School of Medicine Founder Readies to See First Students Become Doctors

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Dr. Edward Kanyesigye (informally known as D. Ned) is a triumphant man. The founding dean of Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) School of Medicine (SoM) will this July celebrate the graduation of his pioneer students. Getting the SOM up and running was a lifetime achievement, and it gives him great joy to see his first students graduate.

A team of UCU Partners at the launch of the UCU School of Medicine with the founding dean Dr. Edward (Ned) Kanyesigye in 2018
A team of UCU Partners at the launch of the UCU School of Medicine with the founding dean Dr. Edward (Ned) Kanyesigye in 2018

“I can’t wait to celebrate with my students during their graduation in July,” a joyous Kanyesigye says.

Kanyesigye was no stranger to big projects, so when UCU envisioned a SOM, they were confident he would bring the dream to reality. He had a proven track record from the time he joined the university in 2009. 

Kanyesigye joined UCU as a part-time lecturer. After serving in the part-time role for two years, he was requested to serve as head of department of health sciences by the then Vice Chancellor Rev. Prof. Stephen Noll after the sudden resignation of Dr. Michael Smith. He transformed the department into a faculty in 2013 and became the acting dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology (FoST) in 2013. The FoST gave birth to the new Faculty of Health Sciences but continued to exist as FoST comprising programs of basic sciences, agriculture and entrepreneurship, computer science, information technology and environmental health.

Dr. Edward (Ned) Kanyesigye
Dr. Edward (Ned) Kanyesigye

Starting SOM
After a successful story of a meteoric rise for both the man and the faculty, UCU saw an even greater need to start a SoM. Impressed by UCU’s nursing school, many had started asking whether the university also had a SoM.

“UCU is without a doubt one of Uganda’s best private universities,” Kanyesigye said, noting UCU’s long-time reputation for being “very successful in health, with a masters in nursing and in public health which started as a program.” 

Kanyesigye was the secretary of the committee that worked for about three years to birth the SoM. 

“I was then asked to concentrate on the medical school project and leave the faculty of health sciences since it had department heads to oversee it,” Kanyesigye says.

In February 2018, the National Council of Higher Education licensed it for the two programs – medicine and dentistry. Kanyesigye was racing against the clock to find potential lecturers and students for the courses to start later that year.

The school opened with 60 students – 50 in medicine and 10 in dentistry. On September 14, 2018, the SoM was launched with the School of Dentistry on the heels – double milestone for Dr Ned, as he is fondly called by students, lecturers and administrators.

Dr Kanyesigye’s family. Front: Catherine Kanyesigye, Ned and Doreen Arinaitwe. Back: Lynn Louise Karungi, Isaac Asiimwe and Roselyn Sheila Mugabirwe
Dr Kanyesigye’s family. Front: Catherine Kanyesigye, Ned and Doreen Arinaitwe. Back: Lynn Louise Karungi, Isaac Asiimwe and Roselyn Sheila Mugabirwe

“He always told us to call him Ned, not even Dr. Ned,” Robert Alinda, one of his students recalls. Alinda describes Kanyesigye as a very social lecturer who always made them feel comfortable. “He assigned the session of Tuesday afternoon for visiting external speakers to talk about their professional life journeys including those from the United Kingdom, who mentored us,” he says. Kanyesigye picked ‘Ned’ from an English book (where Ned was an acronym for Edward) he read in P5, but it was in high school that it stuck with him, because the British teachers called him by the name.

“Dr. Ned always told us that we were not being trained to be doctors (because that’s what every other institution was doing), but doctors with a difference,” Zeddekia Ssekyonda, another student says.

To Kanyesigye, UCU students generally, are young professionals with integrity and commitment than those trained from a secular university.

“As a dean, I shared with my students the three Cs; I told them I wanted a graduate who is competent, conscientious and compassionate,” he says.

He emphasized compassion, citing a point where a patient visits a doctor without a penny, yet “if you don’t give them the medicine, they are likely to die.”  He believes that in such scenarios, a compassionate doctor should be able to use their money to buy the medicine and save the patient’s life.

Kanyesigye is now retired and thankful that the university opened doors for him and entrusted him with much.

 “I no longer need to go and convince anyone that I am capable of teaching at university and heading university departments,” Kanyesigye says, with satisfaction.

Even in his retirement, he has vowed to be available for the university, if they ever need his wisdom.

Always endeavor to do right 

For Ned, the only all-encompassing value he endeavors to live by is: to do right. His last project, contributing further to UCU academic infrastructure – the two schools – now have over 250 students and are growing.

Kanyesigye is a man full of gratitude to God for life for he is soon clocking 71 years. He jokes about it saying he is living on bonus years because the life expectancy in Uganda is 60. 

Kanyesigye is married to Roselyn Sheila Mugabirwe and they have been blessed with four children; Catherine Kanyesigye, Doreen Arinaitwe, Isaac Asiimwe and Lynn Louise Karungi.