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.
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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.
“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.