"The doctors and nurses had to put on brave faces, and to continue to reassure the patients that they were doing all they could..."

A former surgeon at Mulago Hospital in Uganda, author and educator Kobusingye offers a chronicle of that country’s social history and medical developments set against a backdrop of contrasts. Young people wishing to study medicine attend Makerere University, where the author studied, and take internships and possibly practice for longer terms at Mulago, the large, nearby facility. The two institutions have grown side by side, weathered many changes of policy, and experienced gradual improvements over the past 50-plus years. The author views these sister facilities through the eyes of the many patients and medical practitioners who have passed through their doors. The dramatic case histories constructed here are often disturbing, revealing in the gripping experiences of caregivers and sufferers alike the healthcare discrepancies that still exist in Uganda between the small minority of the privileged and the vast majority of the country’s rural poor.

Kobusingye meshes her own experience with that of others through interviews with medical personnel and professorial staff who, like herself, were and are affected by the changes in the facilities and their stated purpose over the years. Their recollections are interspersed in the narrative, which also includes quotations from official documents such as UN and UNICEF reports and Ugandan policy statements. The timeframe begins when Uganda gained its independence and offers reminders of the intense health crises suffered there, from AIDS to the Ebola virus. Though conditions for treatment for the poorest citizens have improved, there are still serious problems that need to be addressed. Kobusingye reveals historic milestones, setbacks, governmental progress, and inevitable frustrations, melding hard history with her colleagues’ personal, vividly depicted vignettes. Her highly detailed, well-researched work takes a heroic stance and is a sincere effort to communicate to the world the critical needs and seemingly indomitable spirit of the Ugandan people.

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