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.

IMG_20160401_165532

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

05/11/15

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate research conference 2015

Date : November 2014 – 21st March 2015 

The first undergraduate research experience.

A few months after my application for mentor-ship under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO), a REX program, I was selected by Jennifer Guthrie, a PhD student in the faculty of health sciences and also a researcher at British Columbia Center for disease Research (BCCDC). The objective of the research experience was to conduct and present research under professional supervision, in order to develop and refine research skills.

I was tasked to conduct literature research on Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) techniques, contact tracing and surveillance, and how all these could be integrated to improve public health in Canada. I worked with two other mentees, with my individual focus being contact tracing, surveillance, and the implications of our review-type presentation on the public health system here in Canada.

Prior to my involvement in this research, I had conducted literature reviews for two of my courses for the first term and thus had some experience on research. However, doing research on techniques and content I had never been exposed to back in Africa, so much that I could present this information at a conference with a strong state of knowledge, was an initial challenge. In all honesty, I was afraid of cases where I had to answer questions on the details of the process of whole genome sequencing. Having a good mentor went along way in alleviating these feelings of inadequacy. With continued support and guidance from Jennifer Guthrie through out research and poster design, I was able to compile all my research and inculcate it into a poster that I would co-present with two other students from the faculty of science. Being able to do this well was tremendously inspiring – I was involved in research in something I had personal interest in, and my research could contribute, or at least serve to reinforce a greater cause.

The conference.

This experience was as much about the process of research as it was about poster design and presentation. A week Prior to the conference, I co-presented the research to Dr. Jennifer Gardy at the BCCDC, Dr. Gardy’s feedback was instrumental to polishing our work since she is one of the most prominent figures in public health in British Columbia. On 21st March 2015, we presented the poster to guests at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC).

With Julio Lailano and  Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC

With Julio Lailano and Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC.

This experience has been particularly rewarding in terms of my career development. Working with a professional researcher enabled me develop better research methodology, review skills, critical thinking, poster design and professional presentation. More importantly, this gave me insight into the public health sector here in Canada; the disease control techniques, grant applications, shortcomings and potential areas of improvement for more effective disease control. Overall, I found this experience very rewarding.

The knowledge accrued thereby is vital to my development as an aspiring research scientist and hopefully, medical doctor in the future. The methodology of the research process is a set of skills I intend to use through out my career and the details on public health techniques I learnt could go a long way to improve disease control in my own community in Africa.