uganda photo collage

Uganda Program

Since 2002, biochemistry professor James Ntambi has led an extraordinary and invaluable program, taking undergraduates to Uganda to learn about nutrition and to put what they learn into practice. This experience brings new meaning to their education.

The program combines a semester course with a three-week field experience in Uganda. During the fall semester course, Ntambi provides students with background information about the economic and health issues particular to Uganda so that when students arrive, they have a good grasp of the realities faced by Ugandans as they make their health and nutrition decisions. Students come to realize that necessities many of us take for granted, such as clean drinking water, food, education, and financial resources, present daily struggles for the majority of Ugandan citizens.

The program’s success is reflected in what students do upon their return to the U.S. A key example is the creation of the Village Health Project (VHP), a student organization that is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Madison. The VHP supports health and nutrition projects in developing countries and increases awareness about international health issues on the UW–Madison campus and beyond. Among its projects, VHP has supported the building of 28 rainwater tanks in Uganda. These tanks are a simple, effective way of obtaining clean drinking water. Later on, groups started building BioSand Water filters, which can be used at the household level to filter water and remove pathogens. Students involved in VHP believe that to improve human health, good nutrition practices and clean water go hand in hand.

The program has had a powerful ripple effect, with valuable consequences continuing to appear even long after students’ experiences in Uganda. For most students, the program is their first exposure to the importance of public health. Many then go on to attend public health programs across the U.S., including at the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins University, Tufts University, George Washington University, the University of Minnesota, and our own program at UW–Madison. Other students continue on to medical school or continue their studies in graduate programs. By exposing these students to critical health issues, Ntambi provides students with opportunities to learn more about themselves as future health care professionals.

James Ntambi Reflects on Decades of Study Abroad

Hear about the Uganda Program experience from students themselves »

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