Return to Gulu – Developing Relations


In July 2015, Jack Cooper returned to Gulu for the second time to deliver the Introduction to Clinical Learning (ICL) programme and to take part in the Northern Uganda Village Health Outreach Programme (NUVHOP), along with two Manchester medics. Jack also visited GULU in 2014 to deliver the ICL programme and act as an ambassador for the GULU-Manchester Link – after Jack’s success in this role he was invited to remain in this role for an additional year – this blog is a reflection on this second visit and includes his thoughts on the programme as a whole.

My first trip to Gulu, the previous year, had been a brilliant experience, so when the opportunity arose to do this again and take part in the Northern-Uganda Village Health Outreach Project (NUV-HOP), a project created by Gulu medical students to set up temporary health clinics for the day in disadvantaged communities in rural villages around Gulu, I was delighted to able to take part. In addition to the educational opportunities, I was excited to spend more time with the Ugandan students – In 2014 I was primarily acting as their tutor, so despite having already spent a lot of time with them I was excited to work alongside them, this time as a colleague in the NUV-HOP programme – making some great friends in the process.

There were many benefits to working alongside the Ugandan students. Uganda and England have very different demographic profiles and disease burdens – this meant that our areas of medical knowledge, although different, often complemented each other. This difference allowed me to learn from them about areas of medicine that I have very little exposure to but my colleagues knew well.

Alongside the GULU and Manchester students, there was also a group of seven Belgian students taking part in the NUV-HOP programme. This combination of different cultures and backgrounds meant that each of us has something different to contribute to the team. Naturally, at times we had contrasting opinions and thoughts, so in these situations we would rely on the Ugandan students to lead, after all they understood the local cultures and knew the Ugandan guidelines.

I learnt a lot and benefited much academically from this trip. Most of all however, spending a week working closely alongside the Belgian and Ugandan students allowed me to make some great friends who I will certainly keep in touch with.

Led by the Manchester Global Health Society, students from Manchester will be visiting Gulu again in 2016, strengthening the link between these two universities. The aim is to take a larger group of up to 10 students who will also take part in the NUV-HOP programme, as well as hopefully having a role in the teaching of ICL. Many students from from Belgium will also be visiting again – this provides a great opportunity for relations with the universities that the Belgian students came from to be established.

Co-operation and good communication between participating students, the Manchester Global Health Society, the Gulu Medical School, and the team from Belgian team will be vital to ensure this exchange is beneficial for all the parties involved. It is vital that this trip is a safe, interesting and educational experience for the students whilst also providing an effective and efficient service for the Ugandan communities,. A balance between these aims must be sought and so I hope that one of the Manchester students who went this summer can take a leading role in the organisation of the trip, due to their previous experience in Gulu.

Unfortunately for me, I won’t be able to go again in 2016 due to other commitments. However I still plan to be involved in the trip, back in Manchester, in an organisational capacity and hope for an opportunity to visit Gulu again in the future.

Jack Cooper

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