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
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.
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.
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.
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.