UCU School of Medicine



Navigating medicine journey with purpose and resilience

In the bustling streets of the Kyebando suburb of Kampala, and under the nurturing gaze of his parents, Mr. Deruku Luiji and Mrs. Asumpta Peace, Candia Godwin Ivan’s journey into the world of medicine began. 

Born in Arua, Uganda, Candia’s early experiences in life were marked by a profound loss when in the capital city suburb at age five. At that tender age, he tragically lost his younger sister to a febrile illness. It was a moment that would shape his destiny and ignite the flames of his commitment to the field of medicine.

Today, Candia stands as a beacon of hope for the people of Arua. A ministerial Policy statement for the Financial Year 2022/23 cited failure “to attract and retain specialized doctors” as a major challenge facing hospitals in the district, namely the Arua Hospital. One reason is that the district is over 300 miles from Kampala, where most professionals prefer to practice due to the vastness of opportunities and also the comparative lucrativeness of the trade.

After graduating as part of the pioneer medicine class of Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Medicine (SoM) in July, the medical doctor has now embarked on his Medical Internship at Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). Candia’s story is one of determination, passion, and a deep-rooted desire to use his skills to transform healthcare and make a lasting impact on his community.

UCU Candia’s Early Influences and Ambitions

From a young age, Candia’s love for medicine was evident. The loss of his sister instilled in him a profound belief that he should dedicate his life to saving lives. As he matured, particularly in his early 20s, his fervor for leveraging social impact to enhance healthcare grew stronger. His passion for medicine was not only a personal calling but also a response to the pressing healthcare needs of his community.

His decision to pursue medicine was influenced by a deep-seated desire to help others and his passion for science, which he recognized as an ever-evolving field. He notes that part of the seed was planted in his high school days at St. Mary’s College Kisubi “which had such a resourceful library.” 

“That is where my love for science grew much more, especially in the biological field,” he said.

If not for medicine, Candia contemplated a career in Software Engineering, a testament to his versatile interests and the breadth of his intellectual curiosity.

Candia’s pursuit for quality medical training brought him to UCU, where he would embark on a rigorous five-year journey filled with challenges and triumphs. He revealed that he had been closely following the law school and based on that success believed the medical school could be the same. 

The rigorous demands of the medical school curriculum meant immense mental energy to maintain this pattern for five years. Candia’s love for learning made the journey more manageable, and he credits his ability to balance his work and social life, as well as engaging in discussions with peers, for making the learning process easier.

In the midst of study rigor, Ivan remembers the weekend activities reserved for some adrenaline rush drawn from watching Premier League football in his hostel room.

Charting a Future in Medicine

Now, as he embarks on his medical internship and plans for the future, Ivan is uncompromising in his commitment to serving his community. His next steps include gaining more experience through work and pursuing a master’s degree in plastic and reconstructive surgery. His vision extends beyond personal success; he aspires to collaborate with other healthcare workers to conduct extensive health education within his hometown of Arua. 

This initiative aims to influence social habits, which are the primary contributors to disease and illness. Candia’s ultimate goal is to ultimately roll out free or at least affordable community health services. 

“If everything proceeds as planned, I intend to organize screening camps and eventually establish a nonprofit health facility to serve the Arua communities,” Candia says. 

Candia’s faith is an essential part of his life and work. As a Christian, he draws inspiration from the teachings of the Bible, where Jesus healed the sick and helped those in need. These teachings drive him, giving him a sense of purpose and meaning in his work as a medical professional.

One notable aspect of Candia’s journey was his leadership role at the UCU School of Medicine (SoM). This experience helped him develop crucial skills, including time management, communication, presentation, confidence, and critical thinking. These skills were instrumental in his academic excellence and continue to shape his professional life as a medical doctor.

Being the first medicine graduate in his family, the story of Candia Godwin Ivan serves as an inspiring testament to the power of determination, purpose, and faith in shaping a future where healthcare reaches the most vulnerable. 


‘UCU made me a full package doctor`

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Studying a course for five years is not for the faint hearted. The 23-year-old Beatrice Birungi is one of the 45 tenacious students who pioneered the grueling Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery training at Uganda Christian University (UCU), completing it this year.

Birungi was overjoyed as she graduated at the UCU Mukono campus on July 28. 

Graduating as a doctor was a dream come true for Birungi. Since her childhood, she has always thought doctors were “cool,” and now she is one of them.

However, being a doctor meant more to her as she grew up seeing her uncle save lives during the Ebola pandemic in Bundibugyo (2007-2008), western Uganda. She aspired to be like her uncle and work on the front line to save lives and make a difference.

Birungi narrates her journey as a UCU Medical student

When Birungi had just joined SoM in 2018, everything was new and complicated during that first year. She was encouraged to join discussion groups to help her discuss and process the concepts with her colleagues, which greatly helped her. 

In 2020, Birungi lost a father and a close aunt, increasing difficulties. 

“My father was the breadwinner. He catered for all my tuition and other fees, as well as upkeep. There were struggles along the way after he died,” she said. “It was hard getting over the loss of my father, but my classmates helped me to overcome it.” 

Despite obstacles of finances and grief, she remained focused on her studies. When she finally saw her name on the graduation list, she felt triumphant. She scooped a first-class degree, with a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 4.64 out of 5.0.

“I was more than excited when I saw my name on the graduation list. When I showed my mother, joy continued to flow as she also called other members of the family to inform them that I was graduating,” she said.

Birungi believes the School has made her “a full package doctor” who will give her patients “both physical and spiritual healing.”

“At UCU, I was given a holistic education through some of the foundation studies, such as Understanding World Views,” she said. “They literally made me a full-package doctor—they not only gave me medical knowledge but also knowledge about the real world and the spiritual aspect.”

She sees her profession as an opportunity to preach the gospel during her interactions with patients. She hopes to use the conversations to share the gospel as well.

Birungi, once shy, believes that by helping her patients know Christ, she will have a bigger impact on them because once they believe in Jesus, they will understand that He can heal them.

“I want to make an impact by bringing the spiritual side of medicine to the world,” she said. “I want to help others see Christ in the way I treat, talk, and work with patients.”

It was through chats that she learned that people can smile in the midst of medical healing.

She said she will be “a healer not only for the physical but the spiritual as well.”

Birungi said the first thing she does when she receives a patient is talk to God. 

“Usually when I receive a patient, I say, God, I know I have a lot of knowledge in this brain, please help me organize it so that I can help this person,” she said. “I know it’s you who can actually heal them. Then I start attending to the patient.”

Her memorable moments at UCU SoM, which is based in Kampala, include participating in the sports gala and community worship away from the busy hours in class. She gives attribution to many.

Birungi having a light moment with Travor Wasswa a few hours before the UCU commissioning service.

“Above all, I attribute special thanks to God, my family, and my classmate Travor Wasswa, who always took time to discuss with me. This greatly boosted my academic performance,” Birungi said.


New UCU graduate Wanyana narrates her medical school journey

By Pauline Luba
UCU graduate Christine Wanyana envisioned herself as a lawyer in her early life. However, all this was before she interacted with her Senior Four teacher of Biology, who saw her gifts with science. The year was 2016.

According to Wanyana, her teacher reasoned that it would be easier for her to study medicine because she was excelling in Biology. She followed her teacher’s advice and, on July 28, 2023, Wanyana was among the 45 pioneer students of the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery course who graduated from Uganda Christian University (UCU).

“The major challenge with being a pioneer student in a course is there is so much uncertainty and, sometimes, that can be frustrating,” Wanyana said. She and her colleagues were admitted for the course in 2018.

She explained that at 16 years when she made the choice to study medicine, she had assessed the impact she wanted to make in the world. 

“I believed that with it (pursuing a career in medicine), I could touch so many lives and be the change I wanted to see in the community and in the health system,” said the 24-year-old, who studied at Kampala Parents School for primary, Mt. St. Mary’s College Namagunga for O’level and Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo for A’level. All the three schools are located in central Uganda.

For those who know Wanyana’s family well, the choice of medicine as a career was not a surprise. Wanyana’s father, Henry Kajumbula, is a medical doctor. Her mother, Abalo Caroline, is a pharmacist. Her grandfather, too, was a medical doctor and so are many of her uncles.

Wanyana Reflects on her journey at UCU

As a student at the UCU School of Medicine, Wanyana says the disruptions caused by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic were a setback to the momentum she had created soon after joining the school. Beyond the clinical aspects, the School of Medicine emphasizes mandatory community engagement programs, to enable the students to reach out to the sick. The approach is intended to cultivate character and instill empathy in future doctors. However, for some time, community outreaches were suspended at the UCU School of Medicine, in line with maintaining a social distance, a standard operating procedure in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Wanyana says because of the intense nature of studies at medical school, she found herself losing touch with many of her old friends. However, she is happy with the satisfaction that a career in medicine brings. During the time of the placements in hospitals, she says, work would at times get monotonous. However, the news of a successful delivery of a baby or reverting a patient’s medical condition for the better always brought smiles on the faces of the medical teams. She says there were sometimes patients got admitted when many thought they would not survive the sickness, but that such people often brought joy when they were being discharged.

Now that she has completed school, Wanyana is supposed to undergo a one-year mandatory internship in a government facility in Uganda under the supervision of a senior health practitioner. It’s upon the expiry of the internship that she will be eligible for employment as a doctor in Uganda. Wanyana eyes a future as a reproductive endocrinologist — a medical doctor with training to help women become and stay pregnant.  

Wanyana also runs a home bakery, where she sells cakes and doughnuts. She says she enjoys chores that make her put her hands into good use. As a student, much of the money she used for upkeep was from the sale of her cakes. At some point, she says the orders she got increased the workload, that she had to turn down some, in order for the bakery business not to stand in the way of her studies. 

Whatever she does, Wanyana says she draws inspiration from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

UCU School of Medicine First Graduating Class: Empowering future doctors

By Irene Best Nyapendi and Jimmy Siyasa
In July 2023, Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduates 45 pioneer students of its School of Medicine. The graduates are the first batch of exceptional doctors – with many more to come, marking a milestone since the establishment of the School of Medicine in 2018. 

How UCU’s School of Medicine collaborations benefits its students

To forge the best doctors, UCU’s School of Medicine has proactively forged partnerships with institutions such as Mulago National Referral Hospital, Mengo Hospital, Mukono Church of Uganda Hospital and Uganda Cancer Institute. These collaborations ensure that students receive comprehensive and high-quality training throughout their five-year program.

Under the guidance of Dr. Gerald Tumusiime, Dean of the School of Medicine, students are strategically placed in different healthcare facilities at various stages of their training. This approach aims to provide them with diverse clinical exposure and the opportunity to learn from specialists in different settings. 

“By moving to different health facilities, they get more skills from different specialists and exposure so that they may make informed choices with their career paths,” Dr. Tumusiime said.  

Beginning from their first and second years, students gain valuable clinical experience at Mengo and Mukono Church of Uganda hospitals. As they progress to their third and fourth years, they undertake extensive clinical practice at Mengo Hospital. In their fourth year, students have the privilege of training at the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care Africa, Mulago Hospital and Uganda Cancer Institute.

Beyond the clinical aspects, the School of Medicine emphasizes the importance of holistic development. Students participate in mandatory community engagement programs, aligning with the philosophy of reaching out to the sick. This approach cultivates character and instills empathy in future doctors. Furthermore, the school’s collaboration with organizations such as Noah’s Ark Ministries, a Christian entity, offers students opportunities to integrate their faith into their medical practice. Noah’s Ark integrates the student doctors in their medical center and schedules outreaches to communities for clinical screenings and immunizations. 

Dr. Tumusiime believes that this holistic approach sets UCU students apart, making them not only highly skilled professionals, but also compassionate caregivers. Through their training, these students learn to prioritize patient well-being and exhibit genuine care for those they serve.

“Interactions with other Christian doctors at such Christian organizations enable our students to integrate faith in medical practice,” Dr. Tumusiime said.

The institution’s emphasis on quality training, diverse clinical exposure, and the integration of faith in medical practice ensures that UCU graduates are well-prepared to make a positive impact on the communities they serve. 

As the future of medical education and practice unfolds, prospective students can find solace in UCU’s dedication to empowering aspiring doctors with the knowledge, skills and character that makes them stand out in the crowd.

Testimonies of graduands

Ronnie Mwesigwa’s dream, which is contributing towards healing the ailing health sector, is near with his imminent graduation. Mwesigwa is concerned about the patient-to-doctor ratio gap in Uganda. Uganda’s doctor-to-patient ratio is one doctor per every 25,725 patients. In comparison, the USA has one doctor for every 340 persons. 

Mwesigwa lost his grandmother – a death he believes was caused by negligent doctors. Her final note urged her grandson to “study medicine and become a doctor.” 

“The doctor who was serving her postponed her treatment many times even when she needed immediate attention,” he said.

Graduand Davis Ampumuza has promised himself to bring strong work ethic and enthusiasm in the medical field to curb the rate at which pregnant mothers lose their lives and children due to negligence and unavailability of medical officers. 

“The short answer to making health care better in Uganda is a well-developed infrastructure,” he said. “The longer answer relates to the fact that women in particular stay in very hard to reach areas where the distance between their homes and health units is very long and the roads are very poor.”

Ampumuza added that the lack of nearby medical services, combined with procedures performed by less-qualified health care workers,  increases the risk of mortality for pregnant women and their babies.

Ampumuza, Mwesigwa and 43 other new UCU SoM graduates will help fill those gaps.

Following the July graduation, there will be 259 students in the School of Medicine.