The ACHEST Executive Director, Prof. Francis Omaswa, is one of the 26 medical doctors that has been recognized by the Uganda Medical Association(UMA), for their dedication and service to humanity and health care.
The doctors were recognized in UMA’s 2021 publication titled “The giants of Medicine in Uganda.” It features inspirational real-life stories of each of these 26 doctors, most of them from humble backgrounds, and how they rose to become exceptional specialists nationally, regionally, and globally.
Their stories are a good example of how rewarding it is when one works hard and selflessly serves for the common good.
Prof. Omaswa is particularly hailed as the father of rural surgery. In 1983, he was the coordinator of the project on Cost-Effective Rural Surgery in his hometown in Ngora, eastern Uganda. What is outstanding about this is that hospitals such as Mulago would refer and transfer patients for surgery to Ngora! It was headed to be a center for rural Surgery for rural Africa, had it not been for the war that later engulfed the country. Prof. Omaswa also founded the Uganda Heart Institute and served as Chief Surgeon and Director-General MOH, among his numerous achievements.
Prof. Omaswa, who now has this to say about his recognition by UMA: “ I appreciate the UMA leadership for publishing this book which will inspire other people to serve the country. There are many other deserving “Giants” who should have their stories told in the next edition of this book”
The book is divided under 3 – sections
I) ‘The Infancy of Modern Medicine’ which features Dr. Albert Cook the first missionary doctor, Dr. Dennis Parsons Burkitt, the Pioneer Missionary Surgeon, Dionysius Bamundaga the first courageous Ugandan doctor, and two other African doctors namely Antonio Bamugye, and Yakobo Baziwane.
II) ‘The Period of decolonization’ features 14 doctors namely Prof. Steven Bosa(psychiatry), Prof. Latimer Kamya Musoke(pediatrics), Prof. Frederick Mukasa Bulwa (the first East African gynecologist), Prof. Ian McAdam(the longest-serving head of the Department of Surgery ), Prof. George D’arbela (cardiology), Dr. Martin Aliker ( diplomat and first East African dentist) and Prof. Samuel Kulumbavi Kajubi(a professor of physiology specializing in nuclear medicine). Others are Prof. Alexander Mwa Odonga (surgery), George Willian Sekiwunga Kamya(surgery), Emmanuel Bijjugo Ssajjalyabeene Lumu (medicine and surgery), Prof. Jovan W.M Kiryabwire(neurosurgery) Prof. Peter Hermit Sebuwufu(anatomy), and Raphael Owor (pioneer histopathologist in Eastern Africa).
There is only a female doctor featured in this section – and the entire book – Prof. Josephine Mary Namboze, a professor of Public Health. She was the only female in her class at the then Makerere University College of East Africa. She was also the first female doctor in East and Central Africa. She graduated in 1959. Her story is a manifestation of how far educating the girl child has come.
III) The last part of the book is dedicated to resilient doctors in the “Post-Independence Growth.” Given the turmoil that characterized post-independence Africa, anyone would have easily given up. However, many of these doctors chose to practice medicine back home.
8 doctors including Prof. Omaswa are profiled under this section. Others are, Prof. Sebastian Kyalwazi (first East African surgeon), Prof. William Bill Parson(a passionate educationist from the USA), Prof. Francis Mmiro( for medical research in Uganda), Prof. Marcel Andrew Otim (endocrinologist/specialist in diabetes), Prof. Charles Olweny (oncology specialist), Prof George Kirya( academician and diplomat), and Dr. Samuel Okware(HIV/AIDS warrior).
In his forward, Dr. Richard Idro the UMA President (2019-2021) said the aim of The Giants of Medicine in Uganda is to ‘document, preserve and immortalize the lives of these forerunners, their achievements in the ward, community, in research and leadership; and to share with the younger generation lessons of their values and unique attributes that made them become giants. “
Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the Director-General of Health Services also stated: “A worthy tribute to these great souls would be for us to add excellence to our work and make use of whatever technological advances we have today, and take the medical field in Uganda to unprecedented heights.”
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist