As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve been here in Mbarara for a few days now; however, I have not started work yet. Things have turned out to be more difficult than I had imagined. I left Iowa thinking that I would get here and start interviewing people for my project right away, but the reality turned out to be far from that. First I had to spend two week in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, which I had not plan on doing. Then I come to Mbarara just to find out that the local ethics committee has not approved my research proposal yet. I can’t start working on my project yet, which means more time wasted. Since I don’t really have much to do, I decided to visit the Hospital where I will be conducted my research. It is called Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital or simply Mbarara Hospital for short. It is the referral hospital for the entire Western Uganda, which consists of six districts including the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Ntungamo, Kiruhura, Ibanda, and Isingiro. The hospital also serves as the teaching hospital of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST).
Mbarara Hospital is a public hospital, funded by the Uganda Ministry of Health, and general care in the hospital is free. The hospital is affiliated with the medical school of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, one of the four medical schools in Uganda. The hospital is one of three "National Referral Hospitals" in Uganda, the others being Mulago National Referral Hospital and Butabika National Referral Hospital. Mbarara Hospital is designated as one of 15 "Internship Hospitals" in Uganda where graduates of Ugandan medical schools can serve one year of internship under the supervision of qualified specialists and consultants. Its bed capacity is 600, although, as is the case with many Ugandan public hospitals, many more patients are admitted, with the excess sleeping on the floor.
It has been a week or so since I visited Mbarara Hospital for the first time. Since then, I’ve been going there everyday with Dr. Juliet. By the way, here in Uganda, people refer to doctors by their first names with Dr. in front of it. So for instance, if a doctor’s name happens to be John Smith, he would be referred to as Dr. John as oppose to Dr. Smith. Dr. Juliet is my faculty mentor/supervisor. When she goes to work in the morning, I go along with her because I get bored staying home all day and also because I need to become familiar with the way the healthcare systems works here. We work from 930am to 5pm. Well, she works while I basically just sit around either reading a book or playing and talking with patients on a pediatric ward (unit). I also talk to nurses and other staff members about their work. I do this as I wait for the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to approve my proposal. The IRB, sometimes called the ethical review board, is a committee that has been designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans. They conduct some form of risk-benefit analysis in an attempt to determine whether or not research should be done. I cannot begin conducting interviews for my research project unless my proposal has been reviewed and approved by the IRB.
I have to say, I am a little worried about my proposal being approved. I filled out an application and submitted the proposal to the IRB committee about 2 months ago. I was told the review and approval process can take anywhere from 1-3 months depending on how complex the study is. So far mine has taken 2 months and NO my study is not complex. It doesn’t involve any medical interventions or anything like that. I just want to interview a number of patients and staff members. That is all, so I don’t understand why things are moving so slowly. Well, I am just crossing my fingers hoping I will get an email very soon letting me know that my proposal as been approved. Please Pray for me:)
Until next time