In his 31-year-old medical profession, one of the many things that puts a smile on Prof Charles Ibingira’s face is the fact that Makerere University College of Health Science, where he has served as Principal since 2015, is the second leading college in health research in Africa. In 2009, it was the leading college in East Africa in health research.
It is for this reason that on the entire African continent, the M8 Alliance chose the college as the only medical school in Africa to constitute 28 medical schools that make up the alliance worldwide and also led to his appointment as the alliance president for 2019/2020.
What is the M8 Alliance?
The M8 Alliance was started to inform the G8 on World Global Health Policy on health issues such as Ebola, haemorrhagic fevers and HIV/Aids that have no boundaries.
Founded in 2009 under the patronage of the German Chancellor, French President and the President of the European Union, the alliance serves as a think-tank where global health topical issues are discussed to inform policies of global health in the world and also hosts the World Health Summit.
During Ibingira’s one year presidency term, Uganda will host the 2020 World Health regional summit meeting from April 27 to 29, 2020. It will be the very first to be hosted in Africa.
Where it all started
Prof Ibingira was born in Kiyaga Village, Rukungiri District. He went to Kinyasano Primary, Ntare High School in Mbarara for his secondary level education before joining Makerere University for Bachelors of Medicine from 1983 to 1988.
After graduating from Makarere University in 1988, Ibingira served as a medical officer at Mityana Hospital for two years and later moved to Masaka Hospital for less than a year. He later specialised in surgery as a general surgeon in 1996 still at Makerere University. He is still an active general surgeon w. At the same time, he is a professor of anatomy and teaches human anatomy and surgery at Makerere University.
Overtime, Ibingira has grown through the ranks from a lecturer, senior lecturer, head of department of Anatomy and deputy dean for research in the Faculty of Medicine in 2007/2008. When Makerere assumed the collegiate system when the college of health sciences was a pilot college, the institution created four schools outside the faculty of medicine.
He was appointed acting dean of the school of biomedical sciences. And when Makerere eventually adopted the collegiate system in 2011, he was appointed the substantive dean of the school of biomedical sciences until 2014.
“When an opportunity to serve as a principal appeared, I applied, went through the competition and I was appointed the Principal of Makerere University College of Health sciences in 2015 to date,” Ibingira says.
Besides Ibingira’s master’s training, he also did a Diploma in Research Ethics at the University of Cape Town for two years in 2007. He is married to Lydia Kabandize Ibingira and the couple has six children.
Some of Ibingira’s lowest moments were when he trained during difficult times when the government was transitioning from Idi Amin to Milton Obote’s regime. He remembers missing a semester because many people, including students, were blocked after Katonga area was captured.
“I could not study for my Third Year and I had to do it as a crash programme but I managed to complete. In 1989 when in Senior Three at Ntare, I went to school and after two weeks in February, Mbarara was closed because of the war that drove out Amin. We had to go back to school in September. I studied for three months but it did not stop me from excelling,” he recalls.
After completing school, there was poor pay for medical doctors, something that compelled his cohort to travel abroad for greener pastures. He stayed in Uganda because he did not know anyone abroad. He says he had to struggle from within Uganda to map a way forward.
“Since that time, I have moved steadily and progressively to this day. I enjoy my career and profession. I can be called at any moment and I will go and attend to patients. Attending to patients is my priority,” Ibingira says.
When I became principal, I had to ensure that graduates of Makerere continue to be the best not only in Uganda but in the region. He says he works hard to maintain and build on the institution’s legacy of being recognised all over Africa.
“I am very happy because Makerere University College of Health Science is ranked number two in Africa. My priority is that the college becomes a hub of graduate training in Uganda,” he says.
As M8 Alliance president, Ibingira will work towards coordinating and making sure that the Alliance network is maintained and widened. He also has to make sure that there is closer collaboration among the alliance members to carry out joint grant applications where member institutions exchange students and faculties and do research together.
“This enriches the quality of training and medical education that happens at Makerere and among other members. I have to ensure that we come up with credible resolutions that can be taken on by the global health policy makers, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations,” Ibingira says.
Ibingira says the 2020 regional health summit will present opportunity for dialogue and brainstorming on recommendations which can be taken up globally.
“The meeting will be a big opportunity for Uganda to take up some of these recommendations to improve health policies and health of Ugandans. There will be an inter-ministerial session where we shall bring all health ministers from the African continent to discuss health improvement,” he notes.