Introducing the challenge.
As of August 2015, my Give Back idea is to tackle health care challenges in Uganda mainly through three avenues: increasing focus on epidemiology (disease outbreak prevention); promoting medical research for novel disease treatment and medical practices; and research to promote the local manufacture of cheaper yet effective pharmaceuticals and treatments. This idea was conceptualized from my personal observations of the health care system in Jinja and Kampala where I spent ample time in the public hospitals (especially Jinja). This exposure drew my attention to outstanding challenges like medical drug shortages. From my deductions, these were in large due to high costs of (usually imported) drugs, and a very ineffective national health sector. In addition, the occasional outbreaks of Ebola, cholera, malaria, etc. subtly suggested a need for substantial research on epidemiological techniques used in controlling these epidemics.
In trying to deconstruct these challenges into a a feasible personal Give Back idea, I had always considered the contemporary crippling factors responsible for this status quo: the limited availability of funding for research and technology. These are not new thoughts, yet, I still consider them noteworthy as part of my “recent” reflections. This is because every time I review these same fundamental sub-challenges, I unravel a new “layer” of impediment. Case in point; amongst other reasons, the substandard technology is due to limited funding due to the limited amount of progressive research, which is also due to shortage of professionals, caused by a limiting non research-intensive education system. Yet, an effort to diversify this system could in turn affect the chances of low income citizens to get a meaningful education at all. From my speculative deductions, the challenge is as multi-faceted as it is multidisciplinary. Perhaps tackling the challenge would require as many academic/industrial reforms as political/systemic reforms.
Continuous interactions with professionals and reflections only seem to expose how convoluted the challenge in focus is. This summer, I was able to connect with a microbiology/ Immunology professional from whom I learnt that even in presence of resources, there are several research policies in place that require comprehension. I learnt that thoughts can only be translated into research to a limited extent, and with deep understanding of research policies. This has expanded my academic goals to include research policies. Also, I was privileged to have an informational interview with a public health professional. This was perhaps a big inspiration because it was through this conversation that I got insight into small projects being employed to make small-scale momentous change with in communities in Uganda. My research experience under the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC) earlier this year and continued conversations with professionals have given me vital input and helped to diversify my Give Back idea, put it in perspective, simplify it and yet sometimes, complicate it.
Overall, my recent reflection has given me a list of ideas; a tentative map for the path I should tread in progressing towards my Give Back goal. Currently, this path is made up of more questions than answers, but, after all, isn’t the process of learning more about asking the right questions? Some of the questions that stood out for me are:
How can I get academic exposure to public health at undergraduate level?
How do my ideas fit into the current Ugandan/African political and health systems?
How can the academic and employment sector support research and specialization?
What can really be achieved with the existing technology?
What impact can I personally make as an undergraduate? Do I need more academic charisma?