August 26, 2013

DR. Sabrina Kitaka, Pediatrician Spearheading Child Safety Worldwide

Every child is born with a dream; a dream to become the best doctor, engineer, lawyer and many other professions. Sadly, today many children have not got that chance to live longer to achieve those dreams.

Dr. Sabrina speaks out on safeguarding the health of children. Dr. Sabrina Kitaka is Senior Lecturer, Paediatrician & Adolescent Health Specialist in the Department of Paediatrics Makerere University, College of Health Sciences and Mulago National Referral Hospital. She was born 42 years ago celebrated her 43rd birthday on the 20th of August. Her father, the late Engineer Paul Ssemuli Bakeera was a mining Engineer trained at the famous Hail bury School of Mines in Ontario, Canada. He was posted to work in the Kilembe Mines in the early 70s while the mother is a retired nurse, and she worked in the Kilembe Mines Hospital.

Dr. Sabrina Kitaka
Dr. Sabrina Kitaka

Dr. Sabrina went to school very early at the age of 2 at the then European Preparatory School of Kilembe now called ‘Namhuga Primary School. She  then joined the prestigious all Girl’s school Mt.St.Mary’s College Namagunga from S1 to S6, before proceeding to Makerere Medical School to study Medicine; Sabrina later did a Masters of Pediatrics and Child health at the same school, as well as  a Fellowship in Pediatric Infectious Diseases supported by the Infectious Diseases Institute and the Paediatrics Infectious Diseases Clinic.

Inspiration behind Medicine

Dr. Sabrina Kitaka’s professional dreams kept on changing from one to another, from her desire to become a News Caster, an air hostess; a High Court Judge and wear that prestigious wig; and wishing to become a doctor.

Unusual though for most girls at the age of 7 years, Sabrina was already treating her dolls, and operating small animals using rudimentary instruments to the extent that by the time she was in S4, she still was not decided, because of performing equally well in the arts as well as science subjects. Her older sister who is also a doctor; the mother who is a nurse; and her father convinced her to take sciences at HSC, and were very influential in making the decision to do medicine.

And for that reason, Dr. Sabrina greatly credits her parents especially her mother, who brought them up with the fear of God, and always helped them to understand that the fear of God was the beginning of Wisdom. My father also always told us that an educated person does not suffer when they grow older, so she was determined to excel always.

Dr. Sabrina also has a very supportive husband who has been her mentor, friend and source of encouragement over the past 21 years. He has helped Sabrina achieve her dream to be an excellent mother, wife, and Pediatrician. Dr. Sabrina’s wonderful children are a source of inspiration and help her re focus on the privileges of life

The Researcher

In her dream for better child and adolescent health, Dr. Sabrina has done the following in the field of research;

In 2006-2012, she was project leader at the PIDC, Mulago, site of the ongoing ARROW trial. ARROW is a randomized trial of monitoring strategies and first-line ART regimens in Uganda and Zimbabwe. Dr. Kitaka has also been a sub investigator for a new childhood TB vaccine between 2009-2012. In 2008-2012, she was Principal Investigator for Uganda: Sexual and reproductive health (SRH) intervention for young people living with HIV/AIDS, Co-Principal Investigator: Sero status and ART treatment disclosure and conversation among adolescents: factors influencing experience and Concerns between 2008-2010.

She is also a Co-Investigator, A Phase II, Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled, Multicenter, Proof-of-concept Study to Evaluate the Safety and Efficacy of AERAS-402 in BCG-vaccinated, HIV-uninfected Infants Without Evidence of Tuberculosis(September 2009 to date), Co-Investigator: Co-Investigator, PHICS Study, Prevalence of HHV8 Transmission from mother to child, a collaboration with University of Washington, and the Uganda Cancer Instititute, Kampala, and Baylor-Uganda(2007-2011). Co-Principle Investor: Resistances development among children initiating HAART at the PIDC.(since 2006).

Dr. Sabrina is also a Member of the safety monitoring committee (SMC) as well as the Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) of, PROMOTE Pediatrics: A Randomized Open Label Trial of HIV Protease Inhibitors for the Prevention of Malaria in HIV- infected Children’’ (July 2009).The protocol is an NIH/NICHD-sponsored collaboration between the University of California, San Francisco, and Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda, with a study site in Tororo, Uganda plus many more.

Local and International presentations

An international figure, Dr. Sabrina Kitaka has done over 30 presentations all over the world besides lecturing at Columbia University, the university of Minnesota and Tanzania. These include; Malaria disease burden among children and women in Uganda,25th April 2012,World Malaria Day, Common Wealth Secretariat in London, UK, Promoting child health in sub Saharan Africa looking ahead of 2015 and making it right ,Keynote address at the 7th international students’ conference on child health (isscoch) in Kabira country club Kampala, HPV Vaccination updates’13th Annual Conference, the Ethiopian Pediatric Society; post-conference workshop whose theme was “New Vaccines for Children” in Addis Ababa, Using modern social media to promote HPV vaccination in the private sector.

Annual Scientific Conference of the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Uganda, Surveillance matters: current data and future challenges, SOAR conference, held in Cairo, Egypt, Challenges faced by YPLHIV in school and solutions from a health care providers perspective, International Technical Consultation on the Education Sector Response to the Needs of HIV-positive Learners ,Paris, France, she also did a presentation on  Issues to consider in Maternal, New born and Child health’. A planning meeting for: ‘Strengthening Aid Effectiveness in Africa’s Health Sector :Using the convening power of African Academics to improve Maternal and Child health Outcomes, in Bellagio Italy plus many more.

An adjunct Associate Professor, Dr.Sabrina Kitaka has supervised over 16 students whose research thesis have helped change the face of health in Uganda for the better. In conjunction with other doctors, Dr. Sabrina has also written over 15 manuscripts about health readily available for any interested party online at PubMed.

Safe guarding Children Our Future

Dr. Sabrina concludes by emphasizing that, Children are our future. The level of child health indicators determines the level of economic development of a country. The Infant mortality is proportionate with the GDP of a nation; hence the G8 countries have a very low IMR, whereas the least developed countries have a high IMR. Sabrina says as long as the world’s nations believe in achieving the MDG goals in this global village, governments and donors should believe in promoting child health throughout the continuum of childhood to adolescence say from 0 to 19 years. As a pediatrician in a world where children are our future Parents, care takers, and guardians are the principle stake holders in managing children; they should treat them with love, respect, lots of care and above all plan to have children who they can afford to look after.

Additional Reporting By Joel Jafa

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