85 degrees in January. This was just one of the wonderful benefits of spending the first few weeks of January in Uganda completing an independent study project. Sean and I traveled with Ann Johnson, Director of the Center for Nonprofit Management at St. Thomas, to Kampala Uganda Dec 29 – Jan 15, 2011.
Through Net Impact, we had been working with medical clinics in Africa doing various consulting projects during our time in the MBA program. At one point, our clinic contact recognized our lack of cultural understanding and the implications that had on any recommendations we made. He commented that we should “ just come to Africa!” We took him seriously and spent the next nine months working with the University and Hope Medical Clinics Uganda (HMC) to arrange our project, class, and trip. We were introduced to Charles Lugemwa, a UST alumni and co-founder of Hope Medical Clinics with Fr. Dennis Dease, President, University of St. Thomas, and began planning a project to help him with their current two clinics, hospital being built, and future expansion plans.
During our time in Uganda, we spent time at the two current clinic locations (Kasubi and Ndejje) working with staff to develop an understanding of the state of the clinics and opportunities to improve the current model. Upon arrival, we were amazed to see that Kampala wasn’t lacking clinics, they were everywhere you looked, but lacking quality healthcare. HMC strives to provide community-driven, affordable, quality healthcare services. It has a vision of raising the standard for healthcare and health standards across Uganda through the influence of their clinic model.
We had the opportunity to tour a free government clinic and visit a privately operated clinic near the HMC Kasubi location. The lack of professionalism, training, adequate facilities, and legitimate pharmaceuticals in these clinics was obscene. The clinic visits, paired with all of the cultural experiences we had while in Uganda helped us understand the dire need for quality facilities with trained professionals providing holistic care, which is what HMC strives to do.
We compiled a situation analysis of the clinics and their environment, and then narrowed our recommendations to four key areas: Staffing, Internal Communication/Transparency, External Communication/Marketing, and Equipment & Technology. We worked with Charles to develop ten deliverables that we will be creating throughout this semester to meet the clinics’ needs. Sean and I will also be working with an Executive MBA team who is creating a strategic plan for HMC’s future expansion. Lastly, we had such an incredible experience and would love for future MBA students to have similar opportunities, so we are working to create an annual opportunity during Jan-term in connection with HMC.
While in Uganda, we were fortunate to be treated like family by Charles and his extended family. Charles’ sister and her daughter hosted us in their lovely home, helped us navigate the city, welcomed us to their family events, and helped us learn so much about the culture. We also had the opportunity to spend weekends traveling, as we went on a Safari at the Murchison Falls National Park and went bungee jumping and whitewater rafting at the Jinja, the source of the Nile River. I would highly recommend participating in an HMC project in the future if you are interested in healthcare, nonprofits, or are looking for an intense cultural immersion. The opportunities we had, paired with the constant cultural experiences, provided for an incredible trip, project, and a plethora of great memories!
- Kelsey Luers & Sean Elder