I’m writing on the afternoon of our final day here at the Uganda Cancer Institute. As is often the case, the end really came up quickly. It’s been a bit of a scramble over the past couple days to try to finish all the projects we had started, tie up various loose ends, and leave everything in order for the next batch of students in the fall. But it’s beginning to look like we’re going to get everything squared away and we need to start facing up to the fact that we are actually going to be leaving tomorrow!
Some microscope updates: When Dr. Sadigh came last week, he was able to bring along two more microscopes that were donated by some of his colleagues in Connecticut. Since we had already been working with the lab here at UCI, we decided to see if we could find any other places that would benefit from an added microscope to their lab. I was connected to Mr. Ponsiano Ayiko, the superindendent of labs at Mulago Hospital, the main hospital for Kampala and most of Uganda. After a couple of meetings we were able to locate a home for one of the scopes within Mulago’s main Hematology Lab. They had been working with only one microscope to serve the hematology needs of entire six-story, 1,500 bed hospital. In an area of the world with endemic malaria, a disease diagnosed by looking at a sample of blood under a microscope, that certainly qualifies as under-resourced. The microscope is going to good use and the staff of the Hematology Lab were excited about the prospect of hosting UVM students in the future.
We also talked with Dr. Abraham here at UCI who is in charge of outreach programs to the UCI satellite offices in Arua and Mbarara. Currently, all cancer cases in the country are referred to the UCI campus in Kampala. In the next few years, however, UCI will be trying to build their satellite offices to provide more comprehensive cancer services throughout the country. The hope being that with more convenient locations, people will be more likely to seek and adhere to treatment. At the moment, the office in Arua has a trained pathologist on staff but no lab equipment. The microscope will be a huge step in the right direction. Soon they will hopefully be able to diagnose and monitor cancers at their remote locations. And again, Abraham had a lot enthusiasm for taking future UVM students on the 5 hour drive to across the country to Arua so they could learn how UCI is trying to provide services to those who would have no chance otherwise.
Other than that, it has been a lot of saying good bye. We will definitely miss this place. Absolutely everyone has been friendly and helpful and we have learned an incredible amount. I hope we have been able to contribute a little in return and laid some groundwork for a long future collaboration between UCI, UVM and the Microscope Exchange. I’m running out of time right now, but I will try to post a final wrap-up and reflection on our experience when I return to the US in couple days.