KAMPALA. The funeral service scene was not common. The All Saints Cathedral Nakasero parking lot teemed with cars as hundreds of mourners trooped in. The medical fraternity had doctors clad in blue-collared white T- shirts, as mothers, who were her friends, wore grey T- shirts, and her Gayaza High School old girls –past and present – all came, draped in multiple colours with her peers dressed in white with orange sashes.
Her medical associates weren’t left out either. Such was the scene painted by friends and relatives who came to celebrate the life of Dr Margaret Mungherera.
They filled the church with the tents outside overflowing even with more mourners.
The atmosphere overwhelmed the family, friends, and relatives with the bereaved father, Mr Ssezi Mungherera, collapsing before completing his speech.
“What a girl! What a girl! What a girl! I did not know my daughter was so known like this beyond my house,” the 91-year-old muttered before collapsing.
Led by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, the service was attended by several dignitaries, including members of the Cabinet and Rotarians.
Also present to commiserate with the family were representatives of medical associations and councils in East Africa, the continent, and the world at large.
Indeed, the ceremony was an ultimate tribute to Dr Mungherera, who started her final earthly journey in July 2015 when she was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the colon.
After a short battle, but with several government-funded trips to India every two weeks at an estimated total cost of Shs300m, the psychiatrist finally lost the battle to cancer.
Born on October, 20, 1957, to Mr and Ms Ssezi, Dr Mungherera, 59, died last Saturday and will be buried at 12pm today at Bujumba in Butalejja District, eastern Uganda.
To the medical fraternity, Dr Mungherera will be remembered for the 33 years she spent serving diligently in the health sector as a psychiatric and health rights advocate.
Dr Rugunda said Dr Mungherera was unique as she distinguished herself in her daily routine of treating patients, but unlike most professionals, she dedicated even more time to advocate quality service delivery.
Dr Doreen Birabwa-Male, the Mulago hospital deputy executive director, remembers Dr Mungherera as the head of the Directorate of Medical Services at Mulago hospital as an employee who left an indelible mark at the hospital.
“She was very energetic and transparent. When she was appointed to head the directorate, she took up the mantle as if she was already prepared for it,” Dr Birabwa told the mourners.
Her former workmates remember her tireless fight for their welfare, remarking that Dr Mungherera took advantage of every appointment of a member of the medical profession to top government position to push the fight for the medic workers welfare.
Prof Charles Ibingira, the principal of the College of Health Sciences, added that Dr Mungherera viewed Dr Rugunda’s appointment as Prime Minister as a platform for the doctor to push for better incentives for the medics in Cabinet.
To the psychiatrists, she was not only a mentor but also a model and an inspiration in the field. health workers lamented that her death had created a big gap that the profession may take decades to fill.
Mungherera’s former student, Dr Noeline Nakasujja, now the Head of the psychiatry department at Butabika hospital, noted that she always wanted everyone to become a psychiatrist and would counsel whoever her life touched.
“Dr Mungherera pioneered many programmes at Butabiika Hospital, including the prisons services for psychiatric training and forensic training for psychiatry,” Dr Nakasujja recollected.
In order to inspire more people into the profession, the senior consultant psychiatrist championed the establishment of medical schools in private universities and also spearheaded the establishment of their curriculum.
As such, Kampala International University awarded her an honorary doctorate for her contribution towards medical training in the country.
Becoming one of the only 15 female psychiatrics in the country, on joining the service sector in 1984, Health minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng said the country has lost one of the strongest pillars in ensuring quality medical care in the health sector.
“We shall remember her great passion for clinical work as she always wanted the best for health workers,” the minister said.
But while Dr Mungherera advocated loudly the welfare of the health workers, she was always quick to remind them of their first responsibility to save life.
Cases. Cancer statistics available indicate that 2,800 new cancer cases were registered in 2012, compared to 1,800 in 2011, with an estimated 60,000 people living with the deadly disease in the country. Of those, only 20 to 40 per cent manage to seek medical attention at Uganda Cancer Institute at Mulago.
WHO statistics. An estimated 8.8 million people worldwide died from cancer in 2015. That is nearly 1 in 6 of all global deaths.
Global Health Observatory. $1.16 trillion is the estimated total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010.
Key fact about cancer. 30-50 per cent of cancers could be prevented.