TRIBUTE: BY PROFESSOR TIMOTHY WANGUSA
A world class medical Center erected to the fond memory of the remarkable Professor Dr. Wilson Wamukota was on Saturday 17th August 2013 opened at his model home village of Lwaboba, Bumasikye sub-county, Mbale district. The “Professor Wamukota Memorial Medical Centre”, comprising two furnished and equipped modern buildings with a 500 KVA standby generator, is the work and gift of Mr. Charles Nangosia, with the generous support from Calgary based agency the Scott Smed Memorial Foundation and the California based Conejo Compassion Coalition, the two agencies where represented by Mrs. Shannon Bowen Smed, Elacy Smed, Kira Smed, Mrs. Karol Nangosia, Kasey Watera, Mr. Peter Smed, Dr. Robert Bland, and Dr. Richard Malfati, Mr. Victor Bracey, and Lewis Bracey who were present during the commissioning function.
The medical center immediately becomes the only health center, of Grade III or higher standard, in Bumasikye sub-county, until recently part of Busiu sub-county; and it has capacity to serve many surrounding villages, some of them belonging to next-door Tororo district. Professor Wilson Wamukota, 1934-2008, was up to the year of his demise easily the medical doctor with the most accomplished track record in Mbale region.
Educated at Bumasikye Primary School and Nabumali High School up to 1956, Wamukota went on to study Medicine in Pakistan (1957-61) and Israel (1963-70), prior to successfully pursuing PhD studies at Makerere Medical School where he was already serving as lecturer since 1973, and from which he eventually retired at the rank of Associate Professor in 1999, aged 65. When I first heard of Dr. Wamukota, being myself a young lecturer at Makerere University, he was described as the doctor who had studied Medicine for seven years, and then for a further seven years on another continent! And that for the second set of seven years he had become a countryman of Jesus, and become fluent in Hebrew! True to the Hippocratic Oath, he never advertised himself, never set up a medical clinic or subscribed to one, and always declined offers of money from his patients, telling them to go and buy with that money the medication he had just prescribed. “The walking doctor,” as he was popularly called, was also never known to own a car or even a bicycle; but was forever on his feet crossing Katanga Valley to Mulago from Makerere University hill, where he resided for many years. After he was one day knocked down by a speeding car between Wandegeya and Mulago, while on his way from work, his supervisors made available a chauffeured vehicle for his use. But it was later reported that he became sorry for the driver who sat around idly waiting for him, and permanently sent away both the vehicle and the driver. The testimonies of some of his former students present at the commissioning of the medical center – who included his niece Dr. Christine Watera and Dr. Emmanuel Othieno, the current Head of the Department of Pathology – portrayed a role model doctor of exceptional intellectual caliber, professional excellence, generosity to patients, and personal simplicity. In the seminar room, seated at the back and listening to his students’ presentations, we were told, Wamukota was hardly felt until some ill-prepared student made some unfortunate error, and then from the rear came a roar of disapproval – and they all knew he was keenly present in the seminar. For me the most unforgettable utterance that I ever heard Dr. Wilson Wamukota make was absolutely breath-taking. We were one evening socializing at Makerere University Senior Staff Club, when that facility was still located in the Main Building. In the middle of our one-to-one science-based conversation at the bar counter, he suddenly screwed his eyes on me and made his ecstatic pronouncement –
“The moment we cut through a neuron of the central nervous system while maintaining the electricity flow, we shall cry, ‘Eureka! O death, where is thy victory?"
A neuron being a cell that carries information within the nervous system, Dr. Wamukota’s vision was that of the ultimate abolition of death once the above condition is fulfilled! In his voice I could hear the triumph of Archimedes upon discovering the Principle of Floatation, and of St. Paul declaring the final conquest of death by Christ’s resurrection.
The pronouncement was from a practicing doctor whose work-station at Mulago Hospital was at the exit end of life – which is where Pathology, the scientific study of diseases and death, belongs.
A permanent practitioner at Mulago mortuary, he routinely dissected corpses to establish the causes of death. Convinced that some of the ugly deaths could have been avoided, he made himself a permanent staff member of Mulago’s Casualty Department on the third floor. That is the level on which daily arrive the casualties of road carnage, drunken assaults, domestic violence, police brutality, etc. With him, there was no leaving office with unfinished work. When duty called, he even washed his clothes at the office rather than return home to carry out that domestic chore!
A devoted researcher, he was reported at the commissioning to have made some startling findings in Pathology which are of world renown. Professor Wamukota was a rare physician who, upon retirement from active service with the university, went back to his home village of Lwaboba, took to looking after his cattle, keeping close to the community and nature, and occasionally giving medical treatment to the sick who came imploring to his door.