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Flying Uganda’s flag in Austria

Prof Dr Steven Kaddu is a Ugandan born, Austria-based dermatologist, researcher and founder of a global telehealth network.

Prof Kaddu was last month in Kampala, where he was recognized by the Ugandan Diaspora Network for his contribution to promoting Uganda. RONNIE MAYANJA  profiles this Old Boy of St Mary's College, Kisubi.

It’s late October afternoon as Prof Steven Kaddu, the 58-year-old Ugandan born dermatologist walks in his fully-packed skin clinic in Graz, Austria’s second largest city, for the routine afternoon clinic.

The pressures of working fulltime as professor of dermatology at the department of Dermatology, Medical University hospital in Graz and running his private dermatology practice often leaves him emotionally wrung out and tired, but according to him, exhaustion is not on his agenda.

Born in Uganda and having graduated in Medicine at Makerere University, Kampala in 1982, Prof Steven Kaddu has been living and working in Austria since 1989. His life journey and experience may partly mirror those of a number of his doctor colleagues who left Uganda in the 1980s to work abroad elsewhere; however, his challenges have been unique and his accomplishments rather extraordinary.

 

Prof Steven Kaddu (R) with his colleagues

NUMEROUS HURDLES

Following graduation in 1982, he worked as an intern and medical officer in Nairobi, Kenya, before leaving for Austria in 1989 to specialize in dermatology.

While in Austria, Kaddu faced numerous hurdles in his path towards becoming what he is now, including struggles with language, culture, and medicine. Notably, he was required to repeat his basic medical degree   entirely since his prior medical training from Uganda was not recognized by the Austrian authorities.

Prerequisites for admission to medical school in Austria included a written proof of German fluency and passing a test in advanced Latin, languages he had never spoken before. According to him, despite these challenges, “belief in himself, efforts and capabilities and trust in God” were essential for his success.

Kaddu is today affiliated to the department of Dermatology, Medical University Hospital of Graz, in southern Austria. His previous academic achievements include participation in a number of research projects, authorship/co-authorship of over 50 scientific publications in peer-reviewed journals as well as book chapters and books, including several contributions to a number of standard textbooks in dermatology.

In 2010, Kaddu was awarded the honorary title of University Professor by the president of Austria and is the first black African to be awarded this distinguished academic title at this university and in this southern part of Austria. 

Kaddu is also a former recipient of the prestigious Fulbright grant which enabled him to attend a fellowship and carry out research in diagnosis of skin tumors at the Harvard Medical School (Brigham and Women’s hospital), Boston USA in 2000.

In 2007, Kaddu together with partners from the University of Pennsylvania, USA, especially Dr Carrie Kovarik, founded the Africa Teledermatology Project and Website Network http://africa.telederm.org/.

The network is aimed at creating a broad dermatologic teleconsultation platform linking medical centers in sub-Saharan Africa involved in treatment of skin diseases, especially Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) – related cutaneous disorders, to specialized dermatology units in Africa, Europe, and USA.

Participating African medical centers have so far been located in Uganda, Botswana, Eritrea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, and Tanzania. Primary collaborating institutions include departments of Dermatology, Medical University of Graz, Austria, and University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Since 2007, over 1,300 cases have been processed using the project website. A mobile application has been developed for this site and is used actively in some sites in Africa.

There is also support in processing skin biopsies for cases submitted through the site that urgently need a tissue diagnosis. This site has been supported in part by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Commission for Development Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences.

CHILDHOOD

According to Kaddu, the launching of the Africa Teledermatology Project Network was a fulfillment of a long dream to contribute more broadly to management of skin diseases in Africa.

From an early age, Prof Kaddu wanted to be a doctor so that he could help to treat people and make them better. As a young child, he and his brothers and sisters were raised especially by their father, who instilled in them a strong work ethic, importance of a good education, and the virtue of faith in God.

He also credits the high standards of his alma mater, St Mary’s College, Kisubi, for his drive to succeed and excel.

“I think the most profound influence that St Mary’s had on me relates to hard work and perseverance, and that each individual is special because of what he is. At St Mary’s, each one of us was taken seriously and talents were nurtured individually. We also learned how to appreciate each other by noting the good in everyone. I think this strengthened my desire to become a doctor and treat people.”

In Graz, Prof Dr Kaddu participates in several initiatives aimed especially at improving skin health care in African immigrants and people with skin of color. In 2006, he started a special clinic at the department of Dermatology, Medical University of Graz aimed to caring for dark-skin individuals, especially African immigrants with skin problems and tropical skin conditions.

Prof Steven Kaddu

He proposed the idea of establishing this special clinic after noticing that many of these patients living in Graz needed skin specialists who were knowledgeable about their particular health issues. He especially found that African dermatological patients wanted to see a doctor who is knowledgeable about not only their particular medical needs, but their various customs and habits.

As a role model, Prof Kaddu has also recently been the focus of a documentary film project (“Who Dares, Wins”) aimed at promoting integration of African immigrants in Austria.

In his leisure time, Prof Kaddu paints and has so far held eight solo exhibitions in Austria and Slovenia. The money raised from selling the paintings has mainly been donated to Sanyu Babies Home – an orphanage near Kampala.

Prof Dr Kaddu is married and a father of two boys. According to him, “success often carries expenses especially in family life. I am very thankful for my family and especially grateful to my wife Olga for her constant support and encouragement in my activities”.

- www.ugandandiaspora.com

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd