Blog: Learning by Degree

Dr Mhoira Leng
12th October 2011

2nd years at Mulago
2nd years at Mulago
52 students from 10 Africa countries; 10 weeks of intensive teaching; committed faculty dealing with last minute crises and problems; international faculty from the UK augmenting the expertise and adding to the rich mix; learning from an inspirational group of colleagues; singing every morning; dancing together in church; speeches, cakes, first ever clinical OCSE exam....we are nearly at the end of the 2011 face to face teaching session for the BSc in Palliative Care run by Hospice Africa Uganda and offered by Makerere University.

Charity concert with 3rd years
It is always an intense few months with many challenges but as before the inspiration of working in a committed team and with such inspirational students is humbling and rewarding. Many of the students are experienced palliative care colleagues and leaders in their own settings and bring their wealth of knowledge yet are still willing to learn and share. For some this is a new opportunity to travel and learn. Let me do some introductions. In the 1st year group are Eric and Eric from Cameroon. They had never had passports before let alone traveled by plane. Joining them from Zimbabwe is Chengerai and together they had great singing voices and joined me in our church thanksgiving service.

Malawi 2nd years
Our first Cairdeas scholarship students, Lois and Gertrude were part of this group and were proud to share in the visit to Mulago - their place of work too. In the second year were some familiar faces as well as many newcomers. 5 from Malawi showing the huge commitment to training and developing palliative care across that country and especially good to see them all back in Uganda having visited most of them last year. Christopher spoke of the way he has grown as a leader through the course. Then the 3rd years; pioneers having to manage the many glitches of a new programme with forbearance and tackle new subjects such as research and mentorship and doing so with enthusiasm. For many balancing the demands of work and family and study and finances are so challenging. Supporting one another and forming close bonds of friendship. Amos and Willy singing duets to calm the nerves before the first OCSE (Clinical ) exam; and who was more nervous; the students or the examiners most of whom were new to this style of assessment.

Prof Barbara Jack and myself relaxing
Prof Anne, Jo, Zena, myself and 1st years farewell cake
What of my fellow faculty members? Still smiling and supporting even when the challenges have been many and the many new members at Hospice Africa Uganda working well together. Working long hours and giving of themselves in many ways too. Sharing expertise especially with those from the UK who are part of  THET link project. Some old friends such as Prof's Scott Murray, Julia Downing and Barbara Jack but also new colleagues in Libby Ferguson and Ruth Adams.

2nd years and faculty
End of Children's module teaching
Prof Anne Merriman was speaking to the students at a reception in her home and reminding them that the word 'hospice' shared a derivation with the word 'hospitality'. Opening our homes and our hearts to those in need and supporting one another. It is sad to be saying goodbye to colleagues and friends yet the friendships and bonds made during these weeks will remain and grow and we are richer and more blessed for the meeting of hearts and minds and cultures. We also as a MPCU team are very sad to be saying good bye to Dr Jo Dunn  who has been such an important part of the team as well as friend for the past year. We wish her every blessing in settling back in to London life and a huge thank you for all she has given to us and to Uganda. We also welcome new members with Dr Jack (Ugandan) and Dr Lesley (UK)
Meetings and parting remind me of the motto of Aberdeen city; 'Bon accord...happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again.'