Dr. Anthony Ocaya: Four years with the Global Health Service Partnership

Daisy WinnerBlog, Medicine, Uganda

Dr. Anthony Ocaya is the Deputy Dean of Gulu University in Uganda, where he coordinates student education programs, and a partner to the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) since its inception. When GHSP Volunteer Educators arrive to Gulu, Anthony is the one who pairs them to departments, introduces them to the hospital staff, and helps assimilate them into the teaching and learning atmosphere. He’s their constant, interacting with Volunteers every day – and he’s done this since the very first Volunteer arrived as part of our inaugural cohort in 2013.

We recently spoke to Dr. Ocaya about his experience with GHSP, and what he has learned during these past four years.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing medical education in Uganda?

Dr. Anthony Ocaya (AO): Human resources. The main thing now is that we do not see a commitment from our leaders to really get some things right in staffing the local health workforce. The different players don’t seem to be talking. It is a big challenge for us, and it’s part of why in Gulu over the years we have decided to engage additional nongovernmental partners like Lecor Hospital and GHSP. When we engage in a partnership, there are things that we’re able to learn and build as an institution, like a vision for accommodation and in-house transport. And when we address those issues right, we fix a problem.

What are your goals for medical education and Gulu University?

AO: Quality education, and to increase the number of skilled healthcare workers we can develop who go on to affect the quality of community health. That means that the skill set that they’re going to develop should include but not just be geared towards clinical care. We also need to look at skill sets that take into account real-life, community application. We also want to see more and more community-based health workers, because they’re trying to broaden the reach of service beyond the hospital setting, and referring patient in when needed. We are now going into pharmacies, we’re going into nursing. It’s doctors and nurses, but it’s also more – we need to have a whole health team.

How has GHSP impacted your institution?

AO: There is a positive change in work and mentorship. That I can tell you very clearly. The change in providers’ attitude towards the work has been tremendous. The volunteers have never, for one minute, sat down. Seriously, and I really have to appreciate that. They’ve never for one minute sat down and complained. They look at everything on the positive side, and I’ve always heard them tell us what we can do better together. They’ve also given us a different dimension to medical training. They bring experiences from the Western world into an African setting, and help us see how certain things can be done in a different way. And that you can achieve so much even with so little. That’s the biggest thing. I really appreciate them, and the skill sets they’ve instilled in not just the students, but the community. We see how they work and how they educate themselves and what they do, and it really brings out what a doctor is supposed to be. Really, what one’s supposed to be. I love it.