My Cambridge Experience - a Ugandan Medical Student at Addenbrookes

Yvonne Nakibirango Aug 23 Blog 1

This year, 2023 I had the opportunity to study at one of the most prominent learning institutions in the world, Cambridge University.

The oncology medical elective placement at the University of Cambridge is part of a collaboration between Cambridge-Africa and the Uganda Cancer Institute to support the development of oncology services in Uganda. The collaboration involved choosing two undergraduate medical students, studying at Makerere University, and had an interest in pursuing a career in oncology. The selection was merit based and I was chosen as one of the two students to attend this prestigious programme at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

As someone with a passion for academic achievement, I had always been fascinated by the rich history and academic excellence of Cambridge. Finally, I received first-hand experience and I concur that Cambridge University is an outstanding institution. The university's world-class research facilities and the chance to learn from esteemed experts in the field were truly impressive, not to mention the exposure to diverse cultures and perspectives. With the UK's well-established medical education system, I was eager to witness first-hand how it operates, especially in the realm of cancer care and research and I was not disappointed.

Upon arrival at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus on 23rd June, 2023, my colleague, Stella Nakaye and I were warmly greeted by Ms. Cassandra Mura, the electives director, who handed us our welcome packs, alongside essential information about the placement. After completing the necessary Occupational Health assessments and training session, I met my Haematology supervisor, Dr. Martin Besser, a Haematology consultant  who gave me a tour around the hospital and introduced me to the department's consultants and nurses.

                                            With Dr. Martin Besser our haematology supervisor.

For the first three weeks of my placement, I immersed myself in haematology, attending clinics, ward rounds, and enriching teaching sessions. I am immensely grateful to the guidance and mentorship of Dr. Will Thomas, Dr. Mark Robinson, Dr. Marquita Camilleri, Dr. Duncan Brian, Dr. Andrew King, and Dr. Pedro Martin-Cabrera. Their invaluable insights into patient care and medical practices left a lasting impact on me. I eagerly await to share this with my colleagues back at home so that we can also improve patient care in my home country. 

The following three weeks were dedicated to oncology, under the supervision of Dr. Yang Huiqi. This phase allowed me to participate in clinics, ward rounds, and shadow the radiotherapy unit. Here, I got the chance to familiarise myself with different operations in the various departments within the hospital.










 With Dr. Yang Huiqi our oncology supervisor.

Witnessing the level of coordination among healthcare professionals and the continuity of care facilitated by the Epic electronic patient record System was truly inspiring. The multidisciplinary approach and emphasis on evidence-based medicine was an eye opener to how profound the impact of teamwork is for the wellness of patients.

One of the most memorable aspects of my elective period was the opportunity to visit the Cambridge clinical research centre and interact with patients participating in various research trials. This experience reinforced the significance of continuous research in the pursuit of better treatment options for haematological and oncological conditions, not only in the UK but across the globe. Participating in the simulation competition at Royal Papworth Hospital with the robotic mannequin was an awe-inspiring experience, immersing us in a realistic case scenario that challenged and enriched our skills and knowledge.

I extend my gratitude to Ms. Corinna Alberg who introduced my colleague and I to Prof. Suzanne Turner, Dr, Marta Ferraresso, and Dr. Amit Roshan. I was able to meet with them one-on-one to discuss the research they are undertaking with regards to cancer and the various new possibilities in early cancer diagnosis. I was inspired to be in the same room with such brilliant minds.

I also want to thank Ms. Evelyn Brealey and Ms. Isobel Fitzgerald for the opportunity to visit the Rosie Hospital and ICU at Addenbrookes hospital respectively.


L-R; Jamie Matthews, Dr. Marta Ferraresso, Stella, Yvonne and Prof. Suzanne Turner at the pathology laboratory.

Further into the programme, I attended the Kampala Cambridge meeting for Maternal and Neonatal care, where I was able to learn about the other collaborations between Cambridge and Uganda including the SCALE partnership, antimicrobial resistance and Maternal Health activities. It was enjoyable listening to the various keynote speakers, including Prof Annette Nakimuli, Prof Josaphat Byamugisha and Dr. Musa Sekikubo from Makerere University. This platform emphasized the significance of global cooperation in tackling healthcare challenges

Although there were only two students in the oncology placement, I was fortunate to connect with other elective students undertaking different programmes, creating lasting bonds and memories. We explored the charming Eagle pub, enjoyed punting on the serene River Cam. I had the opportunity to visit the Fitzwilliam Museum and Cambridge University Botanical Gardens, which added an enriching cultural dimension to my time in Cambridge. A highlight of our adventure was a trip to London with my friend Stella, where we marvelled at Buckingham Palace, the River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. Once again, I extend a special vote of thanks to Ms. Corinna Alberg and her family for a memorable trip to Wells-next-the-Sea.

Touring the Kings College Chapel with Ms. Evelyn Brealey was an exceptional opportunity, as she expertly intertwined captivating stories about the history of Cambridge University and its prestigious colleges. It was a truly enriching experience that allowed us to immerse ourselves in the grandeur of the chapel while gaining invaluable insights into the storied past of this renowned institution.

Down (L-R): Cosima(Switzerland), Alena(Switzerland) Mariah(Malta), Stella(Uganda) Up (L-R): Yvonne(Uganda), Alex(Mexico), & Mohammed(Sudan) at Eagle pub.

In a nutshell, my elective period in haematology and oncology at Addenbrooke's Hospital has been a life-changing experience that has left an indelible mark on not only my academic journey but also on me as an individual. The academic excellence, exposure to diverse perspectives, and cultural exchange have enriched my understanding of medicine and reinforced my commitment to patient care and research. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Cambridge-Africa, Cambridge Global Health Partnerships, and every person involved for making this journey possible through their unwavering support and funding, making our stay in Cambridge comfortable and memorable.I look forward to applying the lessons learned during this time. The experiences and connections fostered during this elective placement have inspired me to contribute positively to the global healthcare landscape. I am excited to apply these insights and carry the torch of knowledge and compassion in my future medical endeavours, aiming to make a meaningful impact on patients' lives worldwide.

L-R: Ms. Alyshia Gouldsbrough, Yvonne, Stella and Ms. Evelyn Brealey after a visit to the CGHP offices.


Thank you so much.

Yvonne Nakibirango Cynthia