Zia, Nukhba

School of Public Health

PhD

Uganda

Traumatic Brain Injury Across the Lifespan in Uganda (TBI-Uganda)

The Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU) is working with faculty at the Makerere University School of Public Health (MUSPH) in Uganda and Mulago National Referral Hospital (MH) to understand the health and economic burden of traumatic brain injuries across the lifespan in Uganda (TBI-Uganda) through an innovative model of sustainable research collaboration.

The study has following specific objectives:
- Define core variables and internet platforms for a data registry focused on traumatic brain injuries in Uganda
- Pilot-test an internet-based traumatic brain injury registry at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University for a year
- Develop a core group of clinician with research skills and data analysis capacity at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University in Uganda
- Develop a research plan for an intervention study on traumatic brain injuries in Kampala, Uganda

Global Health Mentor/PI: Connie Hoe, PhD

Thanks to the support through Global Health Established Field Placement award by the Center of Global Health, I travelled to Kampala, Uganda to work on a project related to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). I am from Pakistan and have worked there in the field of injury and trauma research. Since this was my first time working on a project in another developing country, I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. I was excited about the project, travel to a new country and learning about a new culture; and apprehensive about living in a country where I didn’t know anyone except for the collaborators on the project. Before traveling to Kampala, I had detailed discussions with colleagues at JHSPH and project collaborators at Makerere University about my stay in Kampala and tasks that I will be working on as part of my experience. I was fortunate to have found a place to stay which was central in terms of the place where I needed to be for work. My work was mainly based out of an office in Kololo area of the city and Mulago Hospital which is the largest public sector hospital in Uganda. Coming from Pakistan, I have seen the conditions under which public hospitals function in developing countries; however, Mulago Hospital was a totally different experience. The large patient volume and limited hospital resources were a great challenge in patient care provision but it was commendable how doctors and nurses continued to provide care to patients. My local colleagues helped me to understand the system within which I helped them with the project. They also gave me orientation to the city, which was very much needed. They also arranged for a local mobile number for easy communication during my stay in Kampala. Their support throughout the trip was invaluable. Kampala was like any other big city of a developing country. It offered a range of food options from Mediterranean to Thai to Indian food. I was introduced to ugali or posho, staple starch made out of cornmeal. It is eaten with stews or saucy dishes. I really liked fish dishes and was introduced to many different kinds of bananas. In terms of language, people at the office and the hospital as well as vendors in shopping areas understood and communicated in English, however, I needed help with translation when talking to local street vendors. During my stay, I visited several museums in Kampala which were a good resource to learn about different tribes in Uganda and their practices. I particularly enjoyed my trip to the Source of Nile which is located about 2 hours from Kampala in Jinja district. Overall, the TBI project was a great learning experience for me both in terms of work and travel. Through this project, I was able to learn about injuries in a new context. In addition, it was an opportunity for me to train and help colleagues during implementation of the project. Being on ground for implementation was very helpful as I was able to understand the challenges in real-time and with discussions with local colleagues and faculty at JHSPH, we were able to address the issues in a timely manner. My colleagues were very hospitable and warm and they made sure to look after me during my stay and helped me settle in. In terms of travel, the exposure I got by living in Kampala is very important to me. It helped me to better understand people, culture and their practices. One thing for sure, food, fruits and music were a very deep connection! I cherish every moment that I spent in Kampala and I look forward to using my experience as I progress further.

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October 2020

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