Sunday, September 26, 2010

Makerere University Scientific Symposium

A busy week, but one of the best so far!

I spent most of the week at the 6th annual Makerere University College of Health Sciences Scientific Symposium. There were lots of great presentations from researchers, students, and NGO workers from around Uganda, as well as a few pretty dismal reviews of topics such as the scientific basis of reflexology (NONE) and whether 'speaking in tongues' is associated with hysteria (seriously??). My favorite presentations (besides UVP's of course) were during the session on medical education at the end of the conference.

Uganda Village Project staff members gave presentations on our surgical referral networks, village health teams, sanitation campaigns, and recommendations for international volunteer programs. I was hoping that the conference would be an opportunity for UVP staff to share some of their experience with others, raise UVP's profile in the country, and network with faculty and students from Makerere (for our internship program). We succeeded at the first two objectives, but because there were fewer students at the conference this year compared to past years, I wasn't as happy with our ability to network. I hope that next year the conference has enough money to better subsidize students, who should be one of the main audiences for the conference.

On Friday afternoon, I gave a presentation about health and human rights education in the US. My goal was to share some of the PHR student program's experiences in this area, and to start a conversation with students and faculty about incorporating health and human rights education into the health professional school curricula in Uganda. Given the situation with student attendance I describe above, I was pretty nervous by lunchtime Friday that I'd be speaking to a room full of chairs.

However, much to my delight, the presentation was pretty well attended (thanks to being just before the closing keynote), and lots of Makerere faculty members, health workers, and even the WHO Special Representative to Uganda came up to me afterward to trade contact information and share their perspective on health and human rights education.

One of the most inspiring conversations I had was with a health promoter from Pallisa district who shared stories of patients dying because doctors and nurses wouldn't treat them without getting paid first. She noted indignantly, "This is a human rights issue! These people do not need to die!". Bingo.

Several of the health workers from various parts of the country invited me out to their districts to see what's going on where they work. I really hope I get a chance to take them up on these generous offers.

Random Notes:
- Went to an amazing Thai restaurant in Kampala which can actually make green curry, pad thai, and tom kha. Ate there twice this week.
- Bought a helmet for my boda-boda rides. Very, very happy about this, partly because I'll be safer and partly because I won't show up to work with a thick layer of red dust on my face anymore.


  1. Dear Sujal,
    Have just heard about your accident.Hoping and praying for your complete and speedy recovery.The world needs more people like you.Through your work and your compassionate attitute you have made hundreds of friends all over the world. We all pray and jointly ask God to bless you and for your complete recovery. We are looking forward to hearing lots more from you about your various projects and trips.Get well soon!
    God Bless,
    Your Sis,

  2. May God bless your soul and give strength to your family and friends to bear this loss.

  3. I miss you Sujal and feel like an ass for thinking I'd get over to visit you *some day* from my home in Nairobi. What has happened to you is stupid and unfair.

  4. RIP and GOD comfort your family,the world has lot one of the very best,I'm broken,my heart goes out to your family, everyone who knows you understand what I'm talking about,you have gone too soon

  5. RIP Sujal one of the world's best!!!My heart goes out to your family,may God comfort them especially your parents

  6. Goodbye Sujal. You're one of the best people I've ever known. You have inspired me so much. I wish there were more people like you in this world.

  7. Your friends all over the world are grieving for you, Sujal, not least of all among the community of AMSA activists here in Boston. Your legacy is an inspiration that I think will ultimately prove greater than the tragedy of your death. We soldier on even harder now in your absence.
    Rest in peace dear colleague.

    -Brandon Green; Jamaica Plain, MA.

  8. Hanni Stoklosa; Arlington, MAOctober 13, 2010 at 4:53 PM

    Rest in peace, Sujal. Your life was an inspiration to us all. May we live life with as much fervor as you did.

  9. Christina, CaliforniaOctober 13, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    Peace for you Sujal. I haven't had the privilege of meeting you but have learned that the world has lost someone special. My deepest sympathies to your family.

  10. May we all be inspired to carry on the work you have started. My thoughts are with your family and friends. I am so sorry that such tragedy happened to someone who deserved the least.

  11. Though your time on earth cut short, rest assured that indeed you improved the world in which we live.

  12. We have never met and never talked, but I was once part of the IFMSA family and as such, it hurts to read when these kind of senseless tragedies befalls our family. You may be no more, but with this I hope for strength, love and all the support for your family and those who had the priviledge of knowing who you were and had the priviledge og being your friends. Good bye!

  13. Isn't it ironic, that you didn't get to use the helmet you bought. I keep thinking, that maybe, just maybe, you would still be here. I miss you so

  14. I still hear you speak all those brilliant ideas. You were really gifted. The world could do with more people like you. My deepest sympathy to your family. We all miss you

  15. Rest in peace. Thank you for your passion.

  16. The tragedy of an October accident

    Tears of unfinished research

    Of injury related morbidity and mortality

    An aspiring doctor of limitless potential

    Whose sense of justice gave me solace

    When his record made me

    Wish I wasn’t jealous

    I pour Jack Daniels

    On a Beijing curb

    Next one’s on me

    Dear Stranger

  17. i have never met you, but deepest sympathies to your family. you have impacted the world in such a positive way.

  18. Was lucky to interact with you Suj in Cleveland and Kampala and still can't imagine this terribly sad departure. RIP

  19. I didn't know you, Sujal, but my prayers go to you and your family. I was in a motorbike accident in Tanzania in February and I am struck by the whims of fate that allowed me to survive while you did not. The work you were doing was inspiring and you sound like such an incredible person. I wish that I had gotten to meet you, but your legacy will touch so many people. I am thankful that the world was lucky enough to have you for a while but so sad that you were not here longer.

  20. While I never met you, my prayers go out to you and your family. You are an inspiration and I hope to follow in your footsteps.

  21. Thinking about you Suj.

  22. just heard about your story. prayers are with you and your family

  23. I miss you. I was walking on the sky connector between the medical school and the NIB this morning and thought of you. To some degree, UM must have reminded you of Berkeley - the trees, the clocktower in the distance, the old houses. I can see why you chose to come here. Your friends are amazing. I think of you everyday, Suj.

  24. Sujal,
    Yesterday was our Fogarty orientation dinner for the 2011-2012 class, and the most memorable part of the night was when each scholar and fellow passed the microphone around and talked about what these 2 weeks meant for them. What I noted was how amazing it was to be in the company of people who are doing their parts to make the world a better place. One of the most moving moments for me during these past two weeks was hearing your father speak to us all about your commitment to global health. Your legacy truly lives on, and I'll think about your commitment, your empathy, and your hopefulness in what the world could look like. This world that you envisioned is a wonderful reality. I want to make that reality my own as well as I go off to Zambia to work on strategies aimed at prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. Thank you for being such a great inspiration.