The Vice Chancellor

Prof. Celestino Obua

I am the Vice Chancellor, of Mbarara University of Science and Technology and a Professor of Pharmacology and Therapeutics with a PhD in Pharmacology and a Fellow of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences (FUNAS).

I am the Contact MPI of the “Mbarara University Data Science Research Hub (MUDSReH” – Grant No.U54TW012043) a research consortium on Data Science-Initiative Africa (DS-I Africa) running from 2021 – 2026. This grant focuses of harnessing medical images for Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence to enhanced diagnosis and management of diseases to improve health in Africa.

I am also the contact MPI of the “Building capacity for Implementation Science research in Non-Communicable Diseases (BImS-NCDs)” Grant No. D43TW011964 a capacity grant to train PhDs in NCDs utilizing implementation Science methodologies running from 2022 – 2027.

In addition, I am the PI of the “Health-professional  Education  Partnership Initiative  –  Transforming  Ugandan  Institutions  Training  Against  HIV/AIDS”  (HEPI-TUITAH) Grant No. R25TW011210 PI: Obua 2018 – 2023 and its supplements “Sexual  Harassment  Prevention  and  Response  Training  (SHarPResT)”  R25TW011210-03S1 and Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Health Professions Training Initiative (ARDHePTI)” R25TW011210-03S2 all of which are focused on training undergraduate students on prevention, care and research towards supplementing the national efforts in the fight against HIV, and promotion of sexual harassment in the research environment respectively.

I have been the Program Director of the “Mbarara University Research training initiative (MURTI)” Grant No. D43TW010128 PI: Obua and its “Mbarara Alzheimer’s and related Dementia Research Initiative (MADRI)” Supplement D43TW010128-04S1 PI: Obua on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias [AD/ADRD]) a program that has trained to date three cohorts of junior faculty at MUST in conducting research in mental health, CVD, neurology, HIV/AIDs and related morbidities (total of 21 junior faculty fellows), and AD/ADRD research (12 fellows).

I have worked as a medical educator for over ten years where I participated as an investigator on the medical education partnership initiative MEPI-MESAU consortium project that involved five medical schools in Uganda, during which I oversaw the implementation of the trans-disciplinary mentored research for faculty and students across the consortium institutions. I have mentored and provided leadership in several research projects on drug use studies at community levels and in the health facilities, pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic studies on antimalarials and ARVs, health systems and higher education, with over 100 publications, having supervised 30 graduate students including 12 PhDs.

As a mentor I have continued to work with several masters and PhD students, and Postdoctoral researchers towards better treatment of infectious diseases in Ugandan children under the Sida funded bilateral support to Uganda research project. I am a member of the International Network for Rational Use of Drugs (INRUD-Uganda), where I have been part of a research team on an Initiative on Adherence to Antiretrovirals (INRUD-IAA), a multi-country collaborative project that investigated facility-based adherence to antiretroviral medicines. From these studies a tool for strengthening adherence to ARVs is now published as a WHO manual titled “How to investigate Adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment: An indicator-based Approach” (WHO/EMP/MIE/2011.1).

I have also mentored and provided leadership to a team of researchers at MUST applying for the World Bank African Center of Excellence (ACE II) fund to support higher education in Eastern and Southern Africa, where MUST project of Pharm-Bio Technology and Traditional Medicines (PHARMBIOTRAC) has been funded under Credit No.5797-UG. This project will investigate, among other diseases, the use of herbal medicines in HIV/AIDs. In this application, I will participate as a senior researcher and member of the Training Advisory Committee (TAC) to provide strategic and scientific oversight towards the implementation of the program.

The experiences from the current MUDSReH consortium, the HEPI-TUITAH program, which is focused on training undergraduate health professions students in the fight against HIV, and the additional experience gained from the previous work on the Mbarara Alzheimer’s disease research initiative (MADRI), to train the health profession students in the biomedical and clinical education in AD/ADRD, research methodology skills to conduct locally relevant epidemiological, clinical and operational research in AD/ADRD, and mentored assessment of older persons with AD/ADRD in rural Uganda, makes me believe there is still a lot more I need to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Positions and Honors

Positions and Employment

2008-2010             Deputy Dean, School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University

2011 – 2014            Deputy Principal, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University

2014- to date          Vice Chancellor, Mbarara University of Science and Technology

Professional Membership and Scientific Associations

  1. Fellow Uganda National Academy of Sciences (FUNAS)
  2. The Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council – Registered Medical Practitioner
  3. International Advisor – Somalia Health Action Journal (SHAJ)
  4. Member Editorial Board – Journal of Public Health Policy
  5. Associate Editor for African Health Sciences Journal
  6. Uganda Pharmacological Society (UPharS) – Founding Member

Contributions to Science

Medical Education Partnership Initiative-Medical education for All Ugandans (MEPI-MESAU) 2011-2015.

Most African countries including Uganda have fragile health systems compounded by severe health problems such as the HIV epidemic, emerging non-communicable diseases, neglected tropical diseases, and childhood illnesses. They are making inadequate progress towards MDGs 4, 5 and 6, and insufficient scaling up of services in PEPFAR and similar programs. Africa supports 15% of the world’s population and 25% of the global disease burden, but has only 3% of the global health workforce. For Uganda 75% of the country’s disease burden is preventable subject to adequate health personnel, which stood at 56%. African societies are thus pressuring medical schools to scale up their social accountability and contribution to solving the many health system challenges.

To begin to address the problem, Makerere University College of Health Sciences (MUCHS) partnered with the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Nursing in 2009 to conduct a needs assessment to develop a strategic plan toward building and sustaining MUCHS as a, “transformational institution, a leader in academic excellence and innovation in Africa, influencing individuals, organizations and society to improve health outcomes in Uganda and beyond.” Issues identified were the need for systems capacity building, enhancing quality in research, medical education, service, the academic environment for faculty, and students to be better equipped with competencies required to address Uganda’s health service needs.

This proposal extends lessons learned to a 5 Ugandan university (Makerere University, Gulu University, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Busitema University and Kampala International University – Ishaka) partnership with JHU support to catalyze capacity and performance enhancements in medical education, research and environment geared towards improved service delivery. Funding this proposal was obtained through PEPFAR/NIH towards the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) that strengthened the capacity of the Ugandan medical schools/colleges consortium to realize their joint mission “to ensure the transformative innovative medical education built on strong sustainable systems to produce more (HW) of consistently high quality to address health priorities like HIV/AIDS through service and research to improve health outcomes for Uganda” dubbed Medical Education Partnership Initiative-Medical Education and Service for All Ugandans ( MEPI-MESAU) project. The project outputs included 10 MESAU funded PhDs; 35 MESAU funded MScs, 29 MESAU faculty mentored researches; and 90 MESAU students mentored research – leading to 107 publications. e.g

  1. Kiguli S, Mubuuke R, Baingana R, Kijjambu S, Maling S, Waako P, Ovuga E, Obua C, Kaawa- Mafigiri D, Nshaho J, Kiguli-Maladde E, Bollinger R and Sewankambo N. A. Consortium approach to competency-based undergraduate medical education in Uganda: process, opportunities and challenges. Educ Health 2014;27:163-9
  2. Munabi IG, Buwembo W, Bajunirwe F, Kitara DL, Joseph R, Peter K, Obua C, Quinn J, Mwaka ES. Factors influencing health professions students’ use of computers for data analysis at three Ugandan public medical schools: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Res Notes. 2015 Feb 25;8:54. doi: 10.1186/s13104-015-1013-3. PMCID: PMC4346114
  3. Charles O Odongo, Kuteesa R Bisaso, Freddy Kitutu, Celestino Obua and Josaphat Byamugisha. Is there a distinction between malaria treatment and intermittent preventive treatment? Insights from a cross-sectional study of anti-malarial drug use among Ugandan pregnant women. Malaria Journal (2015) Vol. 14; 189. DOI: 10.1186/s12936-015-0702-7 PMCID: PMC4210552

International Network on rational Use of Drugs – Initiative on Adherence to Anti-retroviral (INRUD-IAA) Project (2007-2011)

Global, regional, and national health initiatives have responded to the HIV/AIDS pandemic by introducing antiretroviral therapy (ART) to ever-increasing numbers of affected patients. The success of ART relies on life-long, high levels of medication adherence to maximize clinical effectiveness and to minimize the potential population risks associated with the development of drug resistance. Reviews of over 50 years of research have shown that achieving medication adherence rates of over 80% for treating a range of chronic illnesses has been problematic, even in resource-rich countries. Achieving high rates of adherence in resource poor settings is a serious challenge and performance needs to be closely monitored. The ability to measure treatment adherence accurately is critical to identifying adherence problems and improving adherence practices. All methods have produced measurements associated with clinical outcomes in research settings; and so we employed approaches to measuring adherence by testing for feasibility and validity of using routine data from the array of current treatment program settings in Africa. For this we collected data from clinic setting in five East African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda) between 2007 and 2011 through the INRUD-IAA project. We developed a survey tool that can be used for this purpose using an indicator-based approach published as WHO manual titled “How to investigate Adherence to Antiretroviral Treatment: An indicator-Based Approach”. WHO/EMP/MIE/2011.1 available at Tools-and-manual.cfm. Other publications include:

  1. John C Chalker, Tenaw Andualem, Lillian Gitau, Joseph Ntaganira, Celestino Obua, Hailu Tadeg, Paul Waako and Dennis Ross-Degnan. Measuring adherence to antiretroviral treatment in resource-poor settings: A health system approach. BMC Health Services Research, 2010; 10:43.
  2. Celestino Obua*, Annelie Gusdal, Paul Waako, John C Chalker, Goran Tomson, Rolf Wahlström and The INRUD-IAA Team. Multiple ART Programs Create a Dilemma for Providers to Monitor ARV Adherence in Uganda. The Open AIDS Journal, 2011, 5, 17- 24.
  3. Annelie K. Gusdal, Celestino Obua, Tenaw Andualem, Rolf Wahlström, John Chalker, Grethe Fochsen on behalf of the INRUD-IAA project. Peer counselors’ role in supporting patients’ adherence to ART in Ethiopia and Uganda. AIDS Care, 2011, 1- 6, iFirst.
  4. Celestino Obua*, Joshua Kayiwa, Paul Waako, Göran Tomson, Hudson Balidawa, John Chalker, Dennis Ross-Degnan, Rolf Wahlstrom. Improving adherence to antiretroviral treatment in Uganda with a low resource facility-based intervention. Global Health Action, 2014

EU/F7 Grant Agreements No. 281930 & 265970 African Regional Capacity Development for Health Services and Systems Research (ARCADE- HSSR) Project                                                                                                                                                   2010 – 2014

Health system strengthening is a key priority in Africa. This requires greatly increased local capacity for innovation, adaptation, implementation and evaluation in the health sector, which can only be achieved by a substantial growth in the number of people with the multi-disciplinary skills required to guide health sector decision making. Progress is dependent on each country having a sufficient complement of scientists with the professional expertise to undertake relevant, timely and reliable research, and the ability to influence and support policy makers in translating research into policy and practice.

In this project we set out to support the development of a sustainable research environment, with excellent young African scientists collaborating in a network of strong African research institutions with Makerere and Stellenbosch Universities as the African hub, in partnership with EU institutions with Karolinska Institute as the EU hub. The ARCADE-HSSR network was to support evidence-informed service delivery by producing a stream of well-trained young HSSR scientists, the next generation of health system leaders and researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

The outcomes included:

  1. Needs assessment for high level HSSR training in SSA which highlighted the barriers and facilitators for training in health systems research. Key findings from this assessment were that being female, lack of funding, and long mobility periods were key barriers to training at PhD or Post-Doctoral levels Published as:

David Guwatudde, Freddie Bwanga, Lilian Dudley, Lumbwe Chola, Germana Henry Leyna, Elia John Mmbaga, Newton Kumwenda, Myroslava Protsiv, Salla Atkins, Merrick Zwarenstein, Celestino Obua and James K Tumwine. Training for health services and systems research in Sub- Saharan Africa – a case study at four East and Southern African Universities. Human Resources for Health, 2013, 11:68)

  1. As a result of these findings, training materials were developed for blended on-line modules which were mounted on Moodle platform offered to graduate students in SSA. The ARCADE courses included: Randomized Controlled Trials; Practical Approaches to Qualitative Research; Meta- Analysis of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies; Introduction to Health Systems; and Qualitative Evaluation in Health Care.

Several papers were presented at conferences that included:

  1. Atkins, S., Skinner, D., Protsiv, M., Atuyambe, L., Thomsen, S., Obua, C., Tumwine, J.K., Dudley, L., Diwan, V.K. (2014). Teaching and learning qualitative methods through blended learning. Next Generation Learning Conference, March 19–20 2014, Falun, Sweden.
  2. Atkins, S., Protsiv, M., Mahomed, H., Khondowe, O., Bwanga, F., Mukose, A., Skinner, D., Thomsen, S., Guwatudde, D., Young, Y., Dudley, L., Obua, C., Tumwine, J.K., Mmbaga, E.J., Muula, A., Kumwenda, N., Leyna, G., Diwan, V.K., Zwarenstein, M. (2014) Teaching and learning health systems and services research in low- to middle income contexts: Experiences from the ARCADE consortium. Next Generation Learning Conference, March 19–20 2014, Falun, Sweden.
  3. Protsiv, M., Atkins, S., Nkonki, L., Dudley, L., Zwarenstein, M., Diwan, V.K. (2014) ARCADE – developing research capacity through synchronous blended courses across African and European university campuses. Next Generation Learning Conference, March 19–20 2014, Falun, Sweden.


Research Support


R25TW011210  Fogarty/NIH                                                                                                                                                                                                2018-2023

Health-professional  Education  Partnership Initiative  –  Transforming  Ugandan  Institutions  Training  Against  HIV/AIDS  (HEPI-TUITAH). The main goal of the project is to strengthening training in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and research to support implementation of the national response for quality service delivery. TUITAH will accomplish this overarching goal by conducting pre- and in-service training of health professional students and primary healthcare providers in HIV clinical care and prevention. It involves student research teams conducting “micro-research projects” that address barriers to utilization of HIV/AIDS services in the community; linkage between health facilities and the community; and social and community factors affecting adherence and retention, including stigma and discrimination. Role: PI

R25TW011210-03S1 Fogarty/NIH                                                                                                                                                                                        2020-2021

Sexual  Harassment  Prevention  and  Response  Training  (SHarPResT) a  HEPI-TUITAH administrative supplement. The main goal of this supplement is to build capacity of stakeholders through developing awareness, training, procedure, and policy for responding to allegations of SH. We propose to 1) gather data on existing gaps; 2) develop and disseminate information; and 3) evaluate implementation outcomes. Role: PI

R25TW011210-03S2        Fogarty/NIH                                                                                                                                                                                2021-2022

Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Health Professions Training Initiative (ARDHePTI) as an administrative supplement to the HEPI-TUITAH with the aims to further enhance undergraduate health professional students’ capacity in: (a) biomedical and clinical education in AD/ADRD; (b) mentored assessment of older persons with AD/ADRD; and (c) research methodology skills to conduct locally relevant epidemiological, clinical and operational research in AD/ADRD in rural Uganda.       Role: PI

Credit No.5797-UG      World Bank African Center of Excellence (ACE II)                                                                                                 2016-2022

Pharm-Bio Technology and Traditional Medicines (PHARMBIOTRAC) has been funded under

The main objective of PHARMBIOTRAC is to build a critical mass of specialized and skilled human resource that can advance traditional medicine and Pharm-Biotechnology for socio-economic development of Africa.

Role: Mentor

SE-0-SE-6-5118006001-UGA-43082 Sida Phase IV bilateral program                                                                                                         2015 -2022

Project 346: Towards better treatment of infectious diseases in children in Uganda

The main goals of the project are to enhance the capacity to conduct high quality research with immediate policy relevance for child health and development in Uganda and potentially other low-income countries and strengthening of linkages between researchers and policy-makers and implementers in the Ugandan Ministry of Health, at district and national level. This will be achieved through Masters level (4 candidates) PhD (4 candidates) and Post-Doctoral (3 candidates) training. Role: PI


D43TW010128-01 Fogarty/NIH                                                                                                                                             08/01/2015 – 31/07/2020

Mbarara University Research Training Initiative (MURTI)

The main objective is research training that will address three scientific areas of great public health significance in sub- Saharan Africa: HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health disorders with related co-morbidity of neurological disorders in three priority health areas. We propose the following training aims: (1) To develop junior faculty research expertise in HIV prevention and treatment, particularly in rural southwestern Uganda; (2) To build the capacity of Ugandan junior faculty to develop novel, evidence-based diagnostic and treatment strategies for cardiovascular diseases in rural populations; (3) To prepare junior faculty for research careers addressing mental health disorders in rural Uganda; and (4) To equip junior faculty with the administrative, research ethics, and research communications capacities necessary to succeed as the next generation of independent investigators in Uganda. Role: PI/PD

Wakida EMaling SObua C. Mbarara University Research Training Initiative: a spin-off of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative in Uganda PMCID: PMC5538542

D43TW010128-04S1        Fogarty/NIH                                                                                                                                  08/01/2018-31/07/2019

PD/PI: Celestino Obua

Mbarara Alzheimer’s and related Dementia Research Initiative (MADRI)

The goal of the MADRI program is training junior faculty at Mbarara University to conduct studies in Alzheimer’s disease and related Dementias (AD/ADRD) to build research capacity to gather data, raise awareness and improve clinical care of people with the disease in rural southwestern Uganda.

Role: PI/PD

  1. Kamoga R, Rukundo GZ, Wakida EK, Nakidde G, Obua C, Buss SS. Dementia assessment and diagnostic practices of healthcare workers in rural southwestern Uganda: a cross-sectional qualitative study. BMC health services research. 2019;19(1):1005.
  2. Ainamani HE, Alele PE, Rukundo GZ, Maling S, Wakida EK, Obua C, et al. Caring for people with dementia in rural Uganda: qualitative study of caregiving burden experienced by informal and formal caregivers. 2019.
  3. Kakongi N, Rukundo GZ, Gelaye B, Wakida EK, Obua C, Okello ES. Exploring pathways to Hospital Care for Patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in rural South Western Uganda. BMC health services research. 2020;20:1-12.
  4. Ainamani HE, Alele PE, Rukundo GZ, Maling S, Wakida EK, Obua C, et al. Caregiving burden and mental health problems among family caregivers of people with dementia in rural Uganda. Global Mental Health. 2020;7.
  5. Owokuhaisa J, Rukundo GZ, Wakida E, Obua C, Buss SS. Community perceptions about dementia in southwestern Uganda. BMC geriatrics. 2020;20:1-12

R24TW008886 (PI:  Sewankambo)                                                                                                                                                   09/27/2010-08/31/2015


Medical Education Partnership Initiative – Medical Education for Services to all Ugandans (MEPI-MESAU)

The goal was to strengthen medical education in Uganda in collaboration with John Hopkins University.

Role: Co-Investigator

FP7-EU     F7-HEALTH-2009-242262                                                                                                                                                2010 – 2014

Accessing Medicines in Africa and South Asia (AMASA)

The main aim of the proposed research was to investigate how the interplay of patent regimes, pharmaceutical regulation, availability of drug production facilities, health care infrastructure and service provision, and engagement by foreign donors influence appropriate, affordable access to medicines in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to map patterns of production, distribution, supply and consumption of medicines within five health care areas – HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Reproductive Health, Tuberculosis (TB) control, and Mental Health. We also investigated the strategies and influence of selected Indian, Chinese and Brazilian producers who are active as exporters, partners in joint ventures, or as direct producers in the selected South Asian and African countries.

Role: Co-Investigator