Sunday, August 13, 2017

Ambitious medical student whose dream is to help the poor


By Devotha John

Since she was a little girl, Juliana Busasi, 22, always dreamt of a society where nobody would die because they lacked access to healthcare. Juliana believes a healthy nation is the key to fighting poverty and enhancing a country’s development.

She wants to see everyone, regardless of their economic status have access to quality and affordable healthcare. To make her dream come true, Juliana chose to study medicine. This would be the only way through which she could contribute towards building a healthy nation, so she believed.

In 2015, two years after enrolling for a degree in medicine, Juliana who is a fourth year student at the Hubert Kairuki Memorial University College in Dar es Salaam founded the Tanzania Health and Medical Education Foundation (TAHMEF), a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving people’s welfare.

“My dream was to establish a health and medical education foundation one day so as to improve the welfare of Tanzanians,” says Juliana who is the executive director of TAHMEF.

Juliana says it makes her happy when she helps and reaches out to helpless communities. As a medical student her goal is to utilise and share knowledge with communities around her.

The organisation which works with a team of volunteers comprising of medical doctors, nurses, pharmacists and social workers aims at establishing a stable health sector which provides service to all community members without bias.

“It is a fundamental right for all people to get equal access to the highest standard of health care from well-trained medical personnel,” says Juliana.

She points out that, they organise and operates ethically accepted health-oriented projects such as free public health screening outreaches that make a positive change in the country’s health care system and the health sector at large. The organisation also conducts free health seminars, health advocacy through walks, online campaigns as well as blood donation campaigns.

Medical students in control

The organisation, which is run by medical students was registered on 13th September, 2015. The deputy minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Children and the Elderly, Dr Khamis Kigwangala launched the organisation in July, 2016.

It works in partnership with organisations with similar objectives such as Population Services International.

“We work in partnership with other organisations, PSI is just one of the organisations that we have worked with. We have also worked with Kairuki Hospital.”

The doctor in the making says under organisation more than 4,000 people have been able to get quality health screening services. These include breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, hypertension, malaria, hepatitis and HIV screenings. The organisation has since extended its wings to Dodoma, Mbeya, Coast and Mwanza, regions thanks to close co-operation with PSI.

According to Juliana, they provide follow-up services for those whose test results come back positive, which is why it works with hospitals and volunteering medical doctors to provide the appropriate management.

“We provide a number of services, including donating blood to sickle cell patients and creating awareness among members of the society on the importance of donating blood,” says Juliana.

In early July, over 300 women in Kondoa District benefitted from free education and cervical cancer screening provided by the organisation.

They also work with schools which were ready to establish health clubs where students learn about sexual and reproductive health. They currently work with two schools in every region where the organisation operates.

It currently runs a project called Nuru Health, which aims at empowering unemployed women and developing a movement to reach every Tanzanian through free health care services for low income earners and to contribute to other facilities and needs in hospitals in the rural areas.

“Our first target regions are Kigoma, Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Simiyu and Singida. We aim to reach every Tanzanian by providing free health care services for the poor,” she says.

Like goes the saying of the wise, no good deed goes unrewarded. Juliana’s efforts to bring about positive change in the country’s health sector saw her being nominated for this year’s Malkia wa Nguvu Awards which recognise women who go out of their way to make remarkable changes in their lives and the community surrounding them. Juliana won an award in the health category.

Like is the case with some winners of the Malkia wa Nguvu Awards, Juliana did not apply for nomination but her services were noticed by members of the society, something Juliana says influenced Clouds Media Group, the awards organisers to take more attention on what she does.

Juliana calls on government to collaborate with private health facilities in optimising people’s wellbeing. To improve the country’s health sector and to ensure the services are available to all, she says contribution from the private sector and donors is highly needed.

She also calls upon society to have trust in services offered by medical students, a challenge her organisation is facing.