By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Kampala, Uganda: Dr. Daniel Kyabayinze, Director Public Health at Ministry of Health said, Field Epidemiologists provide such an important addition to the ministry of health and government because as they train, they also do field investigations and help us get quick answers especially to disease outbreaks and then, they also interact with the rest of the government to help us to identify, when they graduate where would we place them, where are their interests? and they also as students, very keen to bring out things people are not bringing to the forefront. Dr. Daniel Kyabayinze, Director Public Health at Ministry of Health recognises contribution of epidemiologists to healthcare. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
“So this program is very important and a beautiful addition to the education and promoting of public health interventions.” He said.
Talking about sustainability of these fellows, he said, “the outcome of the alumni gives reason for sustainability, when you are producing something which is on demand, that’s already sustainability itself, students have been able to write and attract funding to the program. They were able to attract three grants so sustainability can come in many options.”
“ We shall absorb those who have graduated but we shall also let them write so that they attract funding to the programs.” He added.
He made these remarks during the 8th Graduation of 14 Field Epidemiology Track fellows cohort 2022 at Four Points By Sheraton Hotel, Kampala on 12th/January/2024.
For Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean Makerere University School of Public Health confided that graduates are with no doubt smart, knowledgeable but believes that what will truly make a difference is that beyond their knowledge and expertise being true professionals that have values, being compassionate accountable for results, for what they do and for money as well.Professor Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean Makerere University School of Public Health implores graduate fellows to be compassionate on top of their skills/ Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
“As you go out, we celebrate you, we know that you are truly capable and you are going to make a difference, but this is not the end, continue to grow, continue to grow in your knowledge expertise, the world is changing so fast. Continue to grow as a true professional and someone with values that can make a difference, someone with a compassion for the people that we serve. But every time you’re thinking about what you’re doing, think about those people down there, the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. So the picture of the baby that we saw, those are the people we need to think about as we design our programs.” Prof. Rhoda appealed to graduates.
“Please do remember that, No matter how many papers we write, no matter how much we know in statistics, it comes to nothing if we don’t have our hearts and if we cannot truly think about the people that we are trained to serve. I say this with all the confidence that you’re going to be that. And I’m looking forward to working with you as colleagues in the field.” She added.
On his part, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization Country Representative believed that the competencies the graduates have gained will enable them to contribute to improve Uganda’s ability to prevent, prepare for, and respond to various public health challenges as part of the public health workforce. He said, the Public Health Fellowship Program has played a critical role through offering fellowship, internship training and voluntary opportunities for students and professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in public health and “your opening this area for non-traditional areas is also remarkable.”Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldemariam, the World Health Organization Country Representative asks graduates to be action oriented/ Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
“As you know Uganda is prone to public health emergencies. These threats are intensified by increased animal and human interactions. Another big challenges which makes it even more challenging for this is the climate change, Increased trade and travel among others are making Uganda even more vulnerable. Therefore, we need the skills that have been imparted on you to improve our outcomes.” He appealed.
Yonas: “This may also mean you have an opportunity at your feet and please take it forward. I’d like to emphasize your contribution to global health. When you manage a public health challenge in Uganda, you contribute to global health by preventing avoidable deaths and suffering, but also by controlling the disease from going to other places.”
“As public health professionals you join a global public health workforce, joining the committed army of global disease fighting forces. You join a group of potential candidates for international deployment to fight public health challenges. I don’t know if Alex and others who are senior have told you, The epidemiologists, your fellow graduates, were the major force that enabled us to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.” Yonas stressed.
Speaking on the mandate of Field Epidemiologists, Dr. Alex Ario, the Director Uganda National Institute of Public Health stressed that when they detect a problem, the moment they receive an alert, because the way they designed the systems of surveillance is in such a way that what they call the event-based surveillance is that anything comes to them.Dr. Alex Ario, the Director Uganda National Institute of Public Health sheds light on duties of Epidemiologists/ Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
“You can even pick a phone now and you type it now, it will go to the emergency operations center where we sit. Now once we receive that alert, We are able to verify that a lot. So when we verify that a lot and then we know that this is most likely an outbreak, okay? Now that we have the laboratory leadership track going on, we task one of the laboratory leadership fellows to instruct the district laboratory for capacity to take a sample and then send a sample very fast. We have that lab network system that sends a sample. Now once we confirm that its an outbreak, this team you are seeing graduating today, we send them to the field immediately.” He highlighted.
“If we confirm that outbreak even now, right now, the supervisors that you saw me introducing, those ones there, it’s just a matter of alerting them. If I receive a call from the minister, from the director general, within a very short time you find I’ve called one of the supervisors, they’ve assembled a team, that’s why you heard them, the stories of the fellows saying that sometimes they call you, then you wonder what to tell your spouse.” He added.H.E William W. Popp, US Ambassador to Uganda commits relations with health institutions of Uganda/ Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
As the Chief Guest at the graduation of field epidemiology fellows US Ambassador to Uganda, H.E William W. Popp stated that since he arrived in Uganda less than five months ago, he has heard so many stories about the role the graduates of this program play, particularly during the recent health crisis. “I’ve heard about the dedication, the resilience, the expertise, the grief that you, in particular the eighth cohort, graduating today demonstrated over the last two years. From investigating outbreaks of malaria, Anthrax, food poisoning, alcohol poisoning, tackling larger challenges across the board, and of course, the Sudan or Ebola outbreak.”
He commended that the graduates who have been at the forefront throughout all these efforts in recent public health practices.
“You are at the beginning, as several have mentioned, of a journey that is, I know, going to make so many of us safer and healthier going forward. But what you have accomplished already, I think, merits, again, a huge congratulations, huge recognition, and many thanks. I commend you for your brave work, for your notable involvement in response to the Ebola crisis and helping end it swiftly.” He said.Amy Boore the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Programme Director delivers a message during graduation/ Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
To graduates, Amy Boore the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Programme Director said; “As you get better and better and better, you just go after the harder and harder and harder public health problems. There’s never a time in your career where you’re going to be like, oh this is easy, because we’re just not that kind of people. We’re always, as one of your own as said up here earlier, you’re always learning while you’re mentoring and similarly to how when the FETP morphed into the Public Health Fellowship Program, this relationship, this partnership doesn’t end. We’re all in this together.”
“ As Dr. Yonas said, you’re joining a team, you’re joining a community, a global community of field epidemiologists. We’re all in this together. Ultimate goal is not for each country to be able to manage any outbreak that happens there. COVID showed us that, that’s just a pipe dream. Diseases don’t work that way, right? The ultimate goal is to have enough of us.” She implored graduates.
Why was Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program (PHFP) was initiated.
The shortage of field epidemiologists in Uganda needed to address critical aspects of health in the public sector prompted the Uganda Ministry of Health (MoH) to establish the Uganda Public Health Fellowship Program (PHFP) in 2015. The MoH did this with the support of key partners, including Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
PHFP is an in-service, two-year, post-master’s-degree program modeled after CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service program (Advanced FETP) that aims to bridge the human resource gaps to address public health needs in the country. As part of the MoH’s long-term sustainability vision, PHFP will be a critical component of the Public Health Workforce directorate and capacity-building arm of the Uganda National Institute of Public Health (UNIPH). The program enrolls veterinarians, physicians, nutritionists, laboratorians, nurses, biostatisticians, wildlife biologists, environmentalists, and social scientists.
PICTORIAL, All photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa. Graduates of 8th Field Epidemiology Track cohort 2022.One of the graduate presenting her exprience.Fellows are seen among delegates in the audiance.Dr. Robert Zavuga, the outstanding fellow of cohort 2022 receives award of honor from US Ambassador to Uganda, H.E William W. Popp.