Juliet Babirye, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., is a lecturer in infectious disease and non-communicable disease control in the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Uganda. She’s conducted research around the globe on topics including disease prevention, AIDS and mortality rates of children under age five.
Andrew Ntabi, M.D., is the medical officer of maternal and child health at Uganda’s Villa Maria Hospital, where in addition to clinical practice he is conducting research on how pre-operative and intra-operative factors influence outcomes of mothers and newborns delivered surgically in low-resource settings.
John Matovu, M.D., M.Sc., was promoted to district health officer for Butaleja, Uganda, an underserved area with a population of about 280,000 people. Before that, for a time he was the sole physician at the district hospital, where he continues to treat patients and serves as head of its education department.
These three health care leaders are among the 14 individuals from the East African nation who have experienced rotations at the DMU Clinic and elsewhere in Iowa while they were medical students at Makerere University. In 2009, DMU became the first North American university to establish such a program with Makerere.
“Being in Iowa taught me to offer my best in the best way. I felt I had a duty to offer my best to a rural community,…a place labeled as ‘hard to reach and hard to stay.’”
In addition to benefiting the individuals who participate and the patients and communities they go on to serve, the rotation program exemplifies one way DMU is fulfilling its mission to improve lives in our global community by educating diverse groups of highly competent and compassionate health care professionals.
Yogesh Shah, M.D., M.P.H.’14, FAAFM, associate dean of global health at DMU, in September traveled to Uganda to meet with several Makerere alumni and leaders of its College of Health Sciences. Those alumni all agreed the experience was a turning point in their careers.
“Meeting with Makerere students who came to Des Moines University for their international rotation and who are now practicing in different fields in different parts of Uganda was very touching and made our DMU mission into a reality,” Shah says. “I realized that our global health activities have been part of improving lives in our global community by educating a very small group of students from Uganda. We have been a catalyst for healthy community transformation.”
During the meeting, Babirye said even being selected for the competitive rotation program has a powerful impact on students. “The experience gave me a boost to always strive to be the best at everything I do,” she said.
Matovu, who rotated in Iowa in 2009, praised the opportunity to experience the medical system in a developed country, the osteopathic manual medicine (OMM) sessions he experienced and the longtime Des Moines host family the Ugandan students stay with, Barb and Fred Hofferber. And like many of his fellow Makerere alumni, he says the Iowa rotations influenced him to practice in underserved areas and to take on leadership roles in Uganda’s health care system.
“Being in Iowa taught me to offer my best in the best way. I felt I had a duty to offer my best to a rural community where many doctors would not wish to work, a place labeled as ‘hard to reach and hard to stay,’” he stated in an e-mail message. “I have been able to practice OMM skills on a number of clients with success. This I would not have achieved without a rotation at the DMU Clinic.”
In a letter he read to Shah during his meeting in Uganda, Ntabi compared the DMU/Iowa rotation to contemplating Earth from outer space.
“Something happens to you out there,” he quoted Apollo 11 astronaut Edgar Mitchell. “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation away from self-centeredness, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it.
“Being products of two different education and health care systems places us at the forefront of understanding the merits and challenges of both as well as the opportunities that can be applied to further medical education and health care in our countries,” Ntabi continued. “We cannot thank you enough for your extraordinary leadership that has made a mark of difference around the globe.”