Sunday, 17 June 2018
It’s been a very nice, relaxing weekend away in Mbarara! Winnie and I had a great time catching up with Dr. Susie Crowe and her team and learning all about their work with the Mbarara Pharmacy students. One of the first things they did was to teach the students pharmaceutical care skills such as teaching them how to give an immunization, how to do a fingerstick to check someone’s blood glucose, and how to take a Blood Pressure. We were told the students were very engaged in these activities. Check out their blog for some nice pictures.
As we headed back to Kampala, I took the following photos to give you an idea of the countryside near Mbarara. It is a bit more hilly here.
This evening, back at the Mulago Guest House, I had some old students of mine from Mbarara come a visit—Noah and Derrick! These were the two who were responsible for getting me to come down to Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) back in November 2016. They are now Interns in Kampala and are doing quite well. After hugs and greetings, we jumped into our conversation as if we’d never been apart. They are both also working at community pharmacies now to make a little money when they don’t have to be at their internship sites. This is pretty important because although Interns are paid, both of them are interning in government sites and the government is well-known for delaying their pay by months at a time. They know that they will eventually get their back pay, but it is kind of hard to cover living expenses without a regular income. In the USA, “internship” is done by pharmacy students within the university curriculum. We have students do experiential rotations for learning during the last year of pharmacy school and our students are paying tuition for this opportunity. In Uganda, and much of the world, the pharmacy internship occurs after university. These students finished up their education in May/June 2017 and started internship around Sept/Oct 2017. They will then finish this September and will prepare to take their registration exam to officially become a pharmacist before the end of the year. They are paid for this experience but it is because they are depended on for work and to fill a position. In the USA, pharmacy students on rotation are extra and they are not called “staff”; although they may accomplish work for their sites, their role is to learn to be a pharmacist under the direct tutelage of pharmacist preceptor. This is a pharmacist who acts as both a supervisor and an educator but most of all they are a role model and mentor for the student.
Anyway, Noah and Derrick and I talked about many things but I want to focus on an interesting project in which they’ve become engaged. They have both been interested in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for quite a while. Basically, in addition to pharmacy, they love computer technology. They, along with some friends, have conceived an innovation that mobile phone technology could be used to improve infant and maternal care for pregnant mothers. They saw a healthcare need: many pregnant women don’t get the appropriate prenatal care because of lack of funds to pay for the services and they don’t know how to eat or how important it is to prevent malaria while pregnant or even when to go to the clinic to be checked during pregnancy. These challenges lead to greater mortality in pregnant women and infants. Noah and Derrick said to themselves: “What if women could get advice about how to take care of themselves and their unborn baby through the use of a mobile phone, whom just about everyone has these days in the developing world? And what if they could save money ahead of time that would be set aside to be used for the prenatal visits and baby kits for safe delivery in a healthcare facility?” This led them to develop a plan to create a mobile phone app to address just these things. They are still in the process of development but are much closer than when I last saw them. They have even found a mobile phone company interested and guiding them in the process. Check out their website, Wazazi Mother Care LTD, for more information! Noah and Derrick are truly passionate about using their skills to improve health. These gentlemen are the type of caring leaders Uganda needs more of. Keep up your good work, stay positive, and great things will happen!