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Outdated medical school curriculum worries experts

Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, Dean of School Public Health at Makerere University. URN photo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The content of the curriculum used to teach students in Uganda’s medical schools is out of touch with the current needs of the country, and experts are worried.

Prof. Joel Okullo, the Chairman of the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council that regulates medical practice told scientists attending a symposium organized as part of the events to celebrate 100 years of Makerere University, that medical school is using a cut and paste curriculum with little focus on public health.

Okullo revealed that he was part of the delegation that President Museveni sent to Cuba more than five years ago in a botched programme to import doctors. He added that when they returned, they made recommendations that the country should drop focus on curative health promotion and preventive medicine.

Okullo however adds that none of their recommendations has been adopted and there is no regular review of the curriculum to update training to match the country’s current needs. Instead, he notes the country is trying to find ways of exporting doctors, something that doesn’t solve Uganda’s health problems.

While the regulator punches holes in the Makerere medical school curriculum, Prof. Francis Omaswa who was formerly a Chancellor of Busitema University and Director General of Health Services reveals worse. He says other medical schools copied and pasted Makerere’s curriculum.

He explains that while still at the medical school more than 50 years ago, they had a course unit on disease prevention which was practical that students would go all the way from the hospital to the community to close the gaps that were leading to diseases such as diarrhoea that are killer but preventable.

Instead, Dr Rhoda Wanyenze, the Dean of School Public Health at Makerere University reports that the public health course that would encompass this was removed from areas of training without even consulting the necessary experts.

To be able to remedy the medical profession, Prof. Nelson Ssewankambo, a health researcher and former Dean of School of Medicine says the country needs to develop models describing the kind of doctor the country needs. Then he says, it will be easy to come up with curriculum content that suits the need.

“We need to train based on where we want our doctors to practice from. Whether we need doctors to practice in New York or Kaabong.”

However, responding to these concerns, Maria Nakato Ssemakula who is in charge of accreditation at the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) said they have clearly spelt out what is needed to accredit training programmes but institutions are skipping reviews yet these are supposed to be done every after five years.

After that, they are supposed to be re-accredited by the council to approve any new additions to the curriculum.




  1. Ah
    There was a a public health training in medical schools

    Then the need to have doctors who can work in the rural setting was identified
    Then community based training was introduced student reports are available

    A University in this country has beeb praised for having a good programme probably informed by the approach from Cuba

    Then there are Unversities that implement the Malaysian approach

    Is it the training or the implementation that is at stake?

    Looking at community placement where the Determinants of health are most observed, how much time is allocated by each institution?

    If one has seen the evolution of all the above, then the story seems to be confusing!

  2. The whole story is like a merry _go_round or vicious cycle. Poor Ugandans ,nga tulabye ennaku munsi eno !

  3. The problem is in the reporting:

    Every district has an official called a District Health Officer
    What are they by training?

    The ministry has got a basic minimum health care package
    The component of Primary health care addresses several disease prevention strategies

    It is these activities that students from the medical schools get exposed to .

    Makerere University has about 14 training sites to which students get attached for a number of weeks

    Other Universities have activities planned according to what is described in the curriculum

    As to whether they are the exact replica of Kasangati Helth Center is another story

    So the title of the story seems to be……

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