The internet tells us that Radiology is a branch of medicine that uses imaging technology to diagnose and treat disease. Our guest today will teach us more about this field;
Hi Mercy, thank you for joining us today. Linda has said wonderful things about you. It’s good to finally speak with you
Thank you, Winnie. I am happy to be here.
Briefly introduce yourself to our audience, please
My name is Mercy Victoria Kataike from Uganda but currently based in Australia. I am currently doing my Doctorate at the University of Melbourne, Australia. My research area is Radiology where I am studying how brain cells recover from a stroke.
Walk us through your journey into Radiology
I grew up in an academic family of six. My father, now passed, was a Professor at the Department of Botany at Makerere University. My mother is a lecturer at the Department of Education at Kampala International University. I went to Winston Standard Academy and City Parents School for my primary education. For my secondary school, I was in Gayaza High School. I mention these because my father and mother made sure I had the best education regardless of the financial challenges.
I took my bachelor’s degree in Science at Makerere University, and at the end of my program, my supervisor then, Professor Yusto Kaahwa, encouraged me to study Hospital Physics. That defined my choice of study for my master’s education. I was awarded a Quota Scheme scholarship by the Norwegian government in 2014 and I undertook my master’s at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. I specialized in Medical Imaging and Medical Physics.
At the end of my studies, I had an A in my thesis but poor grades, so I decided to redo my degree, and this time I sponsored myself to study at the University of Oslo, and I succeeded. I decided to redo my master’s because of my interest in studying for a Ph.D. It took me a while though to get a Ph.D. opportunity. I was finally granted a Ph.D. position at the University of Melbourne, sponsored by both the Melbourne Research Scholarship and the Department of Medicine, Dentistry, and Health Sciences. I officially started in March 2022.
Let’s talk about some of the challenges you have faced along the way
My first master’s degree was quite difficult, especially the coursework. There were also external factors like the new environment not being friendly at the start. I found myself getting bad grades I had never seen on my academic papers in life. It was important for me to retake the degree, and I am glad I had the opportunity for that.
I would say also being an African girl in STEM at such an academic level comes with its challenges, pushing back stereotypes of people talking about the pace of acquiring academic qualifications. People in the past have openly asked who will marry me with all the qualifications and in this field!
Also, as much as it is considered courageous being in the minority wherever I find myself since most of my graduate career is in the diaspora, sometimes it comes with challenges like dealing with people’s stereotypes of my background.
My other challenge has been imposter syndrome, especially finding myself around professionals in my field. For example, heads of big companies who are interested in looking at my work.
What have you found to be most inspiring during these challenges?
One of my greatest inspirations is my father. He came from a disadvantaged home and studied his way to the top. He also pushed me to aim higher. I remember when I had just finished my bachelor’s education, he handed me money to go to Makerere University and look for masters’ scholarships first and not a job like others were doing.
When I got the scholarship to study in Norway, he was very happy. At that time, he was hospitalized because of a stroke he suffered, but he remembered to ask me about the outcome of my scholarship applications. He, unfortunately, passed away in November 2018 due to heart problems, just days after I had updated him about my academic progress at that time.
I was very heartbroken because he was my rock in my academic career. My current research is dear to my heart because my father suffered from a stroke and he survived it. I dedicate this work to him.
My loving family, my mother, my grandmother, and my siblings are my greatest cheerleaders. They cheer me on like cheerleaders literally! When I feel like giving up, I remember their support and love, and I can carry on.
Career-wise, my inspirations are my Masters’ supervisors; Professor Anne Catrine and Hilde Andersen. They were heads in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at Oslo University Hospital. Seeing them lead these departments at the Oslo University hospital, and teaching at the University of Oslo inspired my desired career direction.
Other than the above, my inspiration comes from the stories of ladies that have made it in STEM, especially those from a similar background. If they can, I can.
You must have had moments that have made you realize your worth in STEM; tell us about those
My master thesis abstract was accepted and presented at the 105th RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) conference in 2019. It was a great honour to have my research accepted at an annual international conference as a masters’ student.
Who are you outside of work?
I am passionate about working with children, which I have done in church, as well as working with audiovisual communication (sound and live stream) in the church. My other happy moments are when I take walks in nature and listen to music.
I also volunteer as a board member at Yiya Engineering Solutions, a not-for-profit organization that provides innovative STEM education to children living in rural Uganda.
What’s your favourite quote?
I cannot think of a quote that has stayed with me through my life’s journey, but I am encouraged by a verse in the Bible, Proverbs 3:5-6 that says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
What are your words of encouragement for a young girl in STEM?
Your dreams are no mistake. Gender, society, or even your background neither define nor limit your dreams! Dream BIG! And go BIG! Do not hold anything back! We are cheering you on and are proud of you, even if you are not seeing us in person.
Thank you very much, Mercy, for sharing your journey through us. I must admit that I didn’t know anything about Radiology, so for me, this has been a learning session. We wish you all the best with your Ph.D.