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Johnblack K. Kabukye

DEGREE: Joint Master's in Health Informatics, 2016 from KI and Department of Computer Science at Stockholm University

CURRENT ROLE: Medical officer and Informatician at Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI), and Researcher (PhD candidate) at the Academic Medical Center (AMC), University of Amsterdam (UvA)

After you graduated from KI, what was your next step and how did you find this opportunity?

I was a medical officer at the Uganda Cancer Institute prior to coming to KI, so I automatically returned to my job after my Master's. But with the new set of skills and knowledge in health informatics, I now divide my time between clinical work and informatics work.

Additionally, after my Master's, I felt I needed to immerse myself farther into health informatics - and the best way was to undertake a PhD. This is because, at my workplace, there aren’t any informaticians who would mentor me, and the PhD makes me spend more time learning and doing research in informatics.

Finding a PhD position was a bit tricky! I was very particular on the area of research I wanted: health information systems (in particular, electronic medical records) in cancer care in low resource settings such as at the UCI. This was the motivation for my Master's in the first place (just like I wrote in the motivation letter when applying to KI!) and even did my Master's thesis on this. So I really wanted to continue pursuing it. Thus, I had to apply for many PhD positions and approached many different potential PhD supervisors. On two occasions, I was asked if I would be willing to work on another project dealing with a different area of research. I stubbornly insisted on my area of interest, so I was not taken in, likely because most PhD positions are for pre-determined research projects with funding that is directed in a particular topic.

Luckily, the UCI got funding from the African Development Bank as part of a project to turn the UCI into the East African Oncology Institute and Center of Excellence, and capacity building was one of the action areas. Through this, I got funding to begin my PhD and conduct research in an area that I am interested in, but also one that directly benefits the UCI. All I needed was a supervisor willing and able to supervise me. Even that wasn’t simple.

During the thesis term, I was at a birthday party of my friend Bastiaan, who is also an alumnus of the same health informatics program at KI but a year before me. We talked about my future plans and he said the professors at the AMC could potentially be interested in supervising me. He put me in touch with another friend Charlotte (also an alumnus of the KI health informatics Master's!) who knew my current supervisors Ronald Cornet, PhD and Nicolette de Keizer, PhD. And that’s how I am here now!

Describe a day on the job in your current role.

I move back and forth between Kampala and Amsterdam. At the UCI in Kampala, I see patients 2 days per week, and work on informatics and my PhD research the other 3 days. My informatics work mostly takes the form of change management and project management for development/procurement, implementation and evaluation of health IT systems at the UCI. I spend a lot of time in meetings with stakeholders, and also discussing with doctors, nurses and other clinicians who are the target end users of the informatics systems.

When I am in Amsterdam, I am taking PhD courses and working on my research with my supervisors, as well as (through teleconferences and other online collaborative spaces e.g. for grant writing) collaborating on other health IT projects in Uganda and other low resource settings.

What is your advice to students at KI who are about to graduate?

Study, but also have fun and network! Your next job position might come from the connections you make while at KI. And don’t give up on your dreams!

Interview and correspondence, KI Alumni & Friends