Week 2 – The Nile, Sipi Falls, and the DHO!

Week two started with a boat ride on the source of the Nile followed by a hike at Sipi Falls which was one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities thus far. The waterfalls were breathtaking, to say the least – one of the colleagues and friend we made here had actually proposed to his wife of 15 years at Sipi! During the hike we learned about the community of Sipi and the close-knit aspect of it. The hike concluded with lunch prepared at Sipi, although my favorite part of lunch was not the food but the conversations. The rest of the week was a bit more busy, as we met with the District Health Officer of Mbale, Dr. Jonathan, and moved into our “home” for the rest of our time in Mbale. We met Liz, an MPH student at Makerere, who we are fortunate to have as our housemate. We also met Sandra, also an MPH student at Makarere, who makes the days even better. The morning after purchasing bed sheets and settling in, we went to the District Health Office (DHO) for our first official day. We met different public health experts and made plans to meet with other experts for the rest of the week. One of the experts we met works specifically in the area of elimination of mother to child HIV transmission. On the second day at the DHO, we were able to get right into the field and drive up to the mountains to visit health centers with a team of DHO staff to complete data validation for the month of May. Before we knew it, the weekend came, ending our 2nd week in Uganda.

Reflecting on week 2, I became more and more aware of the strong sense of community from my time at Sipi Falls to my visits at the three health centers. This was distinctly different than the sense of community at home because it appeared to come more naturally and readily because it is culturally embedded. Of course, we build community back at home too but the process can look different as we may need to actively work towards it – thinking back to my time as an RA in college when I had a budget just for “community builders” to get college students out of their dorms and into the common rooms and larger LA community. Getting to go into the field and participating in data validation was a privilege given that it was only day 2 at the DHO. I looked through records with the staff and tallied up the number of HIV and TB co-infections reported. We also collected data on number of women tested for HIV for the first time during labor and babies born to HIV+ mothers. I was impressed all the different data books and forms the health centers had. There was a wealth of information on the communities that is being utilized to address the health issues of the community.

I am looking forward to learning about how all the data from the health centers are further compiled and made more easily accessible as I continue at the DHO.

Week 1 – Kampala

We landed in Uganda (after several flights) at around midnight and one of Dr. Brodine’s friends was there waiting and ready to meet us – at midnight! The ride to the Mulago Guest House at Makerere University was a bit of a blur after the 20+ hours of flying but we made it there and that was “home” for most of the first week. We started the days a little later as we adjusted to the time changes but when we were out and about, it was a great time. We met other colleagues of Dr. Brodine who provided valuable background on Uganda and at the same time showed us some basics such as where to get a local SIM card. The week really started to take off when we went to a cultural center where we watched local dances from the various regions of Uganda; each one told a different story about the communities in their respective areas. The week ended with a party, complete with wonderful company, lots of local dishes, and of course dancing.

My first impression of Uganda was made by someone waiting for us at the airport at midnight to take us to the house which was about an hour away – people can be so kind and helpful. Another observation that stood out to me was that a lot of people seemed to know each other. We sometimes use the phrase “small world” back in the US when we see someone unexpectedly but here in Uganda, the phrase seemed to take life. One of the colleagues, who we started to call “man of the people” seemed to run into someone he knew everywhere we went. Lastly, I was humbled by the lengths the host and friends went to at the party, to make us feel welcomed.

Looking forward to the District Health Office in Mbale!

Living in Tororo

July 2-13 While in Tororo, I met three American Peace Corps volunteers. Chatting with them helped me navigate the cultural differences between Americans and Ugandans. One asked me if I had figured out the difference between “now, now” and “now”. I laughed and said I had. “Now, now” means now and “now” actually means sometime within …

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Arriving to Tororo

June 18-29th Tororo I arrived in Tororo on June 14th, after about two weeks of exploring Uganda with my mentor, Dr. Brodine, and the other two MHIRT fellows. This is where my research experience truly began. I met the new people I would be working with and said goodbye to my travel mates. It was …

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