By, Britt Baker, PMI Volunteer, Non-Profit Executive and Writer
An interview with Bina Sunday Alex
Alex was one of our clinical officers at MKMC and was among our original nine staff when we opened the doors to MKMC. He is currently attending medical school at Kampala International University on a scholarship offered by PMI.
I recently spent a week traveling around Uganda with Alex and others as we worked to set up PMI outreach clinics. My favorite thing about Alex is his deep set passion for serving others. He also genuinely cares for them – so much so that it’s catching and makes you want to go forward differently having spent time with him.
Just by meeting Alex, one can tell that he has always been, and continues to be, a lifelong student of learning. What more could you really ask for in a doctor, right? His passion for helping others is genuine, inspiring, and only telling of his huge heart. I hope you will read his words below and feel moved in some way.
How did you first learn about PMI?
I heard about PMI from a friend and applied through Aliguma Joseph, who was the head administrator of the clinic at the time. I dropped my papers off at the clinic and saw that it was under construction. After a week, I came back for interviews, spent the night in town, dressed up the next day and came back for round two. It was a very competitive interview process but I was confident in my skills. There were five to six people trying for the position – more experienced than me. I kind of just gave up. But I wanted to be considered, so I tried my luck. They asked me questions, I answered, and pretty well.
In the meantime, I applied for another job at the Edpa Medical Center in Homa, Uganda. As I was going back, they called me and they offered me the job. PMI offered me the job too. I had to choose.
Edpa was giving me a house and it was already an established clinic. PMI was not yet established and at the time still under construction. I can’t give you a reason why I chose PMI, I just knew it was the right decision. I wanted to take the Edpa job, but something told me that one was not correct, that one was not good, you are going to work for said person, but it exists for making a profit. That was my reasoning for coming to this clinic [PMI], where you are going to help people.
What is your source of motivation?
For me, if I’m doing something I love, I can go for hours. I don’t get tired.
What made you want to be a doctor?
Always since my childhood, it was my dream to become a doctor.
Can you talk a little bit about where that desire came from?
When I was a child, I broke my hand. My mom was working at the market at the time it happened, and I was transported to her place of work. When she saw me she was devastated. I was then transported to a government hospital. We reached the hospital that evening, you can imagine the pain I was in after breaking my hand at lunch time. It was bad. No one was there, because it was late in the night and everyone was tired and had gone home. My mother begged for someone to see me, but they had no kindness in them. We had to wait for a doctor to come from Kampala. It took nearly three weeks for them to work on my arm – all while I was in pain. There was no medication.
The months I spent in the hospital, I learned a lot of things, because I wasn’t sick, I could move with my legs around and see how the patients were doing. That’s when I developed a lot of compassion for the patients and hospital work.
One evening I touched my mom’s shoulders and told her that I would become a doctor and I would never make my patients suffer. She said, “What, how will you get [the] money?” I said, I will do that, maybe God will provide us. At that time it was a dream far-fetched. It’s like when you are poor and you say, I want to buy an airplane. You can’t. They say you are dreaming.
How long have you been involved with PMI?
Since before the clinic ever opened. I was part of the original group from the beginning.
What did that look like?
A lot of meetings. I sat in meetings and helped suggest fees for services, procedures, and helped in getting the clinic up and going.
In the beginning, PMI gave us a trip and we traveled all over Uganda for a week, bonding with each other and visiting other clinics and observing their systems. We picked out from that trip what we needed for our clinic and made contacts with nurses and communicated with the doctors.
For us, it was bonding. We became a family on that trip.
We came back. We did not start working immediately. It took us almost another two weeks to get the clinic ready to be opened from that point on. We spent the month of December in meetings and preparing and testing the flow of our clinic to see if it would work. Then we opened the clinic up in January.
“You know how the beginning is always hard, right?” Alex asks me. But we started to pick up our flow and it continues to improve every day. The system is complex, if you are not on the inside. But the entire system [PMI] is original. It’s not copied in any way. It’s just a model that we started on our own, by our brains, not by anyone else. Through the leadership we’ve had – Michael, Newman, now Aaron – everyone brings with them a passion to continue the innovative model PMI has created – for the clinic, and for the doctors and our patients.
You mentioned having another job opportunity, why did you decide on the PMI job instead?
PMI has a different model. It doesn’t take the profits for itself, that’s why. Then there are ranges of supplies and ranges of everything you need, for you to work on the patient. It’s somewhere you can go and work and they’re prepared, consistent, and sustainable. PMI has creative development and relationships – we take it as a family. When you see something growing you take it as your child. PMI is our child. I feel more attached to the clinic than the money they are paying me. When it starts going down, you feel it that you are failing your child and work hard to fix it.
Would you work for free?
Right now I volunteer at the clinic when I am not at school. PMI is sponsoring my medical education so that I can return to the clinic and work here long term. Actually, I do miss it so much. I miss the guys and the patients too. So coming back between school periods is so great. I was grateful to come and work – seeing the patients and how they were so happy. I felt like something was coming out of me, growing, like a light that’s coming out of me that I was missing while I am at school. I can’t wait to come back after school, so that I can come back and serve my own people.
How do you see the communities in Uganda respond to what PMI is doing? What is the impact?
When you try and look at how many people have been impacted by PMI – there are a lot. There are some patients who I know myself, that if this clinic was not around, they would not be alive today. They would be dead. Those patients like Edward…he wouldn’t be alive today. Then there is Ismal. Those are just some patients I know, but there are others like them. Now Edward is walking with his own two legs.
MKMC stands as one of the best clinics in Uganda. It’s a symbol of excellence in this country. Many have come to us copy our model.
How was being part of the PMI family impacted your life?
First, I wasn’t much exposed to a lot of [medical] procedures. Just working with PMI I can do a lot of them now. PMI’s outreach team has exposed me to a lot of different things, especially cross cultural thinking. I’ve also developed as a person, mentally, physically and economically. PMI has sponsored me and rejuvenated my knowledge. I’m a moving clinic – I can do a lot of different things, because PMI has supported me.
Has your perspective of PMI changed since you started working with the organization?
Sure. Before, I knew it was a church clinic, but before we didn’t know what the vision was. Then the vision set in and became real after we started working with Michael and others.
Photography by Britt Baker for PMI