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Woman steers health sciences university

By Vision Reporter

Added 9th June 2009 03:00 AM

WHEN Deirdre Carabine came to Uganda as a lecturer at the Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi in 1993, she never thought she would become a permanent resident. Sixteen years down the road, she is still here. She is now the vice-chancellor, International Heal

WHEN Deirdre Carabine came to Uganda as a lecturer at the Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi in 1993, she never thought she would become a permanent resident. Sixteen years down the road, she is still here. She is now the vice-chancellor, International Heal

By Fredrick Womakuyu

WHEN Deirdre Carabine came to Uganda as a lecturer at the Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi in 1993, she never thought she would become a permanent resident.

“My contract was for three years. I just wanted to do my job and go back home,” she says.

“Sixteen years down the road, I am still here. I fell in love with Uganda,” says Carabine who is now the vice-chancellor, International Health Sciences University in Kampala.

A native of Northern Ireland with two PhDs in Philosophy and Classics from Queens University in Belfast and University College of Dublin, all the 53-year-old knew about Uganda then was the notorious regime of former President Idi Amin.

“Some people still think he is very much around,” she says.
Carabine came to Uganda when she was recruited to assist in the establishment of Uganda Martyrs University.

She served as the director of the Institute of Ethics and Development Studies. She would later rise to the position of director of School of Postgraduate Studies, a job that prepared her for the powerful position of deputy vice-chancellor at Nkozi.

These initial efforts at Nkozi finally paid dividends as the first group of students began to pass through the university with a solid commitment to self-improvement and a healthy desire to learn. From these humble beginnings Nkozi on Masaka Road, has now gained a solid national and international reputation.

In 2006, Prof. Carabine and Dr. Ian Clark, the head of the International Medical Group, combined their expertise to establish a university teaching health sciences. Prof. Carabine explains that the idea to start a university was driven by the few health workers in Uganda and so they wanted to train more health workers to fill the gaps.

“We also found out that most of the health workers who get first time jobs and are posted to rural areas to manage health centres, do not have management skills,” Carabine says.
Evelyn Ayot, the registrar of the university, says they also wanted to train ordinary people who do not have a medical background but are working in the health care system, to acquire skills to help the society better.

“In most of the universities, people can only do public health after a degree in medicine or a related field. But we wanted to start from the grass roots – targeting A’level leavers, diploma holders, and people from other disciplines not related to medicine,” Ayot said.

In March 2008, the university received a provisional licence from the National Council for Higher Education. “Our first intake was in August, 2008,” Prof. Carabine says.

The university comprises the Institute of Health Policy and Management, the School of Nursing, the Centre for Digital Learning and e-Health and two libraries – a physical library and a centre for library and information resources accessed online. The institute and school are also home to smaller departments.

Carabine says the Institute of Health Policy and Management trains health managers and experts who, after graduation, will be able to advise the Government and suggest alternatives for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

They offer certificate, diploma, degrees and postgraduate programmes. “We target A’level leavers, diploma holders, degree and working people who don’t have a background in medicine,” Ayot said.

The nursing school also targets A’level leavers, diploma holders and working nurses who want to upgrade to degree level.

The health worker will take a picture, post it through the internet, and in a few minutes that health worker will be given the treatment protocol for the illness by another doctor, miles away.

Next is the Centre for Library and Information Resources.“What you do here is just to log on a computer and you will get the information you need, instead of the textbooks,” Carabine says.

Over 260 students of this university have been able to use digital holdings in this as a resource tool for getting most of the information that text books do not offer. The library has about 20 internet-connected computers and the e-classroom the same number. For the next academic year 50 more computers will be set up to assist student learning.

“We have nine lecture rooms and about a hundred students per day. This has allowed us to give extra space and comfort to our students,” Carabine says, adding the university has about 30 staff members. They are also well motivated,” she explains. Carabine says the university is determined to train health workers who ensure that health care is accessed by all Ugandans.

Woman steers health sciences university

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