The week starting Monday February 5, 2018 saw Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi, Director at the African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC) visit Makerere University School of Public Health  for a face-to-face engagement with students and faculty also as an alumni. Her main reason of visiting MakSPH was to engage in discussions directed towards establishing possible relationships which would later culminate into a collaboration. While at MakSPH, Dr. Kyobutungi also engaged with the MakSPH Infrastructure committee sharing aspects of resource mobilization and management among others with reference to the APHRC good practices.

Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, Dean MakSPH at the initial meeting with Dr. Kyobutungi emphasized that MakSPH is committed to grooming the next generation strongly noting that ‘the more good and well educated people we produce, the better the world in which we live’. ‘If we want to positively change the world, we in the education sector need to be in position to create more people who can work closely with us to change the world’ she added sighting that this is one of the things she is passionate about. She also argued the meeting participants to always remain consistent in all that they do sharing that what an individual said yesterday is what she/he should say tomorrow and the next day too if we are to realize dreams for Uganda and the word at large. ‘Let us all strive to try and fail but not fail to try although above all the trials people need to know who we are and what we are doing.’  Dr. Wanyenze advised.

During her meeting with the MakSPH Building Committee, Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi commended the team for a job well done thus far. This committee is currently under the Leadership of Prof. Noah Kiwanuka as Chair and Associate Prof. Lynn Atuyambe, Deputy Chair. She shared that the more you confess that you are successful, the more you actually become successful.  It is important that we continuously share and learn from others and that is why she had opted to come and visit the School of Public Health. She encouraged the committee to always strive to learn and look for opportunities creating long strong standing strategic partnerships. She also shared that Africa is full of institutions which are not fully functional and thus the need for us Africans to work even harder to make functional all the institutions for the benefit of all. ‘No one else can best solve Africans problems, it is we the Africans who can do it because we know more about the African challenges than anyone else. It is therefore important that we change the way we are doing things’’ she stressed. She also argued all the meeting participants to be proud to be Africans and know that they are all good at what they do-whatsoever whoever says; emphasizing that she is just lucky to be African.  She called everyone to always blow his or her own trumpet.

On Wednesday February 7, 2018, Dr. Kyobutungi engaged with several students and staff at MakSPH on the Role of Research Leadership in Africa also sharing about APHRC. She emphasized the need for all of us to join in the efforts to transform lives in Africa through research. While emphasizing this, she noted that ‘It does not matter how much of an expert one is, he or she needs to continue generating knowledge’. During her presentation, she also shared that indigenous abilities and expertise are important, therefore the need to invest in such capacities is essential. That what is key in coining successful Research and Research Leadership in Africa is to know where we are but also check what human and financial resources are in place in order to work towards putting in place the necessary infrastructure. ‘You need people who can be trusted and who measure up with the global scale of expertise. Build your won capacity using the available limited resources’ she noted. ‘What is global currency and what counts is in grants writing not number of projects you manage’ she added.

Dr. Kyobutungi shared the World Map highlighting high illiteracy rates, teenage pregnancies, poverty, high Research and Development expenditure, low scientific papers being published, almost no patents secured or granted etc. among which are pulling Africa down or off the grid compared to other continents. ‘Can we increase Africa’s recognition or visibility together?’ Dr. Kyobutungi asked. Sometimes Africa does not even appear on the World Map or if it does, it is represented by a thin invisible line and therefore it is very easy not to hear African voices in certain issues which affect Africa. She additionally noted that, with limited resources we all need to concentrate them on a few things but aim at standing out in the work we are doing. The key questions each one of us should always ask him or herself is ‘Who are you? What is your identity? And what is you sustainability plan? so that you curve out a nitch’. That whenever a person’s or an institution’s name is mentioned, somethings need to pop out in people’s minds. This is a sign that people know who you are or what you are doing thus ease of buy-in where necessary. Some of the frequently asked questions include; research for whom, what and when? Impact-whose? And what are the research priorities? If we are to effectively achieve from Research and Research Leadership. To emphasize these points shared above, Dr. Kyobutungi shared Peter Drucker’s quote that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. She also used this opportunity to briefly share about APHRC’s experience noting the need for all to always navigate through funders changing priorities in order to remain relevant, strike a balance between demand and supply, support internal capacity, operate on a strategic framework among others with the intent of attaining transformation. She stressed that it is alright to do something over years as long as you are doing it well and it is benefiting the communities.

While responding to the questions raised by students and faculty, Dr. Kyobutungi noted that many times we make assumptions of what is needed by the communities. It is however important that we all endeavor to engage with the communities in question for at least 3 years before offering solutions to their challenges. That in so doing, we define our research questions very well and plan for a sustained engagement. She also encouraged the students and faculty to move away from dissemination to engagement because it is literally through engagement that we can catch policy makers who are partners in creating change. Let us work towards building relationships instead of looking for opportunities to disseminate findings. ‘Have a curious mind, feel that you want to understand things very well as you engage, clearly state your objectives i.e. what you want to change and design strategies to achieve all these objectives’ she added. She urged all to always look out for opportunities to learn and improve the communities sharing that APHRC also has some opportunities for students through University partnerships for example the CARTA Fellowship Program  Dr. Kyobutungi also shared tips for fundraising including; consultancy, research, believing in yourself and being googlable.

As she thanked Dr. Kyobutungi for the well delivered presentation and executed engagement, Dr. Wanyenze also noted that APHRC through one of its programs the CARTA Fellowship is currently supporting 5 colleagues at MakSPH to pursue their PHD studies. Through such support among others, very many of us have become think tanks in our own capacity, can we therefore pull all this expertise and abilities together for success? added Dr. Wanyenze. Thank you APHRC for the continued support to MakSPH. Alone, we cannot go far, let us move forward together. She called upon the young research leaders in attendance to think through the issues shared by Dr. Kyobutungi reflecting on what the success we want to see is and how can we make this contribution in a manner that is possible. ‘Most successful and prominent people in life are not doing things for themselves but for others’ Dr. Wanyenze stressed. APHRC needs all of us to join efforts to transform Africa and thus it is important that we front cooperation rather than competition while creating a supportive environment for generating high quality evidence. ‘We need more PHDs purposed to solve community challenges’, Dr, Wanyenze said.

Prof. Christopher Garimoi Orach, Deputy Dean at MakSPH also thanked Dr. Kyobutungi noting that he was inspired by her level of humility and way she did her presentation. ‘Students here present, please borrow a leaf from the just concluded presenter and presentation’ he added. ‘In Africa, we need to believe in ourselves’ Prof. Orach stressed. ‘We are in one of the best Universities in the world certainly in Africa and that is Makerere University. Do not just keep doing the routine copying and pasting here and there, but be creative’ he noted.  He also re-emphasized the need for all of us to invest in human resources while encouraging students to strive to publish their work before they get out of the University or even before they actually graduate. The most important thing students have to do is quality research which can be published and the seniors in the field of research need to inspire the students or growth and development. ‘Let us all remain open to leveraging partnerships to further aid the work we are doing serving the communities in need’ Prof. Orach shared. Dr. Kyobutungi later received a thank you token from Makerere University amidst a lot of appreciation from students and faculty and this was meant to always remind her about this high institution of learning.