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.
MissionThe 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 10, 2008
Having been on the UNC Medical Mission to Mulago Hospital last year, I thought that things would be easier this year. Some things have and others haven't. The Mulago Heart Institute with whom we work has made substantial improvements in the past year especially in their equipment and OR/ICU set up and personnel training. Thanks to a one-time grant from a private foundation, the Heart Institute was able to purchase new equipment for both the OR and ICU which has dramatically improved their ability to use these machines while we are here as well as when we leave. Unfortunately, without the technical support that is usually available for us in the US, they are still faced with challenges to the efficient use of the equipment. While we are here we hope to help Mulago set up some mechanisms for outside support after we leave.
So though we see very tangible evidence of improved facilities and better-trained health professionals, the obstacles that still remain on a daily basis are overwhelming. We brought lots of donated medical supplies from the U.S., and we pushed the cart loaded with these goods up the hill to the Pediatric ICU at Mulago to deliver these much needed goods.The numbers of families waiting to be seen or staying by the bedsides of their sick children, reminded us that we were dealing with a small part of a much larger health crisis in Africa. It is discouraging to me but I can only imagine how those who face this in their daily lives must feel. And yet, the Ugandans that we have met do not seem hopeless or in dispair; quite the opposite. They are patient and grateful for any assistance offered to their families.
A close friend of mine traveled in India a number of years ago to work with Mother Teresa in one of her "death houses," but upon arriving my friend and her companions were overwhelmed at the conditions and needs. Mother Teresa advised them not to look around them, for they would only be successful if they focused on the task in front of them--no matter how small or mundane--because doing small things to affect one person was the first step in healing the whole. I have tried to keep this advice in mind, as our team has worked to heal the hearts of 13 small children who will receive life-saving surgery while we are here as well as the 100's who will be screened and treated for their heart conditions in other non-surgical ways as well.
So as we watch the financial meltdown of developed countries around the world on CNN,
things don't change much here in Uganda. Life goes on and we must all focus on the small things that we can do to improve the world, no matter the obstacles here or at home. I am grateful for lessons that the Ugandans are teaching me about patience and determination to move forward even though the journey may zigzag, plunge and crest.
I hope that these lessons will still be with me as we return to our country that has been shaken by the chaos of financial markets and uncertainty of our financial futures knowing that there are far worse conditions with which a majority of our world's population deals every day.
Helen Snow, UNC Medical Mission Team Member
October 10, 2008