Visiting Uganda scholars advance biotech, community-health partnerships with U-M

A new U-M partnership with Uganda’s Mbarara University of Science and Technology is rapidly expanding across multiple health science disciplines.

UMMS researcher Alex Benet leads a delegation from Uganda's Mbarara University of Science and Technology on a tour of North Campus research facilities.

Leaders from the school, known as MUST, visited the University of Michigan campus this month, the second MUST delegation to travel to Ann Arbor in less than year. Heading both trips was MUST Vice Chancellor and Professor of Pharmacology Celestino Obua, who on April 10 signed a partnership agreement formalizing collaborations between the two universities.

Representatives from the U-M Pharmacy, Nursing, and Business colleges joined Medical School leaders for the signing, which was led by Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Interdisciplinary Academic Affairs James Holloway, PhD, along with Vice Chancellor Obua.

“We have already been doing good work together, but to have this formalized agreement is an important step in a sustainable partnership, particularly as we look to create future training collaborations and, down the road, shared research projects,” said Obua, MD, PhD.

Obua and seven other MUST visitors were in Ann Arbor April 9-15, touring research facilities and meeting with their U-M counterparts in the medical school. Members of the delegation had meetings with faculty in Family Medicine, Ob-Gyn, Microbiology, and Pharmacology, as well as faculty from the Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health schools.

U-M Vice Provost for Global Engagement James Holloway and MUST Vice Chancellor Celestino Obua sign a Memorandum of Understanding agreement between the two institutions.

The new Memorandum of Understanding agreement marks the U-M medical school’s first formal institutional partnership in Uganda and signals a growing collaboration. MUST last fall launched its new Africa Center of Excellence for Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine, part of a $140 million World Bank project to bolster post graduate education in Africa. The University of Michigan is a partner in that effort, which seeks to build training programs and boost capacity for the commercialization of products in bio-technology and traditional medicine.

In addition, U-M colleagues across the schools of Nursing, Social Work, Pharmacy, and Medicine, with funding from U-M interdisciplinary IP-X grant, have launched a project to explore community-based health projects in western Uganda, where Senior Associate Dean of Education and Global Initiatives has been on sabbatical since early this year, working to develop the partnership with MUST and other institutions in the region.

“That our friends from MUST have visited us twice in six months is a sign of their faith and confidence in our relationship and in future collaborations,” said Kolars, MD. “We’re thrilled that U-M has been selected as a strategic partner and we look forward to a partnership that benefits our students, faculty and communities across both institutions.”

Early collaborations will focus on student and learner exchanges. A graduate student from MUST is spending much of the spring working in the lab of Professor of Microbiology Cheong-Hee Chang, PhD, who is spearheading the pharm-biotech partnership with MUST.

MUST Chair of Community Health Edgar Mulogo is leading community-based health collaborations for MUST. 

More than 10 UMMS students have been studying in western Uganda over the past two years and a delegation of  8 medical, nursing, pharmacy, and social work students will be traveling to Uganda this summer with faculty under the IP-X project to begin a community-based education collaboration. With a single university structure that encompasses all of the health sciences disciplines and a curriculum that makes community-based health education compulsory for every student, MUST is well-suited to interprofessional collaboration in community health.

“I’m very enthused for the U-M students to come a see our approach to primary care education. We take our (MUST) students out of their university comfort zone to these outposts where care is provided under very different – typically resource-scarce – environments,” said MUST Chair of Community Health Edgar Mulogo, PhD. “This is the real world for many of the citizens in Uganda. For your students to experience that right alongside our own students will provide valuable experiential learning for everyone.”