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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Meeting with Ugandan Minister of Health

Last week I was able to meet with The Honorable Dr. Stephen Mallinga, Minister of Health of Uganda. I was surprised to find that Dr. Mallinga had studied and practiced medicine and was hospital chief of staff in Chicago for over 20 years. Three of his children are still pursuing professional graduate degrees in the United States.

So it was with real pleasure that we shared some of our hopes for the future of Mulago's Heart Institute. Dr. Mallinga, a OB-GYN specialist, discussed the challenges in a country such as Uganda which has so many competing health priorities. And he was also able to speak of some of the problems in the US healthcare system, such as the high cost of liability insurance that is driving good doctors to abandon their practices. He asked that the American doctors, nurses, and administrators, also instruct Mulago about how to better address the politics involved in hospital administration and I assured him that we face the same challenges in our US hospitals.

Still, I found that this very wise and well-educated leader has the perspective to bridge between his developing country's needs and the improvements and pitfalls that western cultures present as we hope to help Uganda's health crisis. I was so impressed with his questions and observations and am reassured that Uganda has outstanding and capable leadership in its Health Minister.

In working with Mulago Hospital, which is the national urban hospital for Uganda, several times we have been questioned about whether our efforts were best spent in the city or in the rural regions where there are no doctors. Its a good question and not unlike the question we face at home at UNC. Is it better for the State of NC to invest more in UNC Healthcare and empower it to reach out to the rural areas from Murphy to Manteo or to invest in many smaller clinics.
Uganda faces the same question and so I spoke with Dr. Mallinga about the promise of telemedicine for use between specialty hospitals and general practice clinics in rural NC and rural Uganda. He is very interested in our pursuing a telemedicine pilot between UNC and Mulago that will explore its potential for rural health access.

As I talk to Ugandans who work in the health system, I am struck that we all have the same concerns, just vastly different resources to address them. I hope our team can bring back some suggestions for maximizing our outcomes during our limited time here in Uganda. We know our work has not only saved lives, but has leveraged others to invest in the Mulago Heart Institute's future.

Helen Snow
October 13, 2008

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