At 21 years old, EMMANUEL SSEKYANZI is an ambitious young man juggling academics and healthcare entrepreneurship.
He is a final-year Anesthesia and Critical Care Medical Science student at the Parul Institute of Paramedical and Health Sciences (PIPHS), faculty of Medicine, at Parul University in Vadodara, Gujarat, India.
Ssekyanzi is committed to improving digital healthcare access to the underserved communities under his Medref Health Bridge Solutions where he pioneers digital health technologies, writes Yudaya Nangonzi.
Ssekyanzi is not content with merely being a medical student. His goal is to leverage technology to improve patient care, increase healthcare access, and make medical services more efficient and cost-effective in India and Uganda. Born and raised in the lush landscapes of Kibalinga in Mubende, his fascination with healthcare and technology began at an early age.
While some of his classmates are focused on traditional medical studies, Ssekyanzi has drawn his life to the intersection of medicine and technology.
“My story is rooted in a fundamental belief: access to basic health care is a right, not a privilege. This conviction ignited my passion for healthcare thus embarking on a journey of discovery and transformation as a digital health innovator,” Ssekyanzi said.
He now stands tall as a beacon of hope in the city of Vadodara, Gujarat, India guiding communities towards a brighter and healthier future through his innovations. This is thanks to a “miraculous scholarship” he secured to study at India’s Parul University.
When he completed his A-levels at St Joseph SS, Nkoni in Lwengo, the school administration allowed him to work as a junior teacher as he awaited his results. According to Ssekyanzi, the minimal savings would help complement the earnings of his parents to push him for further studies.
His mother, a primary school teacher, and father who is a farmer, had struggled all through his educational journey from Mubende Junior School to Golden Hearts Junior School, and finally his O and A-levels at St Joseph’s SS, Nkoni. All was well until Covid-19 hit the country – putting the education sector to a two-year-long closure. This meant a permanent end to his side income.
One lucky day, he used his mother’s smartphone to browse various study scholarships “because I knew that however much I performed well, my family could not afford my higher education, especially medicine. So, it was either a scholarship or government sponsorship to bail me out.”
Ssekyanzi excelled with 15 points in Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. He recalled with excitement featuring in the media among the top performers from Lwengo district and the best student at his school.
His relentless pursuit of knowledge and determination to make a positive impact in the health sector won him a fully-funded scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Medical Science, specializing in Anesthesia and Critical Care at Parul University in Vadodara, Gujarat, India.
DIGITAL HEALTH INNOVATION
“I only had to pay for my accommodation but still, I am grateful to some friends based in the US who covered the costs. I got the courage to study while in India well knowing that despite my village background, I can ably compete with children from well-to-do families,” Ssekyanzi, now a finalist, said.
Two years into the course, Ssekyanzi got an idea to penetrate the digital health journey. He had already participated in several innovation challenges which gave him the zeal to push forward.
In 2022, he was declared the winner of the 2022 Azad Ka Amrit Mahotsav Startup National Innovation Challenge which was organized under the Student Startup Innovation Policy by the government of Gujarat. This victory catapulted him into a 1.5-year incubation program at the Parul Innovation and Research Center (PIERC) under the government of Gujarat.
PIERC has enabled young and budding entrepreneurs like him to bring their innovative ideas to life. Ssekyanzi’s entrepreneurial spirit found its zenith when he co-founded Medref Health Bridge Solutions Uganda Limited in 2022 with Joshua Asiimwe and two Indian women; Nikita Kumari and Associate Professor Afreen Khan.
The overall goal is to bridge the divide to bring digital solutions close to the less- advantaged people. As the founding director, he has steered the company’s course towards revolutionizing healthcare delivery through innovations such as a digital immunisation system, a digital referral system for seamless ambulatory clinical support, and a digital Antenatal and Postnatal care system with automated calls, reminders, and health promotion materials to empower mothers.
He explained that the digital vaccination cards and certificates if fully embraced, could reduce the costs governments [both in Uganda and India] spend on purchasing paper cards while all medical records of patients are stored digitally.
At Medref, he works with a team of about 20 people in Uganda and India who work tirelessly to develop cutting-edge digital solutions. He said their collective expertise and passion have been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and impact.
In 2023, the company was fully incorporated in Uganda. Asked why he didn’t go for India, Ssekyanzi had this to say.
“I wanted to inspire fellow Ugandans and innovators to know that you can innovate from Uganda but still compete globally to solve problems. Whereas my higher education journey started in India, I have a big heart for Uganda.”
In India, Dr Jadia Maternity and Orthopedics hospital Vadodara, Vaanya Children and Gynecology hospital, and Parul Shevashrum hospital have helped validate his innovation. Currently, he’s outsourcing funds to upscale the innovation on the Indian market as well as serve Ugandans at a cheaper cost.
He has already engaged officials at the ministry of Health about his digital solutions. Some of the entities he has approached are; the Division of Health Information, Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, the Division of Reproductive Maternal Newborn and Child Health, and the Federation of Private Health Professionals. Whereas the talks are still ongoing, he’s receiving positive feedback.
Sekyanzi’s journey as a medical student and digital health innovator is just beginning. He envisions a future where his innovations are integrated into mainstream healthcare, improving patient outcomes, and reducing healthcare costs.
He intends to complete his medical science degree while simultaneously nurturing his digital health projects, eventually founding a healthcare technology startup that can bring his innovative solutions to a global audience.
Despite his busy schedule, Ssekyanzi’s passion for public health has also continued to burn brightly. Last year, he broadened his horizons by earning a certificate in Clinical Psychology, arming him with a unique set of skills for working with diverse populations, from children to the elderly.
With his unwavering ambition, dedication to healthcare, and innovative spirit, Ssekyanzi is a rising star in the medical field, poised to transform the way healthcare is delivered and experienced.
He acknowledged the support from his academic home, the Faculty of Medicine at Parul University, for not only imparting valuable knowledge but also embracing and celebrating his entrepreneurial spirit. The faculty’s enormous support has helped him balance the demands of education and entrepreneurship.
Ssekyanzi is determined to continue his journey as a medical student and digital health innovator with the ultimate goal of creating innovative solutions that improve patient outcomes, enhance healthcare accessibility, and promote health equity.