By Kezia Koburungi

During the 40th Anniversary of the Joint Medical Store (JMS), in Kampala, Uganda, KIU medical student among other universities emerged winner in the Inaugural Innovations Challenge set up by the organization. Erisa Higenyi, a fourth-year student of Pharmacy, with an ‘Automatic tablet releasing machine’ innovation, topped the list as the overall best in the entire competition, bagging a prize of UGX three million as a reward for his astounding creativity.

The ‘Automatic tablet dispenser’ helps visually impaired patients to take their medicine correctly. The machine has a tablet sorting system and an alarm set to remind patients to take their medication.

Joint Medical Store (JMS) joint company is a private-Not-For Profit (PNFP) Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), which was established in 1979 as a joint venture between the Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau (UCMB) and the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau (UPMB). JMS procures, store and distribute medicines and other medical supplies as well as install and maintain medical equipment while also engaging in the export, import and wholesale of medicines and related health supplies.

In June 2019, the organization held its 40th anniversary celebrations; and as part of this commemoration, the company made a call to institutions of higher learning in Uganda, for students of Pharmacy and other related Medical fields, to participate in the Inaugural Innovation Challenge Awards, specifically meant for medical students across the country.

JMS Executive Director Dr. Belidad Baguma says, “Many Universities came up; Makerere University (MAK), Kampala International University (KIU), Ndejje University and many more around the country.” As such, the competition was indeed a tough one, having to choose the best among the rest.

“The aim of the awards was to create new ideas on how Joint Medical Store can strengthen in all its services; how to manage the chain medical stores better, and many university students participated with great ideas,” he added.

Though, Higenyi emerged as the top winner in the Innovations Challenge, the win was meant for three people who were gradually announced later in July 2019. While the overall winner was given an award of three Million Ugandan shillings, at the JMS main office in Nsambya Estate, the second best goes home with UGX two Million, and the third best, took UGX one million respectively, as rewards for their innovations.

The Executive Director of JMS also said, “The winners will be given free internship placements and will be offered jobs immediately after their studies.” And Higenyi, who is already a finalist (4th year) student from KIU-Western Campus in Ishaka-Bushenyi, by this declaration, automatically secures a job with the JMS upon graduation from Medical School as a Pharmacist, owing to his timely innovation.

Dr. Jonans Tusiimire; Dean School of Pharmacy, extolled Higenyi and also celebrates KIU for always winning the competitions. Dr. Tusiimire reveals that it was not KIU’s nor Higenyi’s first time to win; “KIU under the School of Pharmacy first won an award in 2017 by Daniel Muwanguzi (UN Hult Prize Innovations Challenge), which led the university to regional competition.”

The second award received, was the HB Drug Applicator Award, where four students from KIU participated; and the college emerged 1st and 3rd thereby scooping two of the top three awards. The Awards took place at the Pearl of Africa Hotel, and Higenyi was the third winner. “This is the third major innovation competition participated in, and we have won it as well.” Dr. Tusiimire proclaimed.

The Dean while appreciating the university management for their immense support for her students added that he is pleased that KIU is topping the list as an innovative institution, among others. “I am very proud that such things are happening and KIU is reigning,” declared the Dean.

Higenyi who was so elated in his remarks, says: “I thank the management of JMS for the reward and also the KIU Academic staff for supporting me. I am so happy.”

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