Dr. Proscovia Mugaba: The first Fully Accredited Female Cardiologist in Uganda

At the end of April 2017, Dr. Proscovia Mugaba completed her training to become a Pediatric Cardiologist from an accredited training program at the University of Alberta in Canada, after 3 years of intensive training.

This comes at a time when there is a drive to encourage girls and women to become more involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics - often abbreviated as STEM.

Shortly upon her return to Uganda, we had a telephone interview with Dr. Mugaba in which she detailed her journey – the ups and downs – with the hope that this will inspire the next breed of girls to follow her path or, a greater one.

Pediatric Cardiology

According to Dr. Mugaba, a Pediatric Cardiologist is a doctor with specialized training to provide care to children with heart disease. To attain this qualification, a doctor should have had training in pediatrics, which means that they are specialized in taking care of children. As a pediatrician, one then gets additional training to enable one to take care of children with heart disease.

The scope of work of a Pediatric Cardiologist includes taking care of patients with known heart disease, those with suspected or those at risk of developing heart disease, and those who have received treatment for heart disease and requiring follow-up care.

Depending on one’s scope of training and the healthcare structure, the scope may include providing care to adults born with heart disease.

The first

To the best of her knowledge, Dr. Proscovia Mugaba is the first female Pedriatic Cardiologist in Uganda. Currently, there are at least 2 other physicians offering pediatric cardiology services at the Uganda Heart Institute (UHI), and a few other pediatricians who are undergoing apprenticeship training at UHI to obtain the experience required to provide pediatric cardiology services in Uganda.

There is currently no accredited training program for this specialty in Uganda. Hence, with respect to completing training in an accredited program, Dr. Mugaba has had a unique opportunity.


Dr. Mugaba explained that in the East African region, It is scarce to find doctors specialized in this field. Kenya is perhaps slightly ahead of Uganda when it comes to the number of Pediatric Cardiologists who obtained their training in an accredited training program.

Tanzania probably has none while Rwanda only has a few people offering services in this specialty. Similarly, Sudan has only two paediatric cardiologists while South Sudan has none.

According to Dr. Mugaba, with the current initiative at the UHI allowing for apprenticeship training, we shall soon have at least 5 pediatric cardiologists in Uganda. She urges that people like her who have completed the accredited training should go ahead and facilitate the training of other individuals interested in this specialty.

[caption id="attachment_1295" align="aligncenter" width="430"] From left to right: Kondwani Kawaza, Hellen Aanyu, Albert Kamugisha, Rachel Mlotha, Martin Situma, Polly Okello, Stanley Machoki, Proscovia Mugaba[/caption]


Dr. Mugaba finished her undergraduate medical training in 2003, from Makerere University; followed by a year of internship required to practice as a medical doctor in Uganda. Her first job following qualification in 2004, was as a medical officer at a rural missionary hospital called Kiwoko Hospital, Nakaseke district in Uganda.

After about a year, she left Kiwoko hospital to enrol for a Masters in Medicine Degree, specializing in pediatrics, at Makerere University from 2005 to 2008. It was during her pediatrics training that she developed a keen interest in pediatric cardiology.

Upon completing her pediatrics training in July of 2008, she was offered a job as a Research Coordinator  for a Research Project of Makerere University, involving children. This project was based in Mbale, in Eastern Uganda. She worked in this position for two years.

During this time, she remained optimistic to get an opportunity to pursue her goal of becoming a Pediatric Cardiologist.

In 2010, she was offered a scholarship to do a clinical fellowship in pediatric cardiology at the University of Cape Town, at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital - one of the largest and best children’s hospital in Africa.

During this training, she worked alongside the team taking care of children with various heart diseases in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. Initially, her funding was for one year but this was later extended for another 6 months to help her consolidate her experience.

This 18 months’ training made her one of those with the longest training exposure in an accredited training program in her field in Uganda, where typically, others would have had a year or less of such exposure.

Upon completing this fellowship, her supervisor in Cape Town emphasized that her training was intended to equip her to work as a pediatrician taking care of children with heart diseases, but it was not to endorse her as a cardiologist.

Although she could have provided pediatric cardiology services in Uganda, she was not satisfied with settling at this level as her goal was to become an accredited Pediatric Cardiologist.

Despite not getting the opportunity to do the full training in Cape Town, she emphasizes how grateful she is for this opportunity and the doors of that were opened following this.

Getting accredited…

After her training in Cape Town, she remained hopeful to get an opportunity for the complete training to become a Pediatric Cardiologist.

Incidentally, it was during her training in South Africa that she met a Pediatric Cardiologist from Canada, called Dr. Ian Adatia, who asked about her career ambitions. Dr. Adatia was, at the time, the head of the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Canada where Dr. Mugaba has just completed her training.

When she first met Dr. Adatia, she discussed with him about her desire of becoming a pediatric cardiologist and the limitations she faced such as the lack of an accredited training program in Uganda, and the limited opportunities in Africa, in general.

It was Dr. Adatia who advised her to consider applying to the university of Alberta in Canada and also introduced her to the program director at the University of Alberta where she was subsequently invited to submit her application and after a series of interviews, she was  offered a fully-funded scholarship to enrol into the pedaitric pardiology program at University of Alberta.

Getting this training opportunity made her the first non-North American to be accepted into this program at this University. In addition, receiving a fully funded scholarship from the University was exceptional in itself, perhaps one of the first ever offered to a non-Canadian for this training at this University.

Aware of this unique opportunity, she embarked on her training, determined to do everything on her part to keep this door open for others who would come after her.


One of the major challenges Dr. Mugaba faced during her training in Canada was related to her being a doctor from a developing country - it was not uncommon to find individuals who expressed doubt in her capabilities to effectively work in a developed setting.

Despite this, however, at the end of her training, her seniors and colleagues bade her farewell with confidence in her capability in this specialty.


In her first year of training in Canada, Dr. Mugaba was awarded the Neal Gupta Award in Pediatric Cardiology which, not only was financially beneficial but, was also a huge boost to her confidence coming from a developing country to work for the first time in a highly competitive field of medicine in a developed country.

This annual award, worth 5000 Canadian Dollars, is an Educational Award given to a trainee in the Pediatric Cardiology Program at the University of Alberta for outstanding communication skills including bedside manners, respect for patients and the ability to explain.

One of her biggest highlights is having her two babies during the time of training in Canada although it was challenging to balance having a family and completing her training, and her training period had to be extended by a few extra months of maternity leave.

Dr. Mugaba is grateful to her family, especially her husband; as well as friends, mentors and supervisors who have supported her to ensure she attains this achievement.

When asked about her future plans, she remains open to all opportunities as long as they are aimed at supportive to the growth of those in her field of expertise.

She concludes by encouraging young girls to remain confident and take up more roles and training in STEM. She also promises to contribute to capacity building in her area of expertise, as opportunity will arise.

Digest Africa



Digest Africa Technologies Ltd
Ntinda Complex,
Block B, Level 3 Ntinda,
Kampala, Uganda

© Digest Africa Technologies Ltd 2023.
All Rights Reserved.