Brief Review on the Current State of Biomedical Engineering In Uganda
It’s now over a decade since biomedical engineering was embraced in Uganda by different institutions of higher learning. A few years back institutions like Earnest Cook Ultrasound Research and Education Institute (ECUREI) Kampala and Kyambogo University Kampala started offering biomedical engineering in the country at Diploma level. These institutes were able to provide a workforce in terms of producing biomedical engineering technicians (BMETs) who offered different clinical engineering roles in different health centres around the country.
It wasn’t long when in 2012 Makerere University decided to offer biomedical engineering in the country at Bachelor level. With this, the government of Uganda also came out to support students offer biomedical engineering at this institute through the Ugandan Government Scholarships. The University offers biomedical engineering for a period of four years and this program is being taught between two colleges i.e. College of Engineering Art Design and Technology and also the College of Health Sciences which houses the program under its school of biomedical sciences.
Specific to Makerere University, the students of BME were able to form a students’ association which is called MAKERERE UNIVERSITY BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING STUDENTS ASSOCIATION (MUBESA). This association has supported students to further understand what biomedical engineering is all about. The association has been able to hold different activities both at university and National level. It has recently managed to be among the premier organisers of the First bi-annual National Biomedical engineering Conference which took place on 16th -17th January 2017. This conference brought together different stakeholders of biomedical engineering in and out of the country including Health professionals, WHO, delegates from Kenya- USA, UK, Ministry of Health Uganda, academia, regulatory bodies and the biomedical engineers and technicians out already in the field.
Working with other academic institutions, the students organise biomedical engineering hospital outreach programs which aim at giving back to the community through repairing different medical equipment in the few chosen hospitals that badly need these services. Students also involve themselves in design contests and competitions and come up with projects like low cost pulse oximeter, POC diagnostic strip for mothers with preeclampsia, phototherapy blanket, PPH Suit, low cost autoclaves among others. These aim at describing what is expected out of a biomedical engineer and mentoring each other.
Despite all that, BME is still new in the country but we appreciated that the government now has a public structure for biomedical engineers in its health centres. Uganda also has the Uganda Association of Medical and Hospital Engineers (UNAMHE) which is a professional body that registers all practicing biomedical engineers and technicians in the country. This association is also a member of the Federation of the East African Health Engineers Association (FEAHEA) and the International Federation of Hospital Engineering (IFHE).
Different research institutes around the country are also yet to appreciate what biomedical engineers can do for them as regards making their work progress to national expectations. And with more institutions like Mbarara University of Science and Technology taking on BME as a program offered, the future of biomedical engineering in Uganda is more promising and we look forward to having the best out of it for national, regional and global development.
Biomedical Engineering (2013-2017)