On the morning of Friday October 14th, 2016, the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) www.ranlab.org team joined in the 2nd Joint International Students Scientific Conference (JISSC). The conference, which took place over three days; October 12th to 14that the Imperial Royale Hotel, Kampala Uganda was conceptualised by the students of the Makerere University College of Health Sciences to promote knowledge sharing and networking across Health Science students in Uganda, Africa, and the world at large. This year’s conference brought close to 100 multidisciplinary participants from 5 countries together including participants from Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Kenya. A big thank you to the conference sponsors who included the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) among others.  

In retrospect to the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the students of the College of Health Sciences were inspired to dedicate this years JISSC to the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). The conference was therefore guided by the theme: “Achieving Quality Health and Well-Being: Our Contribution to The 2030 Agenda” and featured over 50 abstracts and keynote addresses that were grouped under 14 subthemes. RAN’s Engagement Officer- Natasha Kassami, chaired the session on “Technological Innovations and Advancements in Healthcare” on Friday 14th October, 2016 and she opened the discussion by welcoming all the guests and presenters. She shared on what an honour it was to chair the session and how appropriate it was for RAN to lead the discussion on innovations given its focus on ‘Solutions through Innovation’.  “Of all of the industries where technology plays a crucial role,” she started, “healthcare is definitely among the most important.” She added that it was “no wonder that RAN’s Eastern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab was hosted by the Makerere School of Public Health”.  Natasha also shared about her background in Public Health and Biomedical Science, which culminated into her passion and work in supporting the scaling of innovations to strengthen community resilience while improving and saving lives. It was also a rich opportunity to share about some of the health related innovations under incubation at RAN. These include; the BVKit– a rapid and reusable portable screening and diagnostic tool for bacterial vaginosis, Wekebere- a hand-held self-diagnostic tool that enables pregnant women to monitor the development of their unborn babies, the Epi tent- a tent that breathes and thus keeps the Ebola (and other disease outbreak) service delivery teams cooler and safer and Matibabu’-the non-invasive malaria diagnosis tool kit among others.

This session presenters included;

Brian Matovu who described an ongoing study his team was carrying out to determine whether the biomarkers- Activin A and Inhibin A could specifically identify women at risk of developing pre-eclampsia, one of the major causes of maternal and perinatal mortality and morbidity.

Patricia Agaba, a fourth year Medical student from Mbarara University of Science and Technology who shared her team’s low-cost improved chest drainage system that prevents the back flow and quantifies the volume of fluid drained for effective patient monitoring.

Mutumba Linda Gertrude, a recent graduate from Makerere University College of Health Sciences who spoke about her team’s new mobile phone application- “Medsocialite”, that will enable knowledge sharing among medical professionals in interactive sub-communities and also provide access to medical literature, equipment and products in their country of practice.

Mugaga Julius, a final year Biomedical Engineering student at the College of Health Sciences who shared about his mobile based application that uses a unique predictive scientific model to calculate the percentage risk of obstructed labor among pregnant women.

Calvin Abonga, a Biomedical Engineering student at Makerere University whose team is working to develop an “uncensored portal” through which men and women of reproductive ages can access reproductive health information to raise awareness of and improve the quality of sexual and reproductive health.

The discussion was then opened to the audience who asked questions for purposes of clarity but also provided feedback directed towards further improving the ideas shared. As she closed the session, she noted that she was impressed seeing young people (students) successfully initiating and managing such conferences and stressed RAN’s commitment to supporting innovations like these to grow and be launched in the global market. “There are several opportunities across RAN and its partners which students and the entire community should take advantage of” Natasha stressed as she urged participants to visit the RAN Website accessed at www.ranlab.org for details about the project and multidisciplinary opportunities therein.

Other conference sessions enlightened participants on; Rational drug use, Pharmaceutical care, Diseases in the light of lifestyle changes, Evidence based medicine and the Impact of climate change on health.