Remarks for Professor Francis Omaswa
Convocation of the Aga Khan University
Kampala, February 8, 2020
President Firoz Rasul,
Ambassador Amin Mawji
Members of the Board of Trustees of the Aga Khan University,
Members of Government and the Diplomatic Corps,
Faculty and staff of the University,
And, most importantly, our graduating students:
Good morning to you all. It is a pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2019.
I am aware of the outstanding reputation of the Aga Khan University here in Uganda, and of its hospital in Nairobi where my wife and I worked during our days in Nairobi. The establishment of a new Aga Khan University Hospital in Kampala is a most welcome development. It should help to raise the standard of care, to educate health care leaders, and to generate knowledge that is needed to address some of Uganda’s critical health challenges. I want to thank His Highness the Aga Khan for his commitment to improving quality of life in East Africa, and the very significant long-term investments that he has made in Uganda over many years.
I should tell you that my first encounter with HH the Aga Khan was also the first time that I saw an aero plane that brought him to the town of Soroti in Eastern Uganda where I was a school boy around 1956/7
My remarks today are addressed to the happy graduands as they commence their respective journeys as health professionals here in Uganda, Africa and globally. Imagine your selves 20 to 30 years from today; where will you be? What will you have achieved professionally and in your personal life? I have no doubt that you have all been thinking about this and what I will do now is to share with you thoughts based on my own 50years experience on my own professional journey. I graduated as a medical doctor in 1969 at Makerere Medical School as you have been told. Health my dear friends, is not only my area of expertise but is more than anything else my passion. Here are some suggestions for your consideration:
First, you have to take good care of your selves through personal discipline. Ordinary matters such as being clean and smart, eating well, having adequate sleep and having peace of mind cannot be taken for granted. I have also found having a spiritual life to be empowering and an anchor that keeps me on course. You have to cultivate these habits purposefully and deliberately. Keep friends and seek to work with people who will advance your career and life not those who will award you PHD; in full “pull her down”. Please join and be active memebrs of your professional associations where will meet professional colleagues who will lift you up and not pull you down.
Second, I call upon you to pursue excellence in whatever you do. Everything that you do must be done to the highest achievable standard taking into account your personal capability. This includes the big and the small things in your work and life. If you bathe a patient it must be done the best way possible. If you clean the floor, apply a dressing to a wound, teach others or lead the way, it must be to the highest possible standards. Keep in mind that what you are doing well today can be done event better tomorrow and the next day. This is known as “Continuous Quality Improvement” in Total Quality Management principles. In this way you are getting better and better all the time in your daily life both professional and social.
Third, you need to cultivate your people skills on how to get on in a complex world. When I was a school boy, I was introduced to a book titled “How to win friends and influence people”. I found this book to be useful and I still recommend young people to read and use it. In your life, you are going to meet all types of people; nice and friendly, nasty and aggressive, generous and greedy. You will have to manoeuvre your pursuit for excellence among all these characters and succeed.
What I have found helpful is to be positive and helpful to all people. If you can help someone, why not do it? I have also found it helpful to work for the common good and not my own personal good. Once it is known that you work for all people including of course yourself, you will be given more things to do on behalf of the community from which you can also benefit. That is the best route to becoming a leader.