is 7 per 1,000, and in the UK, the average person can expect to live to age 80. The Uganda “Vision 2040” plan addresses our deficiencies with goals over two decades.
Accomplishment by 2040 is too far away. We can’t wait.
That Uganda needs more doctors to resolve our health issue is without question. The World Health Organization reports 1 doctor per 13,000 Ugandans compared to 1 per 400 citizens in the United States. To provide these doctors, Uganda needs more medical schools.
What gives Uganda Christian University an edge in producing medical practitioners is not only institutional oversight for knowledge and skill, but also the moral and ethical ties to Christianity. In short, doctors who are strong in Christian faith care more about people they serve.
It took quite a bit of convincing – two years in fact – for me to agree that our university should start a medical school. My biggest concern was the cost. We didn’t have the funds. We still do not have all the money we need to effectively run the medical school without compromising other units of the university. We pride ourselves in running a fiscally responsible institution.
We prayed quite a bit as we still do about that ongoing need of funding for books, equipment, student tuition and facility space. The answer was that what we didn’t have God and His people would provide. We took a leap of faith.
The first Uganda Christian University School of Medicine’s 60 students – 50 in medicine and 10 in dentistry and more than half female – started classes in early September of 2018 with hopes to graduate this first class in 2022.
Adding dentistry and medicine programs was a natural outgrowth of our university’s health-related programs that evolved in the institution’s 21-year history. In the months before the School of Medicine official launch on September 14, 2018, the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences became the UCU School of Medicine (UCUSoM), drawing in the existing programs of nursing, public health, and Save the Mothers health administration with the new medicine and dentistry tracks.
The Mengo Hospital and Uganda Christian University collaboration was a given with our quality standing among East African universities, our university’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.” Additionally, the medical school supports our university’s strategic plan to increase science programs and its design to enhance evidenced-based practice and research. The programing also aligns with Uganda’s goal to expand science-related careers.
Data was a main driver to start the medical school. In addition to what I already shared, more than half of Uganda’s citizens have no access to public health facilities, and 62% of health care posts are unfilled. Respiratory and blood pressure issues are increasing alongside HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis, malaria and diabetes. At that, there are simply some health problems – like a baby’s failing heart – we are not equipped to handle.
I realize that most Ugandans can’t afford to fly a loved one 3,418 miles for a life-saving procedure. I know, too, that UCU’s medical school can’t heal all the sick or eliminate Uganda’s health care needs. But what we’re doing will make a dent.
With the hand of God and His people, the first class of the Uganda Christian University School of Medicine is up to the task. They are doing it for my grandson, for all of Uganda’s 35 million people and for those yet to come.”