Excellence in palliative care in Africa – interview with Francis Okongo

Categories: Education.

What were your feelings when you first heard that you had achieved a first class pass on your degree?

I was so happy, I could not hide my joy, I shouted from my office where I was alone. I looked up the Makerere University Students Records and saw the CGPA was 4.41 and from that I knew I had obtained a first class.

The joy and happiness was enormous after Hospice Africa Uganda recognised my effort by giving me a gift of a certificate of appreciation at a small party in the university where all the graduands celebrated together.

Could you tell me about your current role?

I am still working with Lacor Hospital, running the outpatient and inpatient palliative care services. I have also started population based cancer registry activities integrated with the palliative care outreach programs.

Were you able to dedicate yourself to the degree full-time, or did you continue your normal work while studying?

I dedicated every evening from 5pm onwards for my course work and assignments while my routine work continued from 8:30am – 5:00 pm daily.

What are your plans for the future now that you have graduated?

My plan for the future is to introduce, with support from the university authorities and experts from Makerere Palliative Care Unit, a palliative care academic unit in Gulu University faculty of Medicine.

After settling fully at the university, I plan to encourage production of evidence-based information through research in palliative care to further the integration process of palliative  care into the existing health care services in Africa. 

I would like also to develop the cancer registry program to run alongside the palliative care services, a concept that will take palliative care services nearer to the most needy members in the rural areas of northern Uganda.

What advice do you have for others working in or studying palliative care in Africa?

My advice for anybody studying palliative care in Africa is that this course is a calling for alleviating needless human suffering from the burdens of life limiting illness – like cancer and HIV/AIDS – which are ravaging the African continent and impacting negatively on the economic growth of these developing nations.

It demands extra concentration, resilience and obedience to achieve the best results.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to once again send my sincere thanks and appreciation for the kindness of the following sponsors whose contribution was immense and led to my academic excellence:

Hospice Africa Uganda and Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa for paying part of my fees in year one of my education.

St. Mary’s Hospital, Lacor, for providing an environment conducive to learning and working, and also for partly paying my tuition fees.

I am equally indebted to the International Association of Hospice and Palliative Care and the Wolfson Foundation for covering my tuition fees in the 2nd and 3rd year of my education.

Last but not least, I would like to extend my appreciation to all the faculty staff of Makerere Palliative Care Unit and Faculty of Medicine for the academic guidance throughout my training, may you all be blessed abundantly.

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