Stories From the Field:

UGANDA

Kayanja Fellowship in Radiology

Endowed by the Paiko Foundation through MGH Global Health, the Kayanja Fellowship at the Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST) in Uganda supports post-graduate scholars in medicine and nursing. Dr. Prossy Bibangambah received her undergraduate medical degree at MUST and interned at the national referral hospital in Kampala before returning to Mbarara to work at the public HIV clinic.

When clinical scientists from MUST and MGH launched a new research study of non-communicable diseases, they approached Dr. Bibangambah to learn a new skill: neck ultrasounds to diagnose circulatory problems. Although she had been introduced to radiology in medical school, her exposure to the discipline during this period was minimal and the department was still underdeveloped. With advocacy from the Dean of Medicine however, Dr. Bibangambah was able to enroll as a post-graduate, Master of Medicine (MMed) candidate – equivalent to a medical residency in the U.S.

“To prepare for the non-communicable disease study, I went for training in carotid ultrasonography the United States. I trained in the radiology departments at the University of Wisconsin and with Dr. Linda Hemphill at Mass General,” says Dr. Bibangambah. “The training experience at these hospitals opened my eyes to radiology as a field that was much more than what I had previously experienced.”

Uganda is currently served by a small number of radiologists with most of them working in Kampala. Several upcountry medical facilities lack some of the radiology equipment, forcing many patients to travel to Kampala to seek services.

A major barrier to increasing the number of radiologists in Uganda is the cost of tuition for an advanced degree.

“I was concerned about the fees,” Dr. Bibangambah admits, “because I definitely needed to leave my full-time job in order to focus on my studies. Sometimes scholarships are available, but they’re often not in an area that interests you. So I am very grateful for the Kayanja Fellowship because it relieves me of the financial burden of school fees and allows me to pursue a field I am interested in.”

“This scholarship gives me three years of learning, three years of being corrected, three years of consulting with others, and three years of heavy reading,” Dr. Bibangambah says. “By the end of the three years, I hope I have more knowledge, more dedication, more skill, and more appreciation of the field. By the end of it, I expect to be far ahead of where I am right now. And I also expect to be another step closer to achieving my dreams.”

During her first year of training, Dr. Bibangambah has begun to immerse herself in the work. With her head of department, Dr. Moses Acan, she has started attending the interdisciplinary conferences and also presenting at tutorials organized by the different hospital and university departments.

Her collaborations with other departments motivate Dr. Bibangambah to do more. “I realized that it was not just about me sitting in class and going through notes. You know you’re not just a student, you’re actually building the department.” Beyond the books and classroom study, she hopes to see more changes happening.

“My goal is to improve diagnosis and patient care, reduce the burden on the patient, and work on research in radiology,” Dr. Bibangambah says. “I want to help strengthen the Department of Radiology here for the betterment of the students who come after me. We are a small and understaffed department but hopefully that will change in the future. As for the country at large, if we could develop the field in Uganda, and have most facilities well-equipped, that would be wonderful.”

“When I began the program, I was very excited and very nervous,” Dr. Bibangambah says. “Unskilled as I was, my colleagues from MGH and MUST took me on, believing that I was passionate and hardworking. Knowing that there’s an amount of trust placed in me drives me to keep working harder.  And I’m not saying I’m perfect. I still make mistakes, but I know that during this little time, I have come far. And I’m grateful that the people of the fellowship committee also believed I could do this. It’s a big motivating factor.”