After a lifetime of dedicated service to MakSPH, Maxensia Walusimbi, popularly known as Maxie announced she would join retirement from the university service. This after she clocked age 60, a mandatory age for civil servants to retire in Uganda.
It was an emotional moment as fellow departmental members poured in their exciting memories of Maxie. Professor David Guwatudde said he had known Maxie sometime in 1996, even before she joined the School through a friend who was her workmate at Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH).
Joy and laughter filled the room as Professor Guwatudde described Max as a very dedicated, loyal hard worker and dynamic.
He said he became the Head of Epidemiology and Biostatics Department in 2005, a time the MPH distance program had just been approved.
At the time, Professor Guwatudde says Prof. Joseph Konde Lule, the first Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics was putting up a team to manage the program.
“He had already identified Barbra Kirunda as the academic and field coordinator. We needed an administrator for the program, a materials developer for the program and a driver. When we advertised internally, one of the applicants for the administrator was Maxie. Because of her experience, she was the best, according to the interview committee,” Professor Guwatudde recalls.
Adding that; “Usually, my delegation is hands off but eyes on. I would watch Maxie very closely. But she was handling the program so well that after sometime, I felt that I didn’t even have to watch. The students also fell in love with Maxie. She became the Senga of the students.”
“Our students will miss you when they hear you have left. We wish you very well in your retirement. Some of us are following very soon,” says Professor Guwatudde.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Professor Fred Wabwire-Mangeni recollected that she first saw Maxie in 2000 during the UNACOH conferences.
“I used to be invited to give key note addresses and that is where I first saw her. I didn’t know her very well until she joined us in the then Faculty of Medicine, now College of Health Sciences,” Professor Wabwire says.
He gave a stint of how Maxie supported the works that later led to the birth of the Infectious Diseases Institute -IDI.
Professor Mangeni says that he, together with a group of infectious diseases experts from Uganda and North America under the Academic Alliance for AIDS Care and Prevention in Africa in 2001 felt the need to ensure the availability of the treatment for HIV, called antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“Around 2001, one would only get ARTs from friends and relatives abroad. So, we made efforts to make sure that they were available through donations. Fortunately, around that time when Professor Francis Gervase Omaswa as Director General Ministry of Health, they agreed to have universal access to ARTs,” recollects Professor Wabwire.
Together with Professor Nelson Ssewankambo and Professor Mangeni as co-investigators, they wrote a grant proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to ensure the integration of HIV/AIDs prevention with ART delivery.
“We were fortunate, successful in securing the money. And we, therefore, needed a good team. We interviewed people and Maxie was outstanding as somebody who would play a major role in the administration of one of the sub-programs. They were a total of seven (7) sub-programs and she became the program administrator for the Behavioral Surveillance Program,” he says,
According to Dr. Wabwire, Maxie led that program so well. “Within a short time, we felt that she should move from there and become the grants manager for the overall grants’ secretariat. She became the overall manager of the Gates grants program and used the skills she had learned starting up a program.”
This project lasted for three years. He recalls again meeting Maxie while she was being interviewed to join the Institute of Public Health then, which subsequently became the School of Public Health as a Program administrator for MPHD.
“It was all wonderful performance. She took up responsibilities in arranging workshops and seminars, managing research projects, she really distinguished herself and it’s unfortunate that she will be leaving us in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics because we were still benefiting from her Knowledge. We are losing Maxie into retirement which is very unfortunate. We need to make sure that she keeps close to us,” Professor Wabwire emotionally said.
What others say about Maxie.
“I have never got anybody who was as organized on issues of conferences as Max. It is really impressive. The people who have organized conferences keep on asking about Max because of the ways she organizes them successfully. There is no any other way we can thank you, Maxie. Please keep in touch, keep a good hardworking lady.”
I have known Max for 15 years. I have worked closely with her for seven years and we had such a good working relationship. Maxie was always on top of her game when it came to issues of administration of the course. It made our work a lot easier. I had to oversee the academic component of the program. We used to share an office and I really can attest that Max was a mother to students. Thank you, Max, for that credible service for the program. We appreciate you as a department!”
Dr. Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye, an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Bio-statistics.
“When I look and recall about Max, I see my mentor, mother and I see so many things. She was my boss and I believe I have had the best experience with her. There is a student who came into our office and was in all tears and the issue was she was not going to graduate but had a retake in one paper. She came and wanted all things to be fixed. But she was counseled by Maxie and she left the office smiling. I would truly confirm that Maxie was a mentor and a counselor. I call upon all of you to support me in this role since I am new. I will keep disturbing you with Maxie kindly don’t tire on my calls.” Huthaifah Mutyaba Assistant Administrator (Academic Affairs) in the Department of Epidemiology and Bio-statistics. (MakSPH)
“Thank you for making a mark. Thank you for being committed to your work. We would always count on you. Whenever we would have an issue and I send an email, you always responded in a timely manner. As a department, we want to thank you and we wish you well in the next steps that you will be taking,” Dr. Elizabeth Ekirapa Kiracho, Head Health Policy Planning and Management (HPPM) Department
“I have learned a lot from you. Being patient and persistent, a team player. It has been an honor to work with a committed, hardworking, and we will miss you but wish you all the best.” Enid Kemaari Ahimbisibwe is the MPH Program Manager
Mary Nakafeero says Max was her boss who taught her the basics of minute taking, how to handle both the students and the staff. “I am happy to have known you. May God Bless you abundantly.”