Briefly tell me about yourself
I am Dr. Samuel Guma, a medical doctor and specialist in public health and palliative medicine. I am married to Gloria Kibera Guma and we have three children. I am the President of the Palliative Care Association of Uganda and Vice Chairperson of the board of directors Uganda Cancer Society. I am a co-founder and Executive Director of Kawempe Home Care (KHC).
What inspired you to start Kawempe home care?
My colleagues and I were touched by the plight of poor HIV/Aids patients who were dying helplessly in the slums of Kawempe division when antiretroviral therapy was just being rolled out in the country. The team noted the devastating effects of the Aids epidemic in the community and were moved to do all we could to relieve the pain and suffering.
Is this what you envisioned while growing up?
While growing up, I always wanted to become a banker like my late father. However, along the way I became more interested in being a doctor and so opted to study science subjects at A-Level and then medicine at Makerere University.
Why did you choose to focus on AIDS and Cancer?
I grew up seeing many relatives die from this dreadful illness. I was mostly touched by my experience on the first day as a third year medical student on the paediatric ward of Mulago Hospital. My classmates and I were ushered into the ward by the sister in charge and taken to a section with many babies on oxygen therapy.
Most of the babies were malnourished, dehydrated and had severe difficulty breathing. I was asked to help resuscitate a seven-month-old baby with severe diarrhoea, dehydration and a severe type of pneumonia (PJP) caused by advanced AIDS.
I struggled for over two hours to find intravenous access for the baby and the child died during the process. Since then I developed a great interest in caring for patients with AIDS.
Do you think Uganda is ready for this kind of service?
Uganda is a leader in the provision of palliative care services. The World Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance in the global atlas of palliative care ranks Uganda as one of the countries with the highest level of integration of palliative care services into the public health system. There is still, however, limited access and utilisation of palliative care services for patients with HIV/Aids and or cancer. We need to scale up provision of this service using different models like home-based, outreach, day care, and outpatient, inpatient care among others for both adults and children.
What does it take to manage an initiative like yours?
Effective management of this organisation requires good management skills that include resource mobilisation skills, planning, organising the team, routine monitoring of projects and finances. The organisations core values have to be emphasised and all staff should be encouraged to uphold them. Good leadership skills such as sharing the vision, encouraging the team and challenging the process are required.
There are many cancer and AIDS home care facilities around, how different is yours?
We offer a full range of holistic services to our patients and we care for both children and adults. Our community network of carers plays a big role in linking the patients to the health workers. This has enabled us to identify the patients’ needs and intervene early hence reducing the death rates.
What do you do apart from your job at Kawempe home care?
I am a fan of Kobs Rugby Club and I have been in rugby management for many years. I was the Makerere University rugby club Chairman and I was awarded the University Color in 1999, for leading the team and ensuring good performance during my term. I later joined Kampala Rugby Football Club as Secretary and treasurer from 2001 to 2005. In 2002, I started the Uganda Rugby Medical Society (URMS) and I handed over leadership in 2013. I hope to get back in rugby management in the near future.
How do you balance these?
I spend most of my time and energies doing work for KHC, the Cancer Society and the Palliative Care Association of Uganda. I take time off on the weekends for family time and watching rugby.
Take me through your career journey
I graduated with a Bachelors degree of medicine and surgery from Makerere University in 1999. I did my internship in Mulago hospital till 2000. I joined Hospice Africa Uganda in 2001 and moved to Joint Clinical Research Centre in July 2004 till August 2005.
I was then employed by ReachOut Mbuya, HIV/Aids initiative till July 2007, when my colleagues and I started Kawempe Home Care.
I have a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Limpopo in South Africa, a diploma in palliative care leadership from Ohio Health Research Institute, USA (2014) and a diploma in palliative medicine with Cardiff University (UK).