International Programs

Justine Ma


With a desire to get experience in veterinary public health abroad, I participated in a 4-week course on international animal production, disease surveillance, and public health given through North Dakota State University in collaboration with Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. I found out that I was part of a pilot test group for the new Masters in International Infectious Disease Management and Biosecurity, and this course was part of the program. So I got to meet, learn, and interact with four graduate students from NDSU and four Ugandan students from Makerere University.

The program cost covered all of my accommodations, transportation and a weekly stipend for food.  For the first two days, I stayed in Kampala, attending lectures at the veterinary school. The topics discussed included learning about Uganda and the problems and issues the country faces with regards to diseases, animal production systems and animal health. I had the opportunity to tour the veterinary campus as well as visit other institutions and diagnostic laboratories around the area.

For the next two weeks, our group traveled to Western Uganda, camping at Lake Mburo National Park and lodging at Queen Elizabeth National Park. The tour to western Uganda was led by Dr. Ludwig Siefert, a wildlife veterinarian with a vast knowledge of the area, ecology and wildlife, as well as knowledge of different conflicts that are ongoing between wildlife, domestic animals and humans. Some of the highlights during our western Uganda tour included witnessing the necropsy of an impala and warthog, visiting local ranches and communities, and talking to the local people about problems they face. We also searched, collared and set up baits for predators like lions, hyenas and leopards that are involved in major conflicts with the local communities.

Traveling back to Kampala, we attended more lectures and visiting more laboratories and institutions in Kampala and Entebbe for 3 days before heading off to eastern Uganda for one week. During our eastern tour visiting Tororo and Kumi, we were given the opportunity to visit more diagnostic laboratories and learn about the work they do. We were also s able to visit different farms, like a goat and poultry farm, where we learned about how they run their operations and about the livestock infrastructure and disease control in the area. Lastly our group ended up having a very good (but heated) discussion about the importance of biosecurity with devastating diseases like foot and mouth disease.

This program gave me the unparalled opportunity to see and experience things veterinary students don’t usually experience in the US. I enjoyed tremendously learning about Uganda, seeing the beauty of the country, their ecosystems, learning about the people, cultures, animals and the environment. I had the wonderful opportunity to interact with different communities and see up front their everyday lives, and their struggles. In particular and more importantly perhaps, it started a thought process in my mind on finding ways to help improve their livelihoods. Everyone interested in the interrelationships between animals and humans, how they affect the public health system and how international infectious diseases globally affect us locally should definitely look into this program.