Cancer care in Uganda

Cancer care in Uganda

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Dr. Nixon Niyonzima
Uganda Cancer Institute campus
Dr. Corey Casper
Name goes here
Dr. Jackson Orem
Balinda Jordan
Dr. Warren Phipps
Sister Allen
Touring the clinic
Dr. Jackson Orem and Dr Corey Casper
Dr. Fred Okuku
Mike and his dad
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Ambassador of hope

Dr. Nixon Niyonzima worked at the Uganda Cancer Institute before starting a doctoral program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. After he's completed his degree, he plans to return to the UCI full time. Home in Uganda for a three-week visit, he pitched in to help out.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Roadblocks to care

Musobya Musa received morphine from his mother while they waited for test results in the pediatric ward of the Uganda Cancer Institute in Kampala. 

Musa had fallen ill more than four months earlier, but  Mukyala Fazira, left, and her niece, Nawgonda Fazira, didn't have $20 to pay for travel.  Distance and lack of money to get to the UCI are all too common road blocks to getting treatment early enough for fast-growing Burkitt lymphoma.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Strength for her patients

Mariam Ndagire, a nurse and case manager at the Uganda Cancer Institute, helped care for 6-year-old Musobya Musa. After his death, she helped his mother and aunt return to their village to bury him. “You try to harden yourself, and you think you’re doing OK,” she said. “And then you lose a patient, and you’re shattered.”

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Uganda Cancer Institute campus

The UCI began with a single doctor. In fact, before the UCI's partnership with Fred Hutch there was only that one ongologist for the entire nation of Uganda. Now there are 16 oncologists, 70 nurses and support staff.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Records and research

Dr. Corey Casper, right, explains to Project Hope’s Frederick Gerber how challenging research can be partly because all patient records have been kept on paper since the UCI opened in 1967. Dr. Casper says the Burkitt lymphoma program includes a pilot project for electronic patient records, and the electronic record keeping approach will eventually be expanded to other cancer patient records.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

A traditional healer turns to western medicine

Naheni Teopista, left, played with her 6-year-old granddaughter, Naula Kamondi, who was feeling better after starting treatment for Burkitt lymphoma. Naula's father, traditional healer Richard Kedi, right photo, decided to take Naula to the UCI when both sides of her jaw became swollen. He said he knew his skills were not what his daughter needed.


Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Explaining the challenge

Dr. Jackson Orem, Director of the Uganda Cancer Institute, speaks to colleagues about the challenges they face at the UCI. The World Health Organization projects that by 2020, two-thirds of all new cancer cases will occur in developing countries.

"The Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center is one of our very key allies" in responding to the "looming cancer crisis," Orem said.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Navigating the system

Jordan Balinda, left, now 5, was treated successfully at the UCI for Burkitt lymphoma in 2013. His mother, Elizabeth Namuleme, right photo, was blinded at age 19 when someone threw acid in her face at a market.

Alerted by neighbors that Jordan's jaw was swollen, Namuleme brought him to the UCI with the help of his 9-year-old brother. The trio return to the UCI regularly for follow-up care, traveling by taxi vans and motorcycles from their homestead in rural Uganda.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Becoming Ugandan

Ugandans who work with Fred Hutch's Dr. Warren Phipps say--approvingly--that he is becoming Ugandan.

Phipps went to Kampala five years ago to work as medical director of the UCI-Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Head nurse

When Allen Naamala Mayanja was lured away from Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s largest, in 2009 to become the head nurse up the hill at the Uganda Cancer Institute, the staff awaiting her consisted of 15 professional nurses and two nursing aides. Today she proudly oversees a staff of 70.

“My nurses are so dedicated,” said Sister Allen, a dynamo who is known to set aside her considerable administrative duties and pitch in whenever needed.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Touring the clinic

Dr. Corey Casper is welcomed to the UCI / Hutch outpatient clinic construction site by Scott Rusch, Vice President, Facilities and Operations. Rusch is in charge of the construction project, and he visits Kampala often to make sure the construction stays on track and meets the stringent requirements of a world-class research facility.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Shared accomplishments

The UCI's Dr. Jackson Orem and Fred Hutch's Dr. Corey Casper, co-directors of the UCI-Hutchinson Center Cancer Alliance, congratulate each other on the roof of the alliance's nearly complete research, training and outpatient facility. 

With the building slated to open in early 2015 and a new inpatient hospital built by the Ugandan government, Casper said that he can now tell the physician-researchers that the alliance is training, "There will be a future where you can practice medicine the way you want to."

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Taking the long view

Dr. Fred Okuku worked at the UCI for free when he began his oncology career because there was no money to pay him. His wife asked him, "Are you really going to work for nothing?" He told her, "At least I'm satisfied that I'm helping."

Years later, Okuku is proud of the cancer institute's progress. Reflecting on those early hard times, his wife told him recently, "It was God who kept you there."


Cinemagraph by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

When things work at the Uganda Cancer Institute

Ronald Lumala hugs his son Mike Kiragga who is healthy again after having been successfully treated for Burkitt lymphoma at the Uganda Cancer Institute.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

A state-of-the-art home

Over the last decade, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Uganda Cancer Institute have been building a unique partnership. Now the partners are about to have a new home.

A three-story, state-of-the-art research, training and outpatient facility is slated to open in Kampala in early 2015. Here workers apply Uganda-made red bricks that match Fred Hutch's Seattle campus. 

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service