By John Tonin
Dr. Jackie Zirabamuzaale works at a teaching hospital at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. She is involved in patient care as well as teaching students gastroenterology – caring for the digestive system.
Currently Zirabamuzaale is studying and working in Hamilton with the St. Joseph’s Health System International Outreach Program. The IOP brings doctors from countries such as Haiti, Guyana and Uganda to Hamilton to train in the latest in Canadian medicine.
McMaster University and IOP have a partnership with Makerere University. Zirabamuzaale joined the IOP to further specialize in gastroenterology, a field of medicine that intrigued her since she was a student.
“We have many patients back home with many digestive tract conditions,” said Zirabamuzaale. “As a student I was really fascinated with the digestive system. The patients we cared for, as well as my mentors and professors at Makerere University, got me started on this path.”
According to the Canadian Medical Association, Canada has 687 gastroenterologists for a population of 36 million people. In Uganda, with a population of 34 million, there are six gastroenterologists. This was another inspiration for her studies.
“Back home there is a gap in physicians in gastroenterology,” said Zirabamuzaale. “I came to Canada to study so when I go home to Uganda I can offer more care for patients, as well as educate the students. When I’m home I want to get my students thinking about joining this field of study.”
Since working in Canada, Zirabamuzaale has noticed differences between Canada and Uganda, but it is all part of the learning process.
“In Canada we have quite a lot patients, either for scheduled procedures or for medical care,” said Zirabamuzaale. “There is a slight difference in diseases I have noted between back home and here, but that has given me a chance to learn about those diseases.”
Zirabamuzaale says she enjoys Canada, especially the medical training.
“The training is good,” said Zirabamuzaale. “In my discipline I have to learn procedures, the teachers are willing to go the extra mile to go teach the proper procedural techniques. The way the teachers in Canada go about their work is something that I can bring back to my students.”