Judith and I met on LinkedIn through mutual connections. She is making vital contribution to the medical and health science industry. Here is our interview about her journey;
Hi Judith, I am proud to host you today. You are welcome to this episode of Words That Count.
Hi Winnie, thank you for inviting me. Thanks for the great work you do to restore girls’ confidence in being part of STEM. I am definitely honoured to feature on your blog.
Thank you for the kind words. Please tell us your full name
My name is Judith Auma, from the pearl of Africa 🥰, Uganda.
What do you do currently?
I am a medical doctor and global health enthusiast. However presently, I am finalising with my masters – I was awarded a Master of Science (Research) in Social Policy subject to minor corrections. I have also been participating in a couple of health-related meetings and trainings.
Tell us about how you joined the medical field.
I was born and raised in Kampala for the most part, but I moved to different places over the years (mainly for study and work). I would describe my younger self as a neat well-structured, reserved and versatile girl – which I think I still am to a large degree. I remember being so frustrated with myself at some point because unlike many of my peers who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up, I wanted to be a dermatologist, pharmacist, model, guitarist, an interior and fashion designer. Luckily enough for me, I excelled at everything I did, except drawing sketches – 🤭.
Please do not judge my dreams – I think for me, saying dermatologist was fancier than people who just wanted to become doctors. Oh, and I just loved to be cool like a guitarist. I was also so passionate about DIY pretty much for everything – décor and clothes (I used to even redesign my clothes). I know you cannot wait to hear about my modelling ambitions, ha ha. Anyhow I think this one was instilled in me, people used to call me model – perhaps due to my stature and my presumed catwalk – I had a way of swaying myself forward 🤣🤣.
Anyhow back to the question. So at O-level, I had to decide on what subjects I would take up for my next level, but you see my main problem was that I passed my O-levels with only distinctions, and I loved all my subjects. Actually I was Nabisunsa’s best S.4 candidate. Of course everyone expected me to do sciences and I did not know whether to rebel such that I was not that predictable – that is how peculiar I was, lol. Nonetheless, my former school offered me admission to take Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths (PCB/M) whilst Uganda Martyrs’ Namugongo offered me French instead of the maths. This alone made the choice for me, I went in for PCB/French [very trivial, right? Ha ha]. Winnie, unlike you, some of us feared maths. I do not even know why though – perhaps the ‘scary’ stories I had gotten accustomed to hearing from my classmates who did additional maths.
I feel this is the point we say, TO BE CONTINUED… or a COMMERCIAL BREAK! 🤪
Nah, let us finish this ☺️
So in a nutshell (lest I keep going on and on), It was in A-level that I got to learn to embrace my dreams of becoming everything I wanted. All my dreams were still valid.
Fast forward, I got my fifth choice of course on government sponsorship at Gulu University (medicine and surgery). I joined modelling (ha ha, but never got to move far with this, barely had the time). Oh, and I spent most of my time at Watoto church Gulu from where I played in the band as a bass guitarist, danced and sang in the choir.
After med school, I moved to Fort Portal for internship and later joined Knowledge for Change (K4C), an NGO that supports health system strengthening in public health facilities in Fort Portal. I feel at K4C I have developed so greatly in terms of evidence-based practice and leadership. I also recently became a member of Universal Care for Africa Foundation (UCAF) – a non-profit organization that focuses on promoting access to quality healthcare for the underprivileged communities in our society. I am thrilled to be a part of the great team – watch the space for greater things to be done 💪🏿.
Oh, I am soon bagging my masters’ degree too 💃🏿💃🏿💃🏿.
Overall, it has been a lovely journey of growth, learning, unlearning and lots of fun.
Haha, you make life so fun to live! I wonder why people say scientists are boring people!
Please tell us about the challenges you have faced along the way
Well, I think being my biggest critic and trying to meet all the expectations others have of me (whether presumed or uttered) – meant I was always wanting to do more with barely any breaks. I have actually only realised that I must be a sufferer of imposter syndrome too. But the beauty with me now is I have learnt to harness my potentials as well as not to underestimate what I can achieve in any position I am privileged to serve. I am also my biggest mental health advocate – celebrating all the small wins, taking a breather whenever I feel that I need one and simply learning to say NO sometimes.
What has inspired you to move forward?
I am generally so intentional about winning – nze nemerako paka wekikola, loosely translated as ‘I do not give up till it works’. “I never lose. Either I win or learn” 🤞🏿.
Tell us about your achievements and prestigious moments
I was recently featured in Uganda’s Sunday Vision as one of the top 40 under 40 stars influencing the nation. This list recognises outstanding leaders (40 years and below) who are star performers and advancing in their careers and are doing something extra that has positively impacted their communities.
I am also an awardee of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (RSTMH) small grant 2019. This is a very competitive and prestigious award that aims to enable early career researchers and global health professionals in the field of tropical medicine or global health to undertake clinical or scientific research and/or fieldwork. I was given this award to develop my work on the integration of cervical cancer prevention services, as a normal routine in HIV care clinics in Fort Portal.
I was awarded the best oral presenter at the RSTMH research in progress event. Plus all the other smaller wins. 😊
Who is Judith outside work?
I am an introverted extrovert – sometimes I am too loud, outgoing and sociable and then other times I just want to curl up in bed, read books in my kindle or just watch Netflix by myself all day. I travel a whole lot, love to take photos, go on nature walks and also listen to sermons and music.
What is your favourite quote?
“And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance… I hope you dance.” ~ Lee Ann Womack.
How would you encourage a young girl who is struggling to find her place in STEM?
“When you are called to greatness, define your associations deliberately and exclusively. Know how to connect with the graces that you need to associate with in order to build you. Pay the price and disconnect from the graces that do not advance you.”
Thank you so much Judith for giving me a morning laugh. Keep being awesome, we need more of that, especially in STEM.