Dr. Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka could have joined the thousands of medical professionals who leave Africa every year for employment opportunities in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. Through an innovative Accordia Global Health Foundation program, however, she received the financial support, mentorship, and opportunity to make a difference at home.
Following a highly competitive process, Dr. Kitaka became an Infectious Disease Fellow in 2003 and then one of an elite group known as Accordia's Nelson Sewankambo Clinical Scholars Program. As a Sewankambo Scholar, she had the opportunity to be trained and to conduct research at the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala, Uganda. The program, funded in large part by a grant from the Gilead Foundation, provides ongoing mentorship by internationally-recognized leaders in the field.
Dr. Kitaka is making a significant difference in the lives of those living with infectious diseases. She heads the teen clinic at Mulago hospital, a program she launched in 2003 to address the specific needs of teenagers living with HIV/AIDS. Many of her patients acquired HIV as infants from their mothers and have faced the stigma and hopelessness associated with the disease throughout their entire lives.
Dr. Kitaka realizes the importance of making adolescent patients acutely aware of how the disease can affect them and be transmitted to others. She also recognizes the sensitivity that adolescents require when being taught how to protect themselves and their sexual partners. "They want to be respected. They want people to believe in them. They want to be empowered in their own healthcare," she says.
With that in mind, Dr. Kitaka helped to establish a "Transition Clinic" at the Infectious Diseases Institute, in Kampala, Uganda, that is currently serving 500 adolescents.
The Transition Clinic serves adolescents and young adults aged 16-24, and is held every Wednesday. This innovative model of care meets the unique challenges of this population group whose needs were formally unmet in either the pediatric unit or the adult clinic. Here, Dr. Kitaka espouses what she calls the six H's.
- Promoting a HEALTHY lifestyle
- Celebrating HAPPY times
- Being aware of the HAND of god in their lives
- Coping with HARD times
- Understanding their HERITAGE
- Having HOPE in the future
Dr. Kitaka represents African medical leadership at its best. She is one of many women and men among the faces of excellence in Africa. They are the leaders who have a passionate vision and an unwavering dedication to improving their communities, countries, and continent; the researchers who discover the best methods of prevention and treatment; the trainers and professors who improve the skills of doctors, clinical officers, nurses, lab technicians, and counselors; the health workers who treat and care; and the patients who encourage each other and spread messages of hope.