“Let us use the opportunity of the Centenary so that Makerere University College of Health Sciences remains the vanguard that will pull all the other health professions training institutions into the future.”
This appeal was made by the ACHEST Executive Director, Prof. Francis Omaswa while addressing the Symposium on advancing Health Professions Education(HPE) in Uganda on 16th June 2022.
The Symposium was organized by the College of Health Sciences (MakCHS) in collaboration with ACHEST, to commemorate 100 years of Makerere University. It was sponsored by sponsored by the Health Professions Education Initiative (HEPI).
Prof Omaswa gave a keynote address on the Global Health Workforce Crisis which is characterized by widespread shortages, maldistribution, and poor working conditions. He noted that the impact was particularly distressing in the developing countries which are not able to employ and retain its skilled workforce.
“ It is going to be a big problem. If we can’t employ our people, other countries are going to take them away,” he said, calling on the government to make deliberate efforts to invest in the health workforce.
Prof Omaswa also talked about the competencies that health professions graduates must have including being prepared to work where the services are most needed, ability to respond to the health needs of the community and delivery of quality care with the available resources, being innovative so as to provide solutions and being change agents.
He called for funding of regulatory bodies such as the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council(UMDP), Professional Associations so that they can support supervision of health professions. Also emphasized was the need for multisectoral country partnerships and financing a comprehensive Health Sector Strategic plan.
Prof Omaswa strongly stated that academic institutions have the power to move things if they are better organized.
“We must find a way in which the teaching institutions have a role in the planning of the country. Let’s stop grumbling and act. If we act together, we will be heard. Let’s be the change makers or change agents whom we want to train,” he added.
Prof Omaswa was also a panelist alongside ACHEST Director Health Workforce Dr. Elsie Kiguli-Malwadde , Prof Jehu Iputo (Busitema University), Prof Joel Okullo (Chairperson UMDPC) and Prof. Sarah Kiguli (MakCHS and Principal Investigator of HEPI) and Prof Mary Okwakol (National Council for Higher Education. Panelists discussed issues on quality of training, regulation and accreditation of programmes, the need to revise the curriculum and health worker competencies. The highlight was the power of partnerships, as demonstrated by HEPI at Makerere University, which is working to strengthen interdisciplinary health professional education and research training in order to produce graduates with competencies that will address the health needs of the population
Other speakers included Dr Roy Mubuuke-Gonzanga who chaired the first session of the symposium, the Principal MakCHS Prof. Damalie Nakanjako and Prof Buyinza Mukadasi a representative from the Vice Chancellor’s office who gave the welcome and opening remarks respectively.
The Symposium was also graced by Prof. Josephine Namboze, the first woman in the region to train as a medical doctor. The audience listened with rapt attention as she narrated her inspiring story as a young undergraduate student.
“ When I was attending medical school, everybody knew everybody else. The numbers were small. The lecturers were all white,” she recalled.
She strongly recommended that the HPE institutions must put in place gender sensitive infrastructure. “put in place facilities for women because medical school is no longer just for men,” Prof Nambooze advised.
Prof. Nelson Sewankambo, the Former Principal at MakCHS made a presentation on HPE in Uganda, the past, present and future. He called for a mindset change to tackle emerging and future public health crises. “COVID 19 gives us a platform to think differently,” he noted.
The ACHEST Deputy Director Dr. David Okello chaired the second session and panel comprising of Prof Pius Okong ( Health Services Commission), Elizabeth Ekong Namusoke( Uganda Midwifery and Nursing Council) and Dr. Musa Lumumba, the President of the Federation for Uganda Medical Interns. Discussions centered on the working conditions and welfare of the health workforce and current challenges and opportunities in staffing and absorption of skilled personnel.
Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze the Dean the School of Public Health summarized the compelling issues of the day. Among the key points of action was creating a forum on HPE in Uganda, and the need to have an evidence-based analysis of the current health workforce situation in Uganda. Participants also resolved that they would have another meeting in September and should be prepared to meet the President on issues discussed.
“The ball is on our court,” remarked Prof Annette Nakimuli, the Dean of the School of Medicine in her closing remarks.