An interdisciplinary team of pharmacy and public health students traveled to northern Uganda in August to lead a public health camp for more than 1,000 youth.
Nonprofit organization Ray United FC organizes the annual camp to promote healthy kids and communities through soccer and education. Each year, USC students and alumni participate as educators and facilitators to teach children and adolescents living in rural communities a variety of lessons in public health, citizenship and leadership.
From Aug. 8-12 the workshops ran alongside free soccer training clinics and tournaments. Donations garnered by RUFC and the USC students provided campers with free bags, shirts, public health workbooks, pens and pencils, as well as meals and clean water.
The team of 15 Master of Public Health and Doctor of Pharmacy candidates, faculty, USC School of Pharmacy staff and USC alumni worked alongside students at Uganda’s Makerere University. Prior to the camp they received a day of training and stayed overnight in the homes of local families.
“It’s vital for anyone doing this kind of global work to learn about and connect with the community they are serving,” said Heather Wipfli, PhD, associate professor of clinical preventive medicine and associate director of the Institute for Global Health at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The USC team “worked synergistically with our Ugandan counterparts as we facilitated health education sessions on various talking points such as infectious disease, nutrition, and gender roles,” said Louella Gonzalez, a student in the USC MPH online program, in a blog post reflecting on the experience.
The pharmacy students and staff, with local health clinicians, provided more than 300 people with HIV, Hepatitis B, blood sugar and blood pressure testing on the final day of the camp.
Godfred Marfo, a PharmD candidate, grew up in Ghana witnessing many health afflictions that remain prevalent in Africa today.
“This trip opened my eyes to the vast void in primary and preventive health care services that can be filled by pharmacists,” he said.
Following the camp, the USC students got a sense of the country’s health system by visiting the Ministry of Health, Uganda Cancer Institute, Infectious Disease Institute and multiple rural health centers.
To learn more and sign up to participate in upcoming camps, which soon will include Mozambique, visit https://globalhealth.usc.edu/ugandaimmersion.
By Divya Yerwa Mary and Larissa Puro