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GIVING YOUR BEST: the example of Mr. George Kamya - By Dr. Jane Nannono.

GIVING YOUR BEST: the example of Mr. George Kamya - By Dr. Jane Nannono.

Last Sunday, I was among the group of doctors who were given the privilege to join Mr. George Kamya, an Emeritus Professor of Surgery of Makerere University College of Health Sciences, celebrate his 94th birthday at his home in Kololo, Kampala.


I had not seen him for more than twenty years but I was amazed at how robust he was. He was full of life, very alert and relaxed. All you needed was to introduce yourself to him and then he would say a word or two indicating that he had recognized and remembered you. Apart from losing the use of his legs, I would say that he has changed very little in the time I have been away. He felt comfortable with his wife of many years sitting beside him. It was a real celebration of his long, rich life. 


A worship service followed by a few speeches and the traditional African lunch of plantains, millet, rice, chapati, sweet potatoes, sweet plantains, yams served with beef and chicken stews, groundnut sauce, a variety of local vegetables and a variety of fresh fruits like pineapples, water melon and mangoes. 


The ambient atmosphere got me thinking about my teachers, mentors and sponsors. My favourite author, Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), the Lebanese- American artist, poet and philosophersaid: “You give but little when you give of your possession. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”


This nonagenarian has lived a professional and exemplary ethical life:  many years ago, he had mastered the art of balancing family responsibility and serving his country as a surgeon. He gave a part of himself to all of us who passed through his hands as undergraduates and postgraduates. He was a pillar of strength, support and discipline. 


Mr. Kamya intentionally picked those with great potential and encouraged them and showed them how to become noble surgeons. He invested in them and they responded because they wanted to be like him and to make a difference in their communities. Among the crop was my late husband, the first Ugandan woman surgeon, Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe. She later went on to become Uganda’s first woman Vice President (1994-2003.)


 For over fifty years, Mr. Kamya left fingerprints on those he worked with and indelible footprints where he passed for others to follow and create their own stories.

The Association of Surgeons of Uganda is a vibrant one where women are visible as general surgeons, neurosurgeons, urologists, plastic surgeons and pediatric surgeons. Its members are also active members of COSECSA- the College of Surgeons of East and Central and Southern Africa.


 Jim Rohn (1930-2009) an American entrepreneur and author said: “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.” And Shannon L. Alder , an inspirational author said: “ Carve your names on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”


Most of us remember how Mr. Kamya created his own brand and success, and managed and protected it on what came to be known as his ward up to today: Ward 2A, the Blue firm, of Mulago Hospital, the teaching hospital of Makerere University.


He always acted with honour and truthfulness and his patients always came first. He paid strict attention to detail and time. He was positive, had strong self-esteem, was patient with himself and others, and kept learning. He stood up for his values and spoke against unethical behavior. He lived his values in relationships with his co-workers and patients. He created his life out of the truth of his soul and what he was taught by his parents, teachers and life itself.


He helped to create a culture of teamwork, inclusiveness and reward and recognition for great performance. Each member felt a sense of belonging to something bigger than herself/himself, worked with integrity and was empowered to explore. Things ran like clock–work whether the seniors were present or not. Responsibility and accountability were their badges of honour.


Mr. Kamya retired officially in 2000 but those he mentored have been able to lead and carry on his work with enthusiasm. Over the years, as I interacted with him, I came to respect and admire him for his wealth of knowledge, skills, experience and his passion to share it with the young generation. I respected him even more because of his humility and easy demeanor. No task was either too big or too small for him to perform. He performed them all with a smile.


The psychologists always help us to understand why human beings think, feel and behave as they do. As soon as this seasoned surgeon came to know who he truly was, he became secure in it to become a professional of the world while at the same time opening himself up to learn from others. He knew who he was and appreciated that he was a human being who had strengths and flaws. He learned to tolerate others, lifted the weak up while pushing the strong ones higher up the ladder of success. He left the ladder leaning against a solid wall for others to climb up as he did. 


I pray he lives long to take the credit for all those whom he has created through mentoring, sponsoring along with his own family. His legacy lives on through them.

 All in all, I was glad I had been part of the celebration of a man who did the best he could with what he had and became all that he could be. Amazingly, he never stopped at creating himself. He helped others create themselves too. As they say, what you gladly give away comes back to you multiplied many times over.


Writing this post has challenged me whether I know for sure that each day I live, I am writing my own legacy and on how I have been able to empower others to succeed. I end with a question: After creating your own life, how have you facilitated the younger generation to create their own lives too?


(Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)

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