By Joan Akello
Dr. Margaret Mungherera, 57, country chairperson Uganda Rotary and outgoing President World Medical Association talked to Joan Akello about medicine and early retirement
Any three things we don’t know about you?
I enjoy singing alto, was choir leader of Gayaza High School and won the shield after we won the Interschool Music Festival for three consecutive years and I appeared in the Uganda Argus for the first time in my Sunday uniform in 1976. I was the first Munyole woman to become a medical doctor in 1982 but I don’t speak the language because I didn’t grow up there. My husband married me even when he knew I was not going to deliver children; we had lived together for five years. So many women spend time looking for children or steal. But I’ve excelled without them. My great-great-great grandfather was a rain maker and every time there was no rain he was beaten up and maternal grandmother was a herbalist. Maybe that’s why I ended up in medicine.
Did you want to be a doctor?
No. But I envied my uncle, Alexander Were, who was the first doctor in Bukedi. It compelled me to do well but my mother wanted me to be a lawyer. I’ll retire this year and I’ve registered at Makerere University to do law this year. I would like to defend doctors and make Mummy happy. We are six children but only two are not in medicine, one brother is a journalist and the other is a graphics designer.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Achieving one’s goals and being at peace with yourself.
When and where were you happiest?
In 1994, when I got married and elected president of the World Medical Association as the youngest person. I had no interest in the position.
What is your greatest fear?
None because I survived when the car overturned five times some years back on Gulu Road and so many people supported me. Maybe when as chair of the Global Fund Inquiry, I feared for my life because it was sensitive and was given a body guard. I knew too much about some people.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Sometimes I don’t stop to listen.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
The corrupt and dishonest.
Who is your most difficult patient?
My mother is very obstinate and stubborn, does her own prescription and thinks she is better than us who were trained in Western medicine.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Eating in good restaurants, and dancing. I spent most of my young years going to Afrigo Band with my friends.
What is your current state of mind?
I’m happy and alright.
Does everyone have a level of madness?
Everybody has a weakness but people who are mad are really mad.
What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I’ve put on a lot of weight, as you grow older; you have to very careful about weight because it brings all the diseases.
What quality do you most like in a man?
Gentle, mindful. My husband was very handsome when we were young but we have both changed but he has remained compassionate.
What quality do you most like in a woman?
Gentle, care for others, take time to listen, and strive to be economically independent.
Who is the greatest love of your life?
My husband Richard Mushanga.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Singing and I really love the late Whitney Houston.
What would you change?
I wish this country had good leadership, management and governance at every level, corruption is massive. In the health sector, the money missing is by taken non-medical staff.
What are your greatest achievements?
I have reached the peak at the ministry of Health and profession; I worked in Butabika Hospital for 19 years as a physiatrist, worked in prison for 10 years as the first visiting forensics physiatrist and a senior consultant. I have also been outside the clinics, campaigned for women’s sexual rights, hope after rape, counseling, a Rotarian since 2002 and as country Chair, Rotary clubs have increased from 63 to 72 and some people want me to be the first woman District Governor (Uganda and Tanzania). I have been a role model and launched Joy Fertility Centre to help women but also they should know that children do not define them.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Straight forward and social person; I’m a Lumboxer.
Who are your favorite writers?
Medical journals writters, Sydney Sheldon and Daniel Steel.
Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Margaret Thatcher though I didn’t agree with some of her principles and Nelson Mandela.
Which living person do you most admire?
Barrack Obama, he has achieved a lot yet people want to make it as if he has achieved nothing.
What is your greatest regret?
May be I could have done more to improve the conditions and terms of service of health workers as president Uganda Medical Association.
How would you like to die?
Calmly and painlessly.
What is your motto?
Never give up
How can the profession be made better?
The basic principle in medicine is compassion. So admission should be through personality assessment not high performance.