About UNC Project-Uganda

In 2004, a group of UNC physicians established the Amal Murarka International Pediatric Health Foundation in memory of their colleague, Dr. Amal Murarka, who died unexpectedly in 2003. The foundation sent a medical team to Kampala to establish the country's first pediatric intensive care unit at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University, where Dr. Murarka had previously conducted research. Subsequent work in 2007 and 2008 focused on pediatric cardiac surgery. The foundation not only built a cardiac ICU, but also performed a total of 21 life-saving pediatric cardiac surgeries.

In 2008 the foundation partnered with the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to establish UNC Project-Uganda.


The UNC Project-Uganda was established to support sustainable delivery of compassionate and competent health care to infants, children, and adolescents in Uganda; to improve the medical knowledge of the Ugandan health care workforce through in-country training and a physician exchange program; and to provide advanced medical equipment, medications, and services necessary for the delivery of compassionate and competent pediatric care in Uganda.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Oh, the humanity of it all....

Since landing in Uganda last Sunday night, we have all lost a sense of time. Besides time zone travel, our schedules have been erratic every day. Some days we get some sleep and some days we don't. But each day has been so exciting that we press forward with enthusiasm.

The UNC Medical Team led by Dr. Keith Kocis has been an inspiration to everyone. I have never been so proud to be a tarheel! From the moment we arrived, this incredibly dedicated group of medical professionals has done whatever it takes to get the job done. Many went without sleep for days but always worked with smiles on their faces for the patients and their families. Not only have they worked long hours each day, but they have generously and patiently mentored and instructed their counterparts in the heart center in the use of new equipment and procedures.

Our team is joined by a medical team from DC Children's Medical Center led by Dr. Craig Sable.
and our lead surgeon from the University of Florida at Jacksonville--Dr. Bob Dabal (a UNC alum '91). These 20+ doctors, nurses and medical specialists are all volunteers but you would never know it from the devotion and hours that they keep.

Each day there are three staging areas covered by our collaborative team and the Ugandan team:
  1. At one end of the hall our team is meeting with patients and their families to screen children to diagnose their heart condition and determine who are current and future candidates for heart surgery or other treatments; simultaneously,
  2. A combined group of UNC, DC, FLA and Ugandan doctors, nurses and medical professionals are conducting heart surgeries, usually 2 per day; while
  3. The UNC, DC and Ugandan doctors and nurses and med specialists are covering the intensive care unit, caring for the recent surgery patients (age 26 mos.-15 yrs so far) and readying for the next patient as they come out of surgery. They literally constructed an ICU on Monday to be ready for the Tuesday surgery.
I guess what has struck me as an observer is the enormous team work that is evident. We all talk of teamwork as a concept to be embraced, but until you see a group of professionals who have never worked together, have many cultural differences, not to mention different resources, accomodate all of this with a singularity of purpose-- to save a small child's life-- can "teamwork" be seen in technicolor!

I have to say at times that it has been intense--there's a lot on the line. But there has also been some comic relief in the sometimes absurd circumstances in which the collective spirit prevails.
Moved by the good wishes and generosity of so many before I left for Africa, I remarked that the phrase "it takes a village had taken on new meaning to me." Little did I know what an understatement that was. To say I am humbled by all the colleagues who have surrounded me on this mission from the US and Uganda does not begin to describe the enormous respect I have for everyone involved. For every hour I witness people acting with purpose and effort that is so inspiring that you just have to keep asking what more can I do.

I've gone on too long but will continue with my "headline news" in the next blog report. Stay tuned and keep those prayers for our patients flowing our way.

Helen Snow

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