Sarah Ali, 2014 GHLI Fellow
On my last day of work in Uganda, my supervisor commented, “I have not seen you like this. You are not smiling.” After more than two months in Kampala, I was just not ready to leave. I found the Ugandan culture fascinating and grew close with the many people who welcomed me to the country, opened their homes and shared with me their traditions. I witnessed tremendous compassion in Ugandan daily life and was moved to see it also reflected in the practitioner-patient relationships.
The Uganda Initiative for the Integrated Management of Non-Communicable Diseases (UINCD) aims to develop a Center for Excellence for non-communicable diseases (NCD). This requires both a pilot study to audit practitioners’ recognition and management of NCD in the Mulago Hospital and a pilot clinic to implement an integrated NCD management clinic in the existing medical outpatient clinics which typically treat hypertension, diabetes and renal diseases on designated days.
During my visits to the medical outpatient clinics, I was struck by how doctors treat more than the patient’s physical issues, but also listen to patient stories about the socioeconomic factors influencing their health. When I described the UINCD project to different practitioners, I was met with enthusiasm for the project and insight into potential hurdles such as inadequate training, missing and poorly maintained equipment and frequent health care worker movement throughout the hospital. Despite concerns, practitioners were encouraging about the project and excited to be involved. The compassion of the many workers I met made me all the more inspired by this project and confident that I’m really only saying goodbye for now.