6 August 2022 (apparently this wasn’t posted when I wrote it- just figured that out)
Meeting up with an old friend, Benjamin, was a great way to start my Saturday. Benjamin Mwesige is a pharmacist with an expertise in cancer treatment. When I met him years ago, probably back in 2014 or maybe even before that, he was the head pharmacist at the Ugandan Cancer Institute (UCI) and the most hard working pharmacist I had ever met in Uganda. He had a true passion for improving the health outcomes of his cancer patients. He would stay late, come in early, and advocate to the government for an increased budget to buy high quality chemotherapy drugs. He had to contact politicians and meet with lots of people but he made a difference and eventually he won his case and UCI was able to purchase better quality drugs. Flash forward to 2018 when Benjamin decided to start a PhD program in South Korea. I am always amazed at the lengths Ugandans go to further their education and Benjamin became interested in the biology of cancer cells. He was frustrated at the lack of effective treatment for the cancers his patients had and wanted to learn more about the behavior of the cancer cells. He knew that this is the first step to the development of more effective therapies. So he found a program in South Korea and with support from the UCI and then later grant support from the South Korean university, Benjamin set off on a 4 year journey to achieve his PhD Cancer Biology. He had to leave his wife and 3 girls for 4 years! He had planned to come back to Uganda every once in awhile but COVID intervened and he only made it back 1 time in 2019 and then got stuck in South Korea for the rest of his program. However, he is back after receiving his PhD in January 2022. He is now the Head of Research for the UCI! And he also has shared his training with 2 other pharmacists whom he brought to his South Korean university where they both received Master’s degrees and are now back at the UCI heading up the pharmacy services. Benjamin’s research was in modeling a specific intrahepatic tumor in mice (IMND), which he did successfully, and then was able to study the subtypes, mutations, and response to chemotherapy. He has also published his work which gained the interest of the University of Cambridge in the UK. Benjamin will be off to work with them as a Research Associate for 2 years where he will continue his work in their lab. The plan is then for the university to help him establish a similar lab in Uganda.