A leading maternal health researcher in Uganda and an Obstetrics and Gynaecology specialist at the Mulago National Specialised Hospital succeeds Professor Damalie Nakanjako, who is the new Principal of the College of Health Sciences.
Prior to her appointment to head the MakCHS, Professor Nakanjako had a short stint as the Dean of School of Medicine, a position she occupied for one year. Now, Dr. Nakimuli, who is also the Head Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology will be at the helm of the School of Medicine for the next four years.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr. Nakimuli pledged to diligently work along with colleagues and the outgoing dean to achieve the best for the school.
“I pledge my time and efforts to serve as the Dean of School of Medicine,” Dr. Nakimuli said.
The School of Medicine is one of the four Schools that constitute Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MakCHS). It started as a Faculty of Medicine in 1924 and was transformed into the School of Medicine in 2009 with 14 academic departments.
During her one-year service as Dean, Professor Nakanjako highlights she managed to resolve some of the challenges the School faced, several other challenges carry-on, and thus task to the new Dean.
She noted that the School of Medicine has a lot of untapped opportunities for growth and development.
The outgoing Dean also acknowledged that indeed it was not for granted and simple to be a female head to a whole team of men. She noted, however, that the School of Medicine made it possible for her.
On the achievements, Professor Nakanjako said that the School has had uninterrupted service to students and other stakeholders despite prevailing situations.
“I must say that many times when we make requisition for teaching materials, we are told that but people are not teaching and I have to explain a lot that our School is teaching and we need these materials so I truly thank you very much,” Professor Nakanjako.
It is from these zealous efforts from staff and leadership that the School has been able to achieve more improvements and requisitions towards efficiency.
In the past six months, the outgoing Dean said that the School has worked hard to acquire e-learning equipment to support the independent e-learning techniques and continuity of the teaching process.
This, she attributes to the physical constraints on face-face interfaces due to COVID-19 spread. Professor Nakanjako also indicates that every Department has at least one or two devices and more are still in the procurement process.
E-learning alternative to the face-face teaching and learning system was much adopted by Makerere University with the prolonged closure of academic institutions. This was consequential with the pandemic outbreak in March 2020.
Under the Open Distance Electronic Learning (ODEL), a system where learning and teaching are done using internet-connected platforms on digitalized devices, Makerere affected academics continuity to non-finalist students in October 2020.
With the adaption to e-Learning, Professor Nakanjako highlighted that plans to employ more IT people to support e-learning are being instigated. With more funds, she added that they shall be able to support at the school level and departmental level these blended learning portfolios.
The School of Medicine under Professor Nakanjako increased vigilance on clinical teaching materials. It was able to procure some teaching materials for both medical and surgical areas and more are still in the procurement stages, to support the learning of surgical skills.
Dr. Kaddumukasa, the acting Dean School of Medicine as well as deputy Dean, applauded the outgoing Dean for the great work done in her tenure. He said that the position as acting dean taught him a lot as he learned from Prof Damalie. Dr. Kaddu encouraged the incoming that as staff, they are ready to work with her.
“I for one know the incoming Dean as a person who has this school at heart. It is very surprising that she knows students by name, department, and rotation. This is nothing but the commitment and love to what she does.”
Other staff commented that Prof Damalie has been a result-oriented person, team builder, and one who looks for strengths rather than weaknesses in individuals.
Tasks for the incoming Dean
Whereas a lot was done and achieved by the outgoing Dean, Dr. Nakimuli has a number of tasks to accomplish and bring forth from her predecessor.
Some of these tasks as the former Dean highlights in her report include; improving the utilities for the surgical lab for the surgical skills, building on and maintaining resilient teams of clinicians, digitalization of the database for Education commission for foreign medical graduates, operationalization and active usage of the school website as well as working hard towards the efficiency of the high student capacity rate in the school.
Dr. Nakanjako advised her successor to optimize on the existent collaborations and operationalize and optimize existent Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with teaching facilities; Kawempe, Kirudu, and other teaching facilities for all the training programs. She observed that Mulago has turned out not to be enough as a teaching site thus a need to embark on having other sites. Dr. Nakimuli was urged to consider and include MOUs with other centers abroad.
Another key area to follow was the Pre-entry examination proposal that is still ongoing as well as the Curricula that are being revised at different levels and new initiatives that are ongoing including the clinical fellowship programs that are part of the medical doctorate program.
According to professor Nakanjako, there is a great need for the new School leadership to fast-track the timely payment of external examiners and urged that the heads of departments need to initiate this by submitting requisitions on time for their payment.
She noted that the issue of delayed submission of exams due to staff busy schedules with students needs to be resolved as well as reaching out for other training opportunities with the prolonged Mulago renovations.
Professor Nakanjako also noted that the Departments in the School remain understaffed, leaving them overworked beyond the recommended working hours.
She has been Head of Department Obstetrics and Gynaecology for the last five years. Annette Nakimuli is the current dean (SOM). She is committed to building maternal and newborn research capacity in Africa and her aim is, with East African and International colleagues, to establish a multidisciplinary center for African maternal and neonatal health research located at Makerere University in Uganda.