Western strengthens collaborations with Makerere University in Uganda

Western signed a new memorandum of understanding with Makerere University.
Western signed a new memorandum of understanding with Makerere University. From left, Associate Vice-President of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Opiyo Oloya, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President (International) Lily Cho, President Alan Shepard, Makerere Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere Secretary Yusuf Kiranda, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Dean John Yoo and Makerere Head of Advancement Awel Uwihanganye. (Awel Uwihanganye photo)

By Jeff Renaud, special to Schulich Medicine & Dentistry Communications

To further strengthen Western’s long-standing partnership with Makerere University, a delegation led by President Alan Shepard signed a memorandum of understanding today in Kampala with Uganda’s largest and oldest institution of higher learning.

The MoU broadens existing relationships with Makerere, including Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry’s formal agreement, which was signed in 2006. 

Makerere was represented by vice chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe, a highly respected academic leader and renowned architect.  

 “This is a testimony to the important agreement we already have with Makerere University and sets the stage for further research and collaboration we seek to do in the future,” said Lily Cho, associate vice-president (International).  

The MoU signed in 2006 with Schulich Medicine & Dentistry now includes collaboration with the School’s Global Health Systems (GHS) master’s program , including an annual eight-week internship at research facilities, grassroots organizations and NGOs in Uganda, as well as placements for students enrolled in Dentistry (DDS) and Medicine (MD), as well as Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences.  

“Many Western researchers already have relationships with Makerere that they want to formalize and fortify,” said Opiyo Oloya, associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion. “And Western as a university is committed to strengthening our internationalization efforts for greater impact, in pursuit of a more sustainable, just and inclusive society. Africa, specifically Uganda, is home to incredible students, faculty and staff and by partnering with them and learning from them, we know they can help us cultivate more inclusive, diverse and sustainable practices across campus and around the world.”

President Alan Shepard and Dean John Yoo at the event.
President Alan Shepard and Dean John Yoo at the event. (Awel Uwihanganye photo)

The new MoU expands this existing agreement to include other faculties at Western, including Science, Health Sciences and Engineering. Science Dean Matt Davison recently visited Makerere, where important steps were taken towards establishing a joint applied mathematics PhD program. 

Health Sciences Dean Jayne Garland will travel to Kampala in May to attend the Global Health Systems field school and investigate more joint programming opportunities for the faculty. 

“Makerere has many programs aligned with our faculty including their health professional programs, so there are more opportunities for both educational connections as well as research collaborations. I’m looking forward to meeting with them to see where we can further our partnership,” said Garland. 

Current Uganda research highlights 

Between 2019 and 2023, Western researchers co-authored 45 joint publications with researchers at institutions in Uganda. 

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry Professor Maria Drangova, PhD, and Director, BioNext Medtech Incubator is co-leading a frugal biomedical innovation project with Dr. Robert Ssekitoleko at Makerere and Dr. Kenneth Iloka and Dr. June Madete at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop a low-cost material testing system for biomedical engineering educational programs. Material testing, an important component of biomedical engineering, is performed using specialized equipment that is typically quite expensive, but the new project will develop low-cost alternatives, using commercial hardware and open-source software. 

Jessica Prodger, PhD, Canada Research Chair in Genital Immunology and Sexually Transmitted Infection prevention at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry, is the co-director of the Global Health Systems master’s program and a longstanding research collaborator at the Rakai Health Sciences Program and the Uganda Virus Research Institute. The research focuses on designing new ways to prevent HIV transmission, which could have a significant impact on the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Eric Arts, PhD, Canada Research Chair in HIV Pathogenesis and Viral Control, is the executive director of Western’s state-of-the-art biocontainment level 3 (CL3) facility, Imaging Pathogens for Knowledge Translation (ImPaKT), specifically focusing on combating deadly pathogens. In 1998, Arts established the WHO regional Uganda molecular virology labs at the Joint Clinical Research Centre. The primary mission is to understand HIV pathogenesis. The labs are currently directed by Immaculate Nankya, a close collaborator of Arts.