06/26/17

Growing into a face of UBC

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has two main campuses which offer similar quality of education, but different programs and environment. Every year, prospective students from all over the world find themselves able to choose if they want to join UBC, and the campus they want to spend the next few years at. In January 2016, I received information from the MasterCard Foundation leadership offering me my first shot at being part of that important decision. I had already been part of shaping the UBC student experience as part of the jumpstart program. Joining the International Student Initiative (ISI) as a student ambassador seemed like an opportunity to be involved with prospective students throughout the year as part of the University. I picked interest in the posting and in the March of 2016, I was selected to join the student ambassador team.

I had had to give tours before, as a Jumpstart orientation leader, and I had enjoyed sharing my stories about different parts of the university. Having to give tours as part of the ISI program felt like a chance to expand this experience in several ways. The tours I would give would be longer, the participants more diverse and the content more precise. Every day I would go to Brock hall would be a new chance to reflect on my experiences and meet new people.

Joining this team was a big step for me; it was my first time to take on a job during the school term. At this crucial step in my professional learning curve, I had to grow to cater to more than just my academics. Becoming a student ambassador was the perfect choice for this development because as a work-learn position under the university, there was a lot of support in successfully balancing work and classroom commitments. My colleagues and employers have been very supportive in my efforts to become better for this job, and my career. There have been a lot of opportunities for professional development through the meetings and retreats. I have learnt to express myself better, to speak in public more coherently, and be more considerate of individuals within groups. Often, I find myself inspired by the glimmer in the eyes of the participants when I deliver a tour impeccably. Furthermore, the ambassador adventures and informational sessions are creatively crafted to exhibit UBC as the dynamic place it is. Because of this, I am aware of what happens around me at UBC, why it happens, and what it means to the people who call the university home. Certainly, it has given this university a lot more meaning to me. In as much as the program is highly professional, some of the people I work with have grown to become my friends. Whether it is through covering my shifts when I could not make them or having personal conversations outside work, my colleagues have made this team feel like my community. As I move into my fourth and final year, I am excited to keep growing as an ambassador.

06/11/17

Small town, big dreams

WHEN THE JINGLE BELLS RANG.

Last Christmas, I had the opportunity to travel to Westerville Ohio for the holidays. Dr. Opiyo Steven, a faculty member from Ohio State University and personal family connection, was my host. This trip was my first time to plan distant travel; I was as anxious as I was excited. This was also the first Christmas I spent with family ever since moving to Canada for my university education. I fondly recall the taste of typical Ugandan food, which I had not had out of Uganda before. I also recall the warm feeling of being around family, and being able to interact with international guests.

With Dr. Opiyo at Colombus zoo.

While in Ohio, I spent most of my time in Westerville, a small town close to Colombus. I explored the commercial horticulture farm where Mrs. Opiyo worked. Towards the end of my trip, I explored Colombus city where I spent most of my time at Ohio state university. More importantly, I had a tour of Dr. Opiyo’s research laboratory and a conversation about his work in bioinformatics. In addition to reinforcing my perception of bioinformatics as an increasingly relevant and lucrative career, I had an opportunity to speak to Dr. Opiyo about his experiences establishing his professional career in North America as an immigrant from Uganda. I also learnt a lot from his innovations, and big dreams for diversifying the nature of his data analysis work. I find his experiences inspirational especially as I plan to apply for graduate school to advance my research career next year after graduation.

In as much as I had well-deserved moments to rest after a challenging academic term, there were many moments of learning on this trip.

09/10/16

Battling infectious disease with infectious passion.

Warrior in the white coat

Cell counting in the translational lab

Unwilling to pass up an opportunity to be clad in a white again, I was a research intern at Infectious Disease Institute – Makerere university. This internship was in light of my give-back idea to contribute to the intervention against antimicrobial resistance and HIV/AIDS in Uganda through scientific research and capacity building. I envisaged that this would have a large laboratory work component in which I would train while supporting the laboratory staff in ongoing studies. Essentially, this internship would bridge the gap between my idea and its execution by giving me more information and skills for feasibility assessment.

My work at IDI was predominantly laboratory-based as I expected: I was exposed to methods used to monitor HIV/AIDS treatment, for antimicrobial testing, and several other components of microbiology and molecular biology. If anything, I was impressed by the capacity Uganda already has to tackle these issues. In my time at IDI, I was able to learn how to monitor drug levels in patient’s blood using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). This remains impressive as a technique to study whether the Antiretroviral drugs HIV patients take actually reach the blood. I was also able to learn and perform various key pieces to infectious disease translational research including but not limited to: Tuberculosis diagnosis, leukocyte cell counts, DNA extraction and the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). As part of my microbiology training, I was also actively involved in preparation and inoculation of media. drug sensitivity tests, biochemical tests and blood culture. However, I was not able to adequately study the relationships between external (and non-Ugandan) researchers and IDI. I was not able to sufficiently learn about the challenges faced in the translation of ideas developed in other parts of the world into Ugandan context and capacity. I did observe some of the challenges but it would have been a lot more rewarding to have a full conversation. This is an opportunity that did not come very often probably because there weren’t many international researchers in the laboratories in which I worked. The staff attributed this to the time of the year of my placement, which is not as work-intensive. At least, this internship has shown me that I have to pay more attention to the details of this cooperative research system since I would have to translate ideas probably not developed within the country.

Nevertheless, I was able to attend a conference during which guests from Cornell university were unveiling a mobile prototype of DNA amplification technology. This was one of the few opportunities I had to network with individuals from an external university, and a different but related field – biomedical engineering. By observing and interacting with the testers of this technology, I learnt more about the intimate relationship between the scientific techniques I am learning and engineering in developing affordable innovations.

Setting up HPLC in the pharmacokinetics lab.

I was able to work in four different laboratories which had slightly different working environments. Generally, all the laboratories were dealing with samples containing virulent pathogens, and hence there were varying levels of risk prevention measures enforced depending on the enforcement by laboratory managers. Working with virulent pathogens was daunting but I was able to work with care under supervision by the staff, especially during training. Many a time, the tension created by the nature of work was mitigated by the socially vibrant environment. The staff were able to socialize even within tasks and still get objectives done – and this is not uncommon from my prior experiences living in Uganda. It is these social moments that constitute the best part of my internship because I was able to become part of the workforce both professionally and socially.

Despite not being able to meet him often during my internship, Dr. Andrew Kambugu, my supervisor was the most influential person I met. There was a lot to learn from the way he interacted with the staff. He was positive, considerate and respectful to everyone including juniors and interns. His style of leadership is atypical in comparison to the highly hierarchal system in many Ugandan workplaces. It is no surprise that he is internationally engaged to represent and foster the research at IDI.

IDI is a dynamic research environment that I would recommend any intern looking to do international-standard infectious disease research in Africa. It would be helpful for interns to know about the risks involved in the laboratory work IDI does and prepare appropriately e.g. get immunizations. Nevertheless, I consider this internship to be an overall success because all these pieces constitute a newfound pool of information from which to derive ideas for my future career research.

08/23/16

A tale of two commissioners

My first contribution in the faculty of science started with a momentous email in the June of 2015. This is when I was chosen by the Vice president Administration as one of two Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) clubs commissioners for the 2015-2016 academic year. To me, growing my UBC experience was strongly supplemented by growing within my faculty and this was an opportunity to grow at the pace that would support me without overwhelming my capabilities. The clubs commissioner role gave me unique opportunities to build my personal network and also support cooperation. As a clubs commissioner, I was supposed to ensure that science clubs got access to resources offered by the Science Undergraduate Society, and collaborations between the clubs were supported.

2015 Clubs orientation.

In August 2015, I co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation. This was meant to introduce the club presidents to the Clubs commission, inform them about resources through the Science Undergraduate Society, and instigate relationships between the clubs. With the reliable support of the VP administration and the co-clubs commissioner, the 2015 clubs orientation remains high up in my personal list of achievements in event organization.

The retreat.

In the spirit of team building, the Science Undergraduate Society organizes an annual retreat for all councillors, executives and associate executives. This year, I was lucky to join the SUS retreat to Hope BC. In addition to a change of pace, this weekend was a great opportunity to meet all the SUS student leaders and learn skills relevant to leadership within the SUS. Minor, yet entirely new to me was the nature of the meeting system of the SUS and AMS councils. It still impresses me as an effective way to conduct meetings involving large numbers of people quickly and efficiently. To me, the SUS retreat remains as one of the displays of UBC’s investment into building team cohesion and increasing capacity.

Science Students Appreciation Dinner.
With Ho Yi (left), the second clubs commissioner.

With Ho Yi (left), my fellow clubs commissioner.

Each academic year, the clubs commission organizes the end of year club presidents’ dinner to celebrate a year of achievement and collaboration. This year (2016) however, the clubs commission, with the support of other SUS executives, organized the Science Students Appreciation dinner. The first of its kind, the appreciation dinner was an expansion from the clubs dinner. This was intended to expand recognition from clubs exclusively to science all science students. Students were recognized for outstanding leadership, club activities and a vote was allowed for the “people’s choice” club – which the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) scooped.

In addition to being a great opportunity to share scrumptious Greek food while listening to live music, this was my first opportunity to co-MC to a large group.

Indeed, being part of the Science Undergraduate Society as a clubs commissioner has been instrumental in my leadership journey and I look forward to getting involved within the faculty of science again in the future.

08/23/16

Pollution lab 2015/2016

Baby steps…

My involvement at the Chan Yeung Center for Occupational and Enviromental Respiratory Disease (COERD) holds due significance because it was my first step into research in a laboratory. Set up as a dynamic research environment, COERD (also known as pollution lab) was a unique opportunity for me to get my feet into medical research. Pollution lab UBC is involved in momentous research on allergies, respiratory disease and pollution; exploring the interrelations between these and their implications on the control, prevention and treatment of respiratory afflictions. Under the supervision of Dr. Olga Pena, my Mastercard Foundation Scholarship career mentor, I have been exposed to the research process right from publication, grant applications and laboratory work. As of September 2016, one year later, I still intend to volunteer at Pollution lab and my process of learning is ongoing, but a reflection of a remarkable year feels due.

Read, write, Pipet.

Read

My entry into pollution lab was through identifying literature relevant to respiratory research and making literature-review recommendations for the research team. Through this, I was able to learn more about the work that pollution lab does and how it snugly fits into our society’s efforts to tackle the increasing global respiratory health concerns. In slight detail, I was also able to learn about the immunological aspects of the respiratory system. This research has since gone a long way in providing context to my “classroom-concepts”, and providing motivation for me as I try to narrow down my research interests and progress towards graduate studies.

Write

Learning at pollution lab has been full of opportunities to diversify my professional skill set. Maintaining and updating the COERD website  https://pollutionlab.com/  initially came as a challenge; besides the very basic introduction I had to Microsoft FrontPage a few years ago, my understanding of website design has always been limited. Using the WordPress platform on the COERD website has by no means made me an expert but it has expanded my professional creativity and versatility. Having to research and learn new techniques in the process of editing and improving the website has added a skill set I look forward to transferring into customizing WordPress applications  (like this blog!), and any information technology I might have to work with in the future. Through constant mentor-ship, my role has allowed me to translate my ideas and those of the team onto the website through information adverts and other features.

In addition, I have been exposed to advertising for scientific studies. In advertising for the DE3 study, I have designed and distributed posters. I intend to be more involved by reaching out through other advertisement platforms in the future. As advertisement is a dynamic process, I also hope to compare the platforms for effectiveness as I envisage that I might have to be involved in it at some level throughout my career.

 Pipet.

It was not until May 2016 that I had the requisite availability to train effectively at the COERD laboratory in the Jack Bell Research Center at the Vancouver General Hospital. Shadowing in the lab has given life to many immunology concepts I studied in my courses. Learning about the lab work behind the current studies at COERD has given me insight into this cardinal piece to scientific research. Pollution lab has been an opportunity for me to acquire (relatively) early training in many laboratory-relevant techniques. To a greater degree, I have trained in serological testing. Through the aspergillus serological test, I was able to learn about clinical testing right from sample processing to handling information.

The Team.

Despite the keen discipline and diligence that pervades the work environment in and out of the lab, the COERD team is rife with warmth and community. I have found it easy to socialize and interact with everyone. There is also an impressive system to foster socialization through the weekly socials and occasional events. Needless to say, this environment has augmented my training and work here.

As I proceed with my career developed, I look forward to another fruitful year at the UBC pollution lab.

05/25/16

Jumpstart 2015: The vantage point

Vantage point.

I am often asked about my favourite experience at UBC; by now I have figured that it is no coincidence that my mind flashes back to the August in the summer of 2015. Not only do I remember it as a very rejuvenating experience, I recall it to be high up on my list of the most “efficient” periods of my UBC life. August is the time when the first groups of new students arrive at UBC through the jumpstart orientations program. Having failed to make it in time for my own jumpstart in my first year, I was strongly motivated to support other new international students in ways that I was not lucky enough to experience. This is an opportunity that was proffered to me when I was chosen to be an orientations leader (O.L) for the 2015 Jumpstart orientations program.

Kitsilano

With my learning community at Kitsilano.

My roles were centered on co-facilitating orientation for new international students through academic, social and holistic immersion programs. Under the supervision of senior Jumpstart staff, I was part of a closely knit team of over fifty orientations leaders in Totem Park (and over 100 in all residences). My experiences could have easily been limited to the (“job”) roles described above – not to say that they were not cardinal – but there were so many unforeseen pieces of being an orientation leader. There was something exhilarating about being in a position to contribute to the lives of other students here at UBC. I always knew I wanted to find a vantage point to be a positive part of other people’s stories and the jumpstart program turned out to be perfect for this. The connections that I made with the faculty fellows and first year students within my learning community also supported me to grow in leadership and interpersonal relations. Despite following a model for professional relationships, some of these students have turned out to be friends that I have kept in touch with even beyond the two week period.

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-With Cindy Shan, my partner O.L.

Closer to my heart however were the experiences I had with other orientation leaders. Having spent a slightly longer time training and meeting daily with this highly motivated group of individuals, I developed very supportive social and professional relationships with many of my colleagues. Since Jumpstart was my first involvement in student development, I was conscious of the fact that I would need support along the way. The sense of community that the team cultivated transcended the support I expected and augmented the energy and impact that I had during the program (and that the program had on me). In many ways, I stepped out of my comfort zone and I still recognize this as a turning point in several aspects of my character and ways of relating to other people. The program required a lot of time and energy, yet also gave a lot of exuberance in return so it was possible to keep

squad

With my O.L squad.

going on from early mornings to late nights. This was to lead to the “Jumpstart hangover” after the three weeks but it was worth every bit of the effort that was put into it. In this same spirit, I developed a good partnership with my Learning community partner (orientation leader) and together we took a step beyond our assigned times to ensure that our learning community created bonds that would last beyond. To this day, I am glad to see students from my learning community that keep in touch and support each other even beyond their first year. It is this “seed” of cohesion that drew me into this role of building community – and spawns the feelings of accomplishment that I attach to my experiences.

 

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With learning community at Beaty Biodiversity museum

My August experience was perhaps a salient personal reflection of efficiency because I was involved in a few other capacities around campus. In this spate of progress, I was accepted into my first role in research at the Chan Yeung Center for Occupational and Environmental respiratory Disease, and also co-organized the 2015 clubs orientation for the Science Undergraduate Society (as the 2015-2016 Clubs Commissioner). I would like to think that I was fairly successful in all the capacities I was involved in at the time. Being part of a warm community in Jumpstart, a driven collaborative network in the Science Undergraduate Society and fundamental scientific (clinical) research merges into one salient memory that has been irrevocably etched in my mind.

I have taken the few past months to reflect on these fast-paced but momentous three weeks of my life. As much I recognize many things that I could have done better (and/or that the program could have done better), I believe these were an amazingly well put 3 weeks that epitomize the highlights of my life at UBC.

 

 

04/6/16

Breakfast with the president

Today April 4th…

Today is an amazing day, a day of gratitude and reflection. Today, I stop for a moment to take a look at the road unwound behind me. Two years ago, I joined this amazing university as a first year student. I was introduced to the concept of constant engagement in leadership by the MasterCard Foundation leadership development activities. Then, I could neither see how to start my journey of leadership, nor how to transcend my previous personal capabilities in this foreign system.

With the MCF team at Sage Bistro

With the MCF team at Sage Bistro

Today, I stand among a group of leaders recognized by the President and Vice chancellor of UBC, Martha Piper. Nominated to attend by Jolanta Lekich and Yuko Lee (a science international student advisor), I am greeted with a sumptuous breakfast at Sage Bistro and an important message of encouragement from reputable UBC staff. In a way, this is the kind of revitalization I need occasionally on this journey. It has been easy to lose track of the impact I have had in my communities, right from my first involvement in my house council in Kwakiutl house down to the Science Undergraduate Society where I have been a clubs commissioner for the past academic year.  These are simply the bounds (chronologically) of the examples of roles I have taken on. In this moment of reflection, I realize that contrary to my pre-current beliefs, leadership has become an integral part of my life and ceased to be a set of tasks that I am must do.

 

 

Today, I am not short of things to be grateful for. I am grateful to God, for the cascade of opportunities that unravel ceaselessly. I am grateful to the MasterCard foundation scholarship, to UBC, and more specifically, to the people who stand behind these reputable organizations. There have been people who have believed in me along the way. The people who have nominated me, the people I have worked with and the people who have supported me in my duties. Tomorrow, I look forward to being here again as a student ambassador with campus tours. As I take home a written form of inspiration signed by Martha Piper, I pause at the door of Sage Bistro and glance back. I am not one to pass an opportunity to be grateful for good food.

04/5/16

The Clinton Global Initiative University 2016

CGIU 2016.

This year, I was honoured to be a part of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) at UC Berkeley. With the support of the MasterCard Foundation and CGIU, I was given an opportunity to be a part of an outstanding global movement. Driven by observations of the increasing socio-economic challenges on the globe and increasing ability of

At CGI

At CGIU

the world to observe critically, the Clinton Global Initiative is one of the numerous initiatives to create capacity to tackle these problems. This year, the initiative converged thousands of delegates from many universities around the world to inspire commitment to creating change within small communities as pieces of the larger picture of global development.

Going back to 2013, my greatest misfortune was the impediments between the translation of my ideas into developmental projects and impact. In developing the HYDRA 256 concept, I was driven by the change I wanted to see in remote communities in Uganda. However, I was limited in the number of like-minds and resources to set the development of the idea into motion. Despite not being able to access these resources then, being part of the CGIU this year felt like my second major chance to contribute. Through my commitment to action with CGIU, I have been inspired to use my personal career development to contribute to the public health sector in central Uganda.

My commitment to action.

I was raised by a mother who has been a public nurse for over 20 years, and therefore was extensively exposed to the healthcare system in Jinja district. Through casual interactions with the staff and patients, I was impressed by the support system in place especially for HIV/AIDS patients under The AIDS Support Organization (TASO). However, I also observed challenges within the system. I developed hypotheses to explain the challenges I saw, but did not have an opportunity to undertake rigorous research to identify these challenges and contribute to finding solutions. The CGIU system has given me the much-sought opportunity to channel this curiosity into action. My commitment is to develop a protocol for monitoring HIV/AIDS treatment in low-income settings and promote adherence in central Uganda. This also aims in long term to also deal with multi-drug resistance that is wide-spread on the African continent due to misuse of available drugs. This would be a research based commitment as an incremental effort to the already existing medical and public health research on HIV/AIDS in Uganda. This is also inspired by my career aspirations in Immunology/Microbiology. My commitment to action also aligns with my summer internship in which I will be engaged in translational research in HIV/AIDS at the infectious Disease Institute at Makerere University. I intend to use this as an opportunity to kick-start the commitment and also have practical exposure to assess the feasibility of my project.

Why commit to research?

The research commitment aims to alleviate mortality due to HIV/AIDS arising from poor adherence and accessibility to treatment. The findings of my reports would be useful to bridge the gap between the sources of treatment and the affected patients. This will be by providing a well-researched set of guidelines for public health personnel to execute treatment programmes and evaluate their proficiency. Another issue that could subtly be addressed by this research is the multi-drug resistance that is associated with poor treatment adherence especially for opportunistic infections at the AIDS stage. There has not been extensive public information of the risks of this drug resistance. The target population is East and Central Uganda, with a focus on Kampala and Jinja districts.

What success would look like…

As with most scientific research, my project’s value is incremental and informational. I intend to write a comprehensive report on the current system of diagnosing, treating and monitoring HIV/AIDs infection. The real value of this report would be to use these observations to optimize the control of HIV/AIDS mortality right from the level of health policies down to the patients and society. In effect, this project aims to instigate the revision of policy and process surrounding treatment.

Perhaps the more unique aspect of my research would be to investigate drug resistance by pathogens, using HIV/AIDS patients as a starting point since they are constantly exposed to antibiotics and antivirals. Through my education and in my community, there wasn’t a strong emphasis on the drug resistance due to misuse. This makes such communities a ground zero for a foreseeable global medical catastrophe known as the “post-antibiotic era” which would be in large due to lack of emphasis on appropriate drug use in developing nations. My commitment should raise awareness on the matter through advocacy.

Personal lessons from CGIU.

 

With President Bill Clinton (left), me (right) and P. Wangui, a student member (centre)

With President Bill Clinton (left), me (right) and P. Wangui, a student member (centre)

In addition to focussing my plans to contribute to society, there were several more specific moments of learning at CGIU. I was honoured to personally meet President Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States of America. In his addresses, I found many messages to be revolutionary in the way I think about being part of change. He reiterated the significance of interdependence and particularly, the importance of positive interdependence as opposed to negative interdependence. I vividly recall his inspirational drive for reporting failure in order to use it as a foot hold for future development. Subtly, this speaks to my personal inaction for fear of failure. A more human message from the former US president was to see people as individuals and pay attention to each and every person.

A salient theme of the CGIU was engagement of local communities in solving their own problems. In his opening address, Bill Clinton stated that “the people closest to the problem are closest to the solution, yet often furthest from power”. I find remarkable truth in this statement and the promotion of individual empowerment through CGIU serves to bridge that gap – an effort I was encouraged to believe I can be a part of.

With Chris Ategeka (right).

With Chris Ategeka (right).

I was also able to network with several students from across the globe and listen to amazing initiatives. This has broadened my network of like-minded people and given me an opportunity at peer mentorship. I was honoured to meet and receive advice from Chris Ategeka, a successful Ugandan-born social entrepreneur who was featured in Forbes 30 under 30. If there was anything to learn from Chris, it was how he sustainably developed projects for community support and empowerment. I was impressed by his model of maintaining financial sustainability and using it as an effective pitch to garner more funding. Furthermore, Chris’ idea to use mobile clinic and motorcycle ambulances to increase accessibility to health care in rural communities ignites questions surrounding the use of these methods to increase accessibility to HIV/AIDS testing and treatment.

More specifically, I attended several workshops including those about securing funding and storytelling to effect change. I find these quite relevant to communicating my ideas and getting support to get them off the ground.

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My reflections are on going.

Overall, my learning experience at UC Berkeley was highlighted by the flamboyant weather and the vibrant community of San Francisco. My reflections from this extraordinary experience are ongoing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10/3/15

Building Biotech 2015.

22nd September 2015.

An eye into the future of Biotechnology.

This year, I was privileged to attend the “Building Biotech dinner and Networking” event organized by the Student Biotechnology Network. Sponsored by the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship, I attended a night full of learning among outstanding figures in the Biotech industry in Canada. This was my first exposure to different role players in the biotechnology industry; I got the opportunity to meet economists, scientists and human resource professionals from different Universities and Biotechnology firms.

Academic research or Biotech industry?

My interactions with three post graduate students have contributed to my knowledge about the conditions of academic research and industry career paths. Since I am in the process of choosing what path will support my professional development and impact, this insight was helpful in helping me organize my own thoughts. Through assessing the challenges of each career path from the personal experiences of the professionals that have taken them; I learnt that the academic path offered more freedom in research than the industry, but offered many challenges as regards career development because of its limited focus on “vertical” development towards a few available professional positions. Overall, this information will add to my thought process for my future decision between the two options.

Economics in Biotechnology.

To my surprise, many of the guests and some of the panelists were economists who sometimes started out as scientists. Through hearing the professional story of Aura Danby, the Territory account manager of Illumina, my understanding of the possible ways to contributions to science have been broadened. Also, the contributions and influence of economic policies and systems on research funding has been illuminated. One particularly interesting highlight of the night was the 5000 percent increase in the price of a vital drug by Turing pharmaceuticals. Though disheartening in its implications for patients that rely on the crucial drug at the time, this “pharmaceutical catastrophe” was crucial in building my understanding of the undeniable influence of economics on my own potential career progression towards medical research and pharmaceuticals. Because scientific research is dependent on funding, it is important to pay keen attention to economic policies and conditions.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.

Building Biotech 2015: Networking and Dinner.

 

Laboratory research and Graduate school.

Perhaps my biggest take away from this networking event was from my lengthy discussion with Dr. George Haughn, a Biology faculty member who has been involved in Botanical research at UBC for over 20 years. Dr. Haughn’s perspectives on the importance of plant research on human health and survival were insightful. This seemingly distant research is potentially one of the most vital contributors to the future Global Food Economy, and pharmaceutical research.  Furthermore, I got an insight into the vetting process that Faculty members use in choices of funding Graduate students, and laboratory employees. This is fundamental information in my own aspirations for Graduate school and laboratory involvement.

Overall, this has been a momentous event that I am glad to have attended. Scientific research, like my own career goals, isn’t isolated but rather part of a mesh involving very many contributors that must all be factored in making decisions.

09/6/15

Give back idea: Foundation.

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.

2015 Summer.

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?