By BRIGHT NIWAHA and IVAN NAIJUKA
Uganda Christian University (UCU) is set to start a medical school in May. The school will be based on Namirembe Hill in Kampala.
On December 6, UCU signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Mengo Hospital to work hand-in-hand in training the learners.
UCU and Mengo Hospital are both Church founded institutions. The MoU was signed at the Provincial Offices in Kampala.
Since UCU started in 1997, its major academic programmes have been in the arts and humanities. But a few years ago, the university started venturing into science courses, including Bachelors of Nursing.
In his remarks at the signing of the MoU, the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, said that after the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) has accredited the medical school, the university will use it (the school) as a model to display quality education it is known for in the arts and humanities.
He explained the delay to start the medical school arguing that, “We would rather not start something until we are sure that what we are offering is something that will sell the university, because that is like shooting your self in the foot if in future your students are not good.”
Senyonyi said the university will start admitting students for the Medical School in the Trinity (May) Semester with not more than 50 students for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programmes and 20 for a Bachelor of Dental Science degree.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Dr Edward Kanyesigye, said the Medical School will contribute to solving the need for qualified medical workers in Uganda and the East African region.
The Medical school will initially be under the Faculty of Health Sciences.
According to The Guardian newspaper, Uganda’s doctor to patient ratio in 2013 was estimated at 1:24,725 with a nurse to patient ratio of 1:11,000. Yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends one physician per 1,000 people.
That may be one of the reasons why many health centres in Uganda are serving below their capacity.About the availability of qualified staff to teach in the school, Kanyesigye told The Standard that there will be an adequately skilled staff to manage the School according to the standards set by the NCHE.
The dean also revealed that students applying for the course will possess the minimum required academic qualification acceptable by all the medical schools in Uganda and East Africa. He didn’t give details of the qualifications but said Medicine and Dentistry will both be five-year courses.
Asked about the fees for the course, Kanyesingye said the structure has yet to be set, as the university awaited the decision of the university council. “However, we shall strive to be competitive against what other medical schools charge,” he said.
The news about the medical school has received praises, especially among nursing and other science students.
Mercy Aturinde, a third year student of Bachelors of Nursing, told The Standard that the medical school will give nursing students a broader sense of the medical profession.
“It’s going to add value to the quality and number of medical professionals in the country,” she said.
Meanwhile at the signing of the MoU, His Grace Stanley Ntagali, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Chancellor of UCU and the Patron of Mengo Hospital, congratulated both institutions for the milestone.
“We thank the Lord for this great thing He has done for both UCU ‘A Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa,’ and Mengo Hospital, the oldest, in Uganda.”
Ntagali noted that in Mengo Hospital, UCU has got a fully equipped facility to coordinate with the internship of medical students.
“The school will also help the Church extend its services to the needy citizens especially mothers and children,” Ntagali added.
James Serufusa, the chair of Mengo Hospital Board said that he was also gratified that a medical school is starting at Mengo Hospital. “This was the dream of the hosipal founder, Sir Albert Cook,” he said.
Present at the function was Rt Rev Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira, the Bishop of Namirembe Diocese. Others were the Mengo Hospital Board members and its senior management, UCU senior management, members of the Provincial Secretariat of the Church of Uganda, and the Press.