Ugandan Commonwealth alumni working within the public health sector met with current Commonwealth Distance Learning Scholars in Kampala in July 2016, to share their scholarship journey and talk about their current work. The Distance Learning Scholars – all studying at the University of Edinburgh – had the chance to ask questions and gain a real-life perspective on life after a Commonwealth Scholarship.

Dr Lilian Nabulime (1996 Academic Fellow, Sculpture, Glasgow School of Art, and 2011 Academic Fellow, Art and Design, Durham University) discussed her work exploring HIV/AIDS education and women’s empowerment through sculpture. Lilian, a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University and a renowned sculptor, brought along some of her portable art pieces and revealed that she uses everyday materials in her sculptures as a way to start conversations about HIV/AIDS with women and their daughters at the community level.

Dithan Kiragga (2007 Distance Learning Scholar, MSc International Primary Health Care, University College London) examined the realities of healthcare provision in Uganda, which is increasingly being delivered through private clinics and hospitals.

Joseph Atukunda (2012 Professional Fellow, East London NHS Foundation Trust) shared why he became an advocate for mental health, founding HeartSounds Uganda, an organisation that promotes alternative treatment methods for mental health conditions, and works to eradicate stigma and reintegrate patients into their community. Joseph’s mental health advocacy work has been covered by various media channels over the years, including the BBC. He advised the Scholars to be aware of the pressures of life and work, and encouraged them to take the time to relax in order to care for their mental wellbeing.

Henry Nsubuga (2007 Distance Learning Scholar, MSc International Primary Health Care, University College London) highlighted the health concerns that can affect students while at university, including drug abuse and unplanned pregnancies. Henry is currently Manager of the Counselling and Guidance Centre at Makerere University.

Arthur Namara (2014 Distance Learning Scholar, MSc Gerontology, University of Southampton) talked about the issues faced by elderly people in Uganda. With over 68% of the population under the age of 25, interventions and funding tend to be concentrated on youth initiatives, leading to a lack of health care provision for the elderly, who also grapple with poverty and illiteracy. Through his work, Arthur aims to advocate for the prioritisation of gerontology at the undergraduate level in Uganda, so that future doctors are well prepared to correctly diagnose and treat age-related diseases.

The group of Distance Learning Scholars were in Kampala for their 2016 summer school, which brought together Master’s-level students from more than 10 countries across the University of Edinburgh’s One Health and Global Health programmes, covering fields from conservation medicine to global e-health, infectious diseases to international animal health.