Transcontinental Design in Uganda: Duke BME Students Travel to Makerere

BME 590 students with Professor Monty ReichertStudents enrolled in Duke’s BME 590: Transcontinental Design in Uganda course spent a semester working remotely with peers at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to develop biomedical devices to serve the needs and situations faced in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Over spring break, the class took the opportunity to travel to Uganda themselves—exchanging weekly Skype calls for a chance to spend valuable time face-to-face working with their MUK teammates on their projects.  The students also attended class at MUK, visited the Mulago Hospital Engineering Department, Uganda Industrial Research Institute and a local primary school, and more.

“It was a very beneficial experience for us to see these places and hear first-hand about the challenges faced,” wrote Manish Nair, a rising senior studying biomedical engineering and global health, on the class blog chronicling the experience. “It gave us a fantastic opportunity to learn about specific needs of the hospital, and also to gain a better idea of the conditions and circumstances under which some of our designs would operate.” 

The trip and course are part of a new educational partnership between the biomedical engineering (BME) programs at Duke and MUK forged by Monty Reichert, the Kaganov Professor of Biomedical Engineering, in collaboration with Ugandan colleagues after he spent the 2014-15 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at MUK.   

The partnership’s vision is one of mutual collaboration through the teaching of BME classes taken simultaneously by students at both Duke and MUK, and by offering full scholarships to enable MUK BME graduates to study for a Master of Science degree in BME at Duke. The first two Duke-MUK BME Scholars will matriculate in August 2016.

“Together, we have the expertise to enable transformational capacity building in Uganda by training BME professionals and future MUK faculty,” stated Reichert. “Additionally, this partnership lends itself to giving biomedical engineers and global health practitioners at Duke University greater appreciation of key considerations in the design and implementation of healthcare technologies in low resource settings.”

The Duke-MUK BME Partnership currently has a five-year commitment from both universities to enhance collaborative teaching and learning experiences. Program sponsors include Duke’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, the Duke Office of the Provost, Duke Global Health Initiative, the Pratt School of Engineering, the Duke Africa Initiative and Bass Connections.

Learn more on the partnership website at sites.duke.edu/dukemuk.