Skip to Content

GEMx Blog

Camels and Cataracts: an Ophthalmology Elective at Lighthouse for Christ Eye Center

Filed under: GEMx Student Reflections

By: Denis KAMARA, Ophthalmology resident Mbarara University of Science and Technology for electives at Lighthouse for Christ eye center, Mombasa July 2019

Denis standing outside the hopital


With a lot of appreciation to GEMx, I am a Ugandan who just completed my elective and I will be starting my second year come August at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) where I joined in August 2018 from St. Joseph’s Hospital Kitgum, Northern Uganda. During my second semester a colleague, Dr. Naome Kyomugahso shared with me electives opportunity offered by GEMx which looked interesting, so I moved forward and applied. I must admit, it wasn’t all easy. In attempts of applying I had trying moments I gave up due to some technical and requirement challenges, but I was greatly encouraged and guided by Ms. Faith and Ms. Phiona to move step by step till I was accepted at Lighthouse.

Denis at the airport

My journey started from MUST on 28th of June, I arrived at Lighthouse at 7:30 pm Saturday for the flight from Nairobi had been rescheduled. Being weekend the facility was so quiet but Victor Indeche, staff welcomed me and showed me the accommodation. The next day, I requested to join him for the church at the satellite for Lighthouse churches. I got my first ride in a Tuktuk as they were so many of them as well as taxis called matatus (small minibuses). They were so different from the taxis in Uganda. They played loud music and were raised at the back like Pavilions. They move so fast even through inroads under construction, you find that they were moving in between two trailers whose containers look as if they will be falling off any second but to my surprise everyone else seemed fine, not bothered at all.

One thing that struck my sight was the architecture of most of the buildings which were connected and had blue-white colors as a symbol for the Mombasa County.

Denis with colleagues

On Monday 1st July, Lighthouse for Christ Eye Center became quite busy with many patients and staffs; I was warmly welcomed by Mrs. Gladys, she introduced me to the Medical Director, DR.Fredrick Korir who orientated me to all units. The facility has special clinics of cornea and pediatrics in addition to the private and general clinics of pediatrics and cornea. Operation in the theater is from Monday to Thursday; outreach teams carry out screening within the communities and there also satellite clinics. The facility provides a lot of services in eye care and spiritually nourishes the people from Mombasa and far beyond.

In my time at Lighthouse, I saw and managed patients from the general clinics most of the time when there was no theater so I learned and perfected my examination skills, did many investigations and learned basic refraction. I discussed several cases with Dr.  Fredrick Korir, Cornea specialist and Dr. Ibrahim Matende who taught me enormously. Learning continued during theater where I learned

Denis and team during cataract surgery
different surgical techniques in cataract, glaucoma and corneal surgeries. Thanks to Dr. Sawe David who provided me the opportunity to do 3 cataract surgeries under close supervision that challenged the energy and feeling within me so much so, that I now have the passion and desire to continue with that and be able to do them alone.

Thee second week was amazing and so fortunate for me because Lighthouse hosted a surgical camp with specialist in Cornea (Dr.Bowman Brad), Glaucoma, ( Dr.Tosin Smith) and oculoplastics ( Dr.Jorge Corona) all from Texas who taught me a lot after

Dennis and colleagues
knowing I was an ophthalmology resident on electives. We worked together in theater and I observed and assisted  in a number of procedures for my first time such as phacoemulsification,keratoplasty-DSAEK, blepharoplasty, Gonioscopy Assisted Transluminal Trabeculotomy, stent and tube insertion and so many others. Thanks to the elective, I am in touch with them for guidance greater inspiration in my ophthalmology career.

Weekdays were all spent at Light House and weekends were when I moved around with friends and spent much time at the beaches riding camels and swimming in the oceans. The last Saturday was well-spent thanks to Lighthouse where we went to Flamingo beach hotel for team building where a lot of lesson activities were provided. The weather was a bit cooler compared to another period although I felt it hotter compared to Ugandan weather. I also polished up my Swahili quite a bit as I interacted with patients and staff though English bailed me out most times.

Denis and friends after riding a camel

In general it was one of the best opportunities in my life though the time seemed short which was due to other university obligation that I was required to fulfill in the same time period limiting me to only one month, I call it the fruitful month of July for I gained a lot of knowledge, skills, and the uniqueness in how different the facility operates.

I am so grateful to GEMx for making a big difference in my life by offering me such a big opportunity to improve on my career, thanks a lot for those who were in contact with me to make it possible, Ms. Faith Nawagi, the GEMx Global Partnership Development Rep- Africa, Ms. Phionah Asaba Kinwa the GEMx Africa administrator, Ms. Hulda from COECSA finance, Dr. Simom Arunga from MUST is your GEMx manager, Dr. Frederick and Ms. Gladys of Light House in Mombasa. Thanks to Dr.Simon Arunga, senior lecturer and GEMx coordinator who confirmed my details and guided me accordingly.

Denis and colleagues on a computer

In the same spirit of thanks to Lighthouse family for hosting me as one of their own and each member contributing to my learning, Asante Sana to the entire team from management, administration, and everyone.

All things have a beginning where you start from and always return, great thanks to Mbarara University of Science and Technology for the collaboration and allowing me to come for electives. Be blessed for your good works in Jesus, name.



Passion to Practice: Nzeeke Herbert’s Path to a Transformative Elective Exchange

Filed under: GEMx Regional Exchanges GEMx Student Reflections

By: Nzeeke Herbert, fourth-year medical student from Kabale University School of Medicine, Uganda

Herbert Standing Outside
My name is Nzeeke Herbert, a fourth-year medical student from Kabale University School of Medicine found in south-west Uganda bordering Rwanda. It is one of the nine Universities in Uganda that offers a degree in Medicine and surgery. I am privileged to be one of the pioneers of this medical school and one of those who had the first chance to participate in this elective program through GEMX.

 Growing up, I used to admire health workers putting on white coats. I then started getting the passion for medicine seeing how the health workers were caring for the sick and especially whenever there would be an emergency with everyone running up and down in a bid to help. Watching my father and mother die before I achieved my passion was another painful moment for me, but this didn’t stop my hopes of pursuing a medical course.

I joined a clinical school for my diploma in clinical medicine and community health in 2002 to 2005. I developed a positive attitude of doing my best whenever I handled the sick/suffering without segregation. I had no hopes of joining the university for the degree because I was supposed to look after my siblings since I was the first-born child. However still with my passion for medicine, I didn’t lose hope and through Prayer God made a way in 2016 when I was finally admitted to Kabale University to pursue this noble course.


The GEMx program gave me another rare opportunity to have an experience in Kenya where I didn’t have any hopes of traveling during my undergraduate studies. It started with a simple announcement at the University notice board calling for students to apply and participate in the exchange program with a deadline. I thought it was not serious and kept busying myself until the deadline date when I finally submitted my application. To my surprise three of us, we were called to the office of the dean of the school of medicine where we were told that we were selected by the faculty among ten applications to participate in the GEMx program.

It was such a joy. I wondered how best I could handle this as to be one of the first people at my medical school and a pioneer of the program. However, I had to be with hope and wanted to experience how other countries carry out their training of medical students in their medical schools.

Safari to Kenya

We traveled by road from Kabale, Uganda to Nairobi Kenya via Busia border, a journey that took me twenty-one hours. This was the first time I had ever traveled such a long distance. But it was rather an adventurous journey as I viewed the beautiful scenery of Africa; the landscape, parks, different animals, and valleys provided such a good tourist view.

Acclimatizing to Kenya

I found that Kenyans were welcoming and friendly. Swahili was the main language of communication and initially, it was challenging but some locals tried English, which made me learn more Swahili so I would be able to communicate. Their main meal was “Ugali” (posho in the simplest terms) with greens (sukuma wiki). It was not easy to cope up with the diet as I was used to Matooke and Irish potatoes. I had to adjust to fit within the local dishes.

The Elective Begins!

At Kenyatta University the coordinator GEMx welcomed us and introduced us to the different head of departments including the dean School of Medicine. This made me feel at home. A time table was drawn that helped me go through the expected objectives smoothly. The teaching hospital-Kiambu level 5 Hospital in Kiambu county was located approximately 30Km away from the university. This called for waking up early morning to catch the bus that would transport students to and from the hospital daily. The University had a six-year degree program for medicine and surgery compared to our Ugandan program of five years.

Forensic Medicine   

In forensic medicine, I was able to attend a few lectures and five autopsies with lots of learning and getting expertise from the experienced government pathologists. The pathologists were such good people who made me learn when, why, and how to do an autopsy. I had the chance to visit the biggest government chemists’ laboratory where samples are taken for analysis concerning forensics and the law. This improved my knowledge in forensic medicine and skills in carrying out autopsies which will help me become a good medical officer in the future.

Mental Health

In mental health at Mathari Hospital, I gained skills in clerking mental cases and attended rehabilitation sessions in a private rehabilitation center for substance abuse clients at Blessed Talbot. This gave me great experience in understanding the relationship between drug addiction and mental health and the team approach in handling such clients.


The experience in surgery rotation was such an amazing one especially the radiological investigations in managing surgical cases for example; MRI, MRCP, CT scan in addition to other routine investigations were readily available within reach and patients would go for them when requested. The surgeons were such good people as they made me learn a lot with their good advice and teaching.

This was such an interesting experience as it contributed to my knowledge that will help me go through medical school smoothly and use it in the future during my practice so I can become a good professional medical worker with the relevant skills. On the social aspect, I made friends, interacted with many students and visited many malls around Nairobi and markets. It was very interesting staying in Nairobi. Would wish given another opportunity to go back. Traveled back Kabale-Uganda by road and had a safe journey. All my travels and welfare were fully facilitated by GEMx. LONG LIVE GEMx LONG LIVE KABALE UNIVERSITY.


Copyright © 2013-2020 by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. All rights reserved.
Terms | Privacy