I am currently a Year 2 student in the MSc Global eHealth course from the University of Edinburgh. eHealth is an emerging field at the intersection of medical informatics, public health and business, referring to health services and information delivered or enhanced through internet and related technologies. Each year The University of Edinburgh runs a Summer School Programme which draws together cohorts of Masters level students studying across the domain of One Health and Global Health: Innovation and Education. I was eligible for the programme and jumped on the occasion to meet friends which I encountered virtually only. This year’s Summer school took place in Uganda at Makerere University in July.
Uganda was a pleasant surprise for me. I reached the airport and happy to have good WIFI to talk to my family. The roads are loaded with vehicles and Ugandans are hard workers. They never seem to sleep. I was told that every day nearly 2 million people move to and from Kampala for work. Whoa! Mauritius where I am from is only 1.3 million people. Uganda has a population of 39 million with GDP growth of 5% (Source: Wikipedia). This is pretty impressive and promising African country.
The Summer School programme kicked off with a discussion on One Health and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was great to see the lecturers in action. We have been discussing a lot on the discussion boards and it was clear that we are not strangers but friends on a mission for better good. There were workshops on presentation skills and I got the opportunity to pitch my work and receive valuable feedback. The sessions on epidemiology have been made simple and I could grab the concepts better. Day 1 was pretty heavy but I seemed to get a better grip of the structure of the programme as the days went by.
The great thing about Online distance learning is that all the students are busy working professionals in their own fields. This programme provided a platform to network and talk about potential synergies. Each one of us is contributing in our fields and learning the best practices from different areas is pivotal to acquire the multi-disciplinary skills of future leaders.
We had a comprehensive data analysis workshop with Professor Michael Thrusfield. It was the first time I truly understood the meaning of p value and t-test. The workshops ended daily with inspirational talks from alumni and students.
Team building workshops were interesting and allowed us to know our friends better. From writing press releases to data analysis on quantitative studies, a wide variety of activities fostered a challenging yet fun environment to learn.
I finally managed to meet Dr. Liz Grant. She signed my scholarship letter in 2014 and I am indebted for the support she has given me since then. This MSc has challenged me to step to the next level and move ahead in my career.
The final day of the workshops, the students gathered up and went for dinner. We had 1.1 million Ugandan Shillings worth of food and it was really tasty (1 GBP = 4451 Ugandan Shillings).
The University of Edinburgh organized a trip to the forest of Budongo were research is conducted to understand the relationship between biodiversity, forest management practices. We stayed in a lodge which was far better than I expected. We spent two nights there and I was impressed by the hospitality of Ugandans. On day 2 we went chimpanzee tracking. We walked nearly 3 hours in the deep forest of Budongo appreciating the wildlife. It was surprising to see how the chimpanzees were undisturbed by humans. I saw a really balanced wildlife ecosystem. Our guide could identify the chimpanzees from far and even called them by name. Wow. These guys are doing an amazing job to preserve wildlife and also maintain a peaceful balance between humans and wildlife. I enjoyed these two days in Budongo and it’s recommended to all those visiting Uganda.
The key aspect of the Summer School Programme is that I made great friends from different fields who are leaders of tomorrow.
Dr Leckraj Amal Bholah, MSc Global eHealth, University of Edinburgh