14 January 2020
The time has come for me to say “see you later” to Uganda and all of my old and new friends. I knew the 2 week trip would fly by and I’ve been so busy that I am returning home a bit exhausted. But, that is OK. The work was productive and has moved all of my projects along. I can accomplish so much more when here for a couple of weeks than months of email and WhatsApp phone calls from the USA. Those are fine with current partners whom I’ve worked with for years and know my motives and motivation, but to bring someone else on board, an in-person meeting is really necessary. How can they know much about me, this white lady, who has such grand ideas about improving pharmacy education and practice in Uganda when they hear from me by email? When in person, they can listen to my story and I can listen to their story. They realize I am sincere and have been working with Ugandans for years and I wish to have only mutually beneficial projects.
The leaving this time is very pleasant because I know I am coming back soon, for the Regional World Health Summit at the end of April. At this conference, I will be presenting along with others on the role of the pharmacist in improving patient outcomes in NCD’s (non-communicable diseases such as Diabetes, High Blood Pressure).
Sometimes the traffic jam, or just usually called “the jam” by Ugandans, is often bad when traveling from Kampala to Entebbe Airport. I have gotten in the habit of leaving Kampala early in the day when the jam is less and then I get to spend the day at the Entebbe Airport Guest House for the afternoon and evening. They have day rooms available to be able to take a nap or clean up and they have a delicious dinner served out on their beautiful lawn if the weather is fine. They will also take me to the airport at just the right time and from here it is just a 10min. The Uganda National Road Authority has now built a fast highway linking Kampala to Entebbe so the travel back and forth is much better, at least for the time on the highway. Right now they do not charge a toll, but the toll booths are built and the locals say the toll is coming. They don’t let boda-boda’s (motorcycle taxis) on this road and pedestrians aren’t allowed to walk beside it. And, even the matatus’s, the van taxis, don’t go on it because there wouldn’t be people to pick up and drop off. You can still run into jam on the way to the highway, but it is much less than before the highway was built. I definitely think this is progress!
My friend and Kampala driver, Haji, brought me to the 1000 Cups coffee house this morning on the way to the Airport Guest House. I’d been so busy, I didn’t have time before now to go out and purchase coffee beans to bring back. I love Ugandan coffee, as does the rest of my family and it has become a staple in my house. I can’t link to their website at the moment because they told me it is undergoing renovation but if you are in Kampala, and love coffee, you should try it out. You can reach them by phone: +256 772 505 619 (0772505619).
As I was getting back to the car with the coffee, guess who I ran into? An old Makerere University pharmacy student of mine, Sam, saw me and came over. I think I had called him Andrew but as I looked through my old blogs, I realized his name is Sam. During March 2014, when I was here for the Fulbright work, I had taken Sam, Linda, and Edel to Masindi to help me organize a blood pressure screening clinic. They were 3 of the most motivated students I was teaching at that time. Sam is now working primarily in community pharmacy but is still interested in the provision of pharmaceutical care to his patients/clients. Currently my projects on PC are within the hospitals in Uganda, but branching out to community pharmacy is very, very important, as they see many more people than the hospital pharmacists. They could positively impact the health of patients from NCDs if they provide pharmaceutical care. A challenge is that patients/clients don’t know how the pharmacist can help them and often are too busy to stay and learn about the medicines or the importance of adherence. Hopefully, once PC is implemented in the hospital, where patients are acutely and severely ill, we can start a project to train community pharmacists and a campaign to advertise to regular people about how a conversation with a pharmacist could help improve their health.
It is about time to leave for the airport, so farewell Uganda for now!