It was in 1980 when Mr. Rudolf Buga, 65 attained Certificate in Medical Laboratory Technology (CMLT) of Makerere University that his dream of becoming a laboratory expert was in sight.
36 years later, he has decided it’s time to take a break. He has decided to hang up his lab coat and concentrate on his retirement after serving the century-old and Uganda’s premier institution-Makerere University as a Chief Technician.
Mr. Buga, started his career at the Central Public Health Laboratories Mulago Hospital National Referral Hospital working then as Technician Grade I.
He however never thought of ever joining Makerere University but as luck would have it, he inevitably joined Makerere University and out of hard work and utilising capacity building opportunities at his disposal, Mr. Buga rose through the ranks in the first 12 years of employment. This, he said while giving his remarks at a farewell luncheon organized by the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health of MakSPH on Thursday December 2, 2021.
“I joined Makerere University in 1985 in the department of Parasitology and Microbiology in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine then. And It was that department that I could give most of the credit to because it brought me through a lot of training here and there by sending me for further training and that is how I managed to reach the highest level of the technical staff within 12 years,” he said.
A colorful farewell ceremony held at Piato Restaurant in Kampala was fairly attended by MakSPH faculty, students and staff plus Mr. Buga and his family.
This promotion came with a transfer at the Institute of Public Health, now School of Public Health, a move he says was the best.
He says he has no regrets forever joining Makerere University, since he has been able to uplift himself a Diploma Holder, Bachelor of Science, and Masters in Science all through Makerere University. “I really would like to greatly thank Makerere University for having given me all that,” he says.
When he joined the School of Public Health in 1998, then as an institute of Public Health, Mr. Buga says he had very high hopes of finding a huge lab to manage.
“Reaching there, I found the lab was not at the level I expected. And I really wanted to build it up but because of the financial constraints of the University, we were not able to equip it at the level I would have wanted. But with the little we had and with a lot of improvising,” he recalls.
Mr. Buga expressed his heartfelt gratitude for all the good things that he achieved and went through while at the College of Health Sciences, under which MakSPH falls.
“During my stay here in the School of Public Health, I think I have been given the best I expected,” he said.
He also sought for pardon for those he may have wronged during his time at Makerere University.
“I didn’t have any problem with anybody and in case I stepped on somebody’s toe, please forgive me. And I unknowingly did that please forgive me because it might not have been intentional because I am a cool-headed person. Whatever you say to me even if it is very bad, I will smile at you and forget about it,” Buga retorted.
According to Buga, a modern laboratory is very critical for students especially those pursuing Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health and more specifically health lab management.
“Health lab management is very key to an environmental health specialist because of being a link between health and the other sectors. Because of this, the only way I could help I would make sure you either visit a sophiscated lab like the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services,” Buga.
He speaks to the need to train environmental health scientists, health lab management. “With the advent of COVID-19, I think you now all see the reason. How you should collect your specimen, how you should run them, what precautions should you do in order not to get infected and all these you have seen it in this COVID era”
At the function, Mr. Buga was flanked by his two sons Architect Wochewani Moses, and Andrew Nyorigo, a graduate of Makerere University with a Bachelor of Science degree In Biomedical Engineering.
Retired but not tired
Mr. Buga has hailed Makerere University and in particular School of Public Health, and College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, Makerere University (CoVAB) and wished everyone a happy stay. “I would like to wish all people a nice stay at the School of public health. IAM not tired of serving, I can always come in to support when called upon,” he said.
What Faculty, Students say
MakSPH staff had mixed emotions about Mr. Buga’s retirement from across the generations. It is no doubt that Mr. Buga taught, inspired, mentored and supported many.
Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze, Professor and Dean MakSPH, recalls Mr. Buga way back in 1990s while she was a student in the College of Health Sciences. "I have also known him as an inspiring colleague of mine for all the years I have been working with the School.
She adds that Mr. Buga has been supportive to the staff and students inspired by his down to earth approach and openness to support the students.
"We pray that God grants you good health and protect you during your retirement. As a School, we have a culture of keeping close relationship with our members who retire or leave the School for other reasons. We promise to keep you close."
Dr. Esther Buregeya, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health (DCEH) says Mr. Buga is part of the success story of MakSPH.
She noted that Mr. Buga had done his best to support students, equip them with laboratory management skills. According to Dr. Buregyeya, Mr. Buga has throughout his university service been well known for his integrity as well as his humble approach to life.
"Because of his dedicated service, I want to say that on behalf of the Department of Disease Control and Environmental Health and on my own behalf that we convey our special appreciate to Mr. Buga for the great service to the Department, the School of Public Health and Makerere University at large,” Dr. Buregyeya.
Dr. Buregyeya further requested Mr. Buga to continue supporting the department, despite his retirement.
Professor William Bazeyo, the immediate former Dean MakSPH thanked Mr. Buga for the ‘work well done,’ single handedly, even when it was difficult to push on at times.
“Your cool headedness has made you leave a legacy at our beloved School -Makerere University School of Public Health. The love pillar though silent but, is loud enough in all our graduates. Best wishes to you in your retirement,” Prof. Bazeyo
Dr. John C. Ssempebwa, a Senior Lecturer, in DCEH, equally congratulated Mr Buga upon successfully reaching his retirement with such an outstanding legacy. "I found Mr. Buga to be very humble despite the fact that he was older than me. His humble approach to life has been appreciated by all students and staff and this made it so easy to get along with everyone,” Dr. Ssempebwa.
Dr. Richard Mugambe, a lecturer and researcher MakSPH emotionally noted that it's hard to see Mr. Buga retire citing that he was a man, committed to his work and respectful to workmates.
Mr. Buga was engaged in teaching, research, and community service support and engagement. He particularly taught Health Laboratory Management and Vector and Vermin Control for the bachelor’s program at MaKSPH. He also taught a certificate course in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene as well as a short course on Water Quality Surveillance.
Dr. Mugambe says he worked with Mr. Buga and enjoyed his great experience in the field of Environmental Micro Biology.
“I worked with him on various projects as a Co-Principal Investigator. I found him to be very knowledgeable and experienced in the field of Environmental Microbiology,” says Dr. Mugambe.
Ms Ruth Mubeezi Neebye says she was inspired and mentored by Mr. Buga. She hailed him for his ethics, gentle nature and his humility.
Ms Mubeezi, who is also an Assistant lecturer at MakSPH said Mr. Buga is a long-time lecturer and colleague. “I have known Rudolf first, as my teacher. He taught me in year one and two of my undergraduate studies. During this time, Mr. Buga inspired me as a student,” she recounts.
When he joined MakSPH as an undergraduate student in 2006, Mr. Jimmy Osuret, now a Research Associate met Mr. Buga who later became his mentor.
Osuret stresses Buga’s exceptional and outstanding passion in teaching and his abilities to transfer knowledge and skills.
“Beyond the teaching and work environment, he often times spoke to me about the need to start preparing for retirement. Truthfully, at one time in life, we shall leave these workplaces. It is important to plan for the period after retirement and I believe he prepared as well,” Mr. Osuret.
Mr. Abdullah Ali Halage, Assistant lecturer and program coordinator at MakSPH describes Mr. Buga as an excellent and valuable teacher.
Having met him in 2001 as a student, Mr. Halage says Buga has imparted knowledge and inspired hundreds of students in the School. “The feedback I have been getting from students has been very positive. He made learning very easy and enjoyable. I wish him luck in his future endeavors. We shall greatly miss him”
Mr. Buga is a holder of a Master of Science in Applied Entomology, obtained in 2001. He has a Bachelor of Science (Botany and Zoology) obtained in 1996. He also holds a Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT) attained in 1982. Buga also had a Certificate in Medical Laboratory Technology (CMLT) attained 1980 all from Makerere University.
Mr Buga is an active registered member of the Association of Uganda Medical Laboratory Technology Association (UMLTA) and the Association of International Medical Laboratory Technologists (AIMLT).
He is also a member of Makerere University Technicians Association (MUTA), Uganda Red Cross Society as an active First Aide man, a member of the Wildlife Society of Uganda as well as a member of Makerere University Medical Technologists Association (MUMTA).