One of the best things that has happened to me this year is ACHIEVE. When I was first selected to participate in the ACHIEVE research training program, in all honesty, I was not very excited. I had envisaged the program to be a typical research training. But little did I know that the fellowship would bring transformative change in my career!
The first four months of the training have been amazing; from meeting people I had only dreamt of meeting, to making meaningful relationships. I had the opportunity to meet one of my role models, Dr Anthony Fauci, during the 2023 Fogarty Fellows and Scholars Launching Future Leaders in Global Health (LAUNCH) program orientation at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. As an aspiring infectious disease physician, meeting someone whose scientific impact goes beyond borders such as Dr. Fauci was a dream come true. Hearing his story and understanding his journey opened my eyes to what is truly possible. I had a massive shift from mere admiration to active pursuit of my dreams. I also met Dr. Johnan Kaleeba, Program Director of AIDS Malignancy at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the NIH. His inspirational speech during the NCI trainee meeting and my post orientation encounters with him have made me reassess my own aspirations and motivated me to aim higher, cultivate a growth mindset, and embrace new opportunities. I am grateful for Dr. Kaleeba, a role model-turned-mentor, who has now become a catalyst for my personal and professional growth.
We all have moments that leave a lasting impact on our life. For me, one of those moments was the 2023 Forum on Child and Adolescent Global Health Research and Capacity Building in Uganda. For someone from humble origins like me, seeing how Dr. Fred Ssewamala and the entire ICHAD team have given back to their communities through research by listening to the testimonials from the participants across various projects, gave me a different perspective to research and life in general. I had a firsthand experience of the collective impact that comes with community engagement and collaboration using participatory approaches.
As a researcher, I have always been driven by the pursuit of knowledge and the desire to make a meaningful impact. However, the summer training made me realize that my passion for research could extend beyond the academic realm and can be channeled towards giving back to my community. I love sense of community-ownership in all the research projects highlighted. The journey of empowering communities through research has not only enriched my understanding of the world, but has also reinforced my commitment to using my expertise for the betterment of society. Together, we can create a brighter and more equitable future for all.
With all of this in mind, the most invaluable asset the ACHIEVE fellowship has given to me so far is family. I have met and established relationships with my colleagues within the ACHIEVE training and other training programs of ICHAD. I can boldly say that I now have family in Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, South Sudan, Kenya and the US! I am looking forward to seeing what the rest of the program holds for me.