By Douglas Olum
As Uganda Christian University (UCU) launched its new School of Medicine recently, it has been tasked to produce doctors with ethics and integrity.
The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, made this call during the School launch onFriday September 14 at the Archbishop’s Gardens in Namirembe.
Rugunda revealed that many universities were graduating medical doctors every year, but that the questions of ethics and integrity remain a big challenge.
“In spite of the huge number of medical doctors we are already producing, Uganda is still greatly underserved in terms of medical doctors and not just in terms of numbers. We need professionals with integrity and ethics. We hope the doctors who will come from this institution will be those with a high level of professionalism, integrity and ethics,” Rugunda said.
He added, “We hope they will be professionals who put patients first. We hope the doctors will not only excel in service delivery but also research.”
The Premier’s advice comes at the backdrop of the University Council’s resolution adopting professionalism and character as the institution’s niche. Professionalism in this case entails appearance, demeanour and mindset.
Rugunda also noted that while Uganda was making good progress in the health sector, there was a huge challenge of non-communicable diseases among Ugandans.
He, therefore, urged the public to observe strict health practices like washing hands after visiting the toilets to prevent diseases.
Speaking at the same event, the Minister of Health, Dr Ruth Aceng, echoed the call for ethics and professionalism among the students, saying there is a huge problem of attitude among Ugandan medical workers.
Dr Aceng said while many medical doctors are already being produced at the first degree level by universities across the country, the UCU School of Medicine should not only focus on educating doctors at the Bachelor’s degree level but also on having more specialists in the various areas of specialty.
Her call follows a recent revelation by the State Minister of Health in charge of General Duties, Sarah Opendi, who told legislators during a plenary sitting that Government was struggling to attract and retain specialists in various disciplines because of the meagre pay offered to them.
While addressing journalists prior to the event, the UCU Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, said Ugandans were not receiving enough medical attention due to the scarcity of doctors. He said the establishment of the School of Medicine was a partial search to address the problem.
Dr Senyonyi also said the School hopes to venture into locally based research in the near future to counter the continuous reliance of Ugandan medical practitioners on imported health care guidelines as a way of improving health care in the country.
Asked whether the School of Medicine was ready to meet the great public expectations, Dr Edward Kanyesigye, the pioneer Dean of the School, told The Standard that they are equal to the task.
We are very prepared. We selected very qualified students; we have very qualified staff both in the academia and medical practice. I think our biggest strength is on the staffing. We have up to 17 consultants as part-timers already seeing our students twice in a week, something other universities only begin to do when their students are already in third-year,” Dr Kanyesigye said.
Furthermore, he emphasized that the school stands a higher chance of producing the desired quality of graduates because “God is on our side.”
Background of the School
The UCU School of Medicine is an extension of the former Faculty of Health Sciences. It was founded in collaboration with Mengo Hospital which is the teaching hospital and accredited by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) in March this year.
A total of 62 pioneer students have been enrolled to study the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, and the Bachelor of Dental Surgery, respectively.
Mengo Hospital Medical Director, Dr Rose Mutumba, said they are proud to offer the training site for the School. She said the Hospital was ready to employ its 122 years of experience in health service delivery to train the doctors.
Dr Mutumba asked the students to learn ethics, professionalism and character which are very essential in the medical profession and practice. She also urged them to respect the nurses at the facility because they have valuable experience which is very resourceful to the learners.
In his speech, the UCU Chancellor and Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, said the extended footprint of the university in educating students call for greater outreach.
Ntagali said the establishment of the School of Medicine is a partial fulfilment of the desire to inch further into the world.
He also said because most people come into the world and depart in the hands of health workers, good training of medical personnel is an essential part of Christian institutions like UCU.