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Dr. Poplack, Ryoichi Sasakawa Receive Mak’s Prestigious Honorary Doctorates

  • In General
  • 9 Aug 2018 - 6:01pm
  • By Mark Wamai
  • 3,119
Dr. David Poplack, Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine receives his award from the Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma (Right) at a special graduation ceremony held on 9th August 2018 in the Main Hall. Looking on is the Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe (Standing 2nd L) and Principal College of Health Sciences - Prof. Charles Ibingira (Standing L)

Euphoria swept over the special congregation in the Main Hall on the morning of 9th August 2018 as Dr. David Poplack and the Late Ryoichi Sasakawa received Makerere University’s prestigious Honorary Doctorate of Science (Honoris Causa) and Honorary Doctorare of Laws (Honoris Causa) respectively.

Successfully nominated as the first candidate for the Award by the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Dr. Poplack was recognised for his distinguished and ground-breaking contributions to the treatment of children with cancer and blood diseases in the United States of America and sub-Saharan Africa. Ryoichi Sasakawa was equally successfully nominated by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) for his significant impact on agricultural development through extension education and distance learning and commitment to fighting leprosy and poverty.

Guest of Honour-Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo (L) and the Japanese Ambassador-H.E. Kazuaki Kameda (R) make their way to the Main Hall for the Honorary Award Ceremony

The Guest of Honour, State Minister for Higher Education-Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, who represented the Minister of Education and Sports-Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni expressed his appreciation of the selfless service that Dr. Poplack and Ryoichi Sasakawa had rendered to humanity.

“To Dr. David Poplack and the family of the Late Ryoichi Sasakawa, I say, yours is a celebration well-earned and well-deserved, and the Government and the people of Uganda count it a great honour and privilege to identify with and celebrate this milestone with you.

Members of Management the DVCAA-Dr. Ernest Okello Ogwang (C), DVCFA-Prof. William Bazeyo (R) and University Secretary-Mr. Charles Barugahare at the Honorary Award Ceremony

“As Government we are committed to creating an environment conducive to enabling the private sector and higher education institutions to achieve their objectives and provide the high quality services that our people deserve. Our Universities have strong foundations and enjoy the goodwill of many development partners. We are therefore confident that with this continued support and dedicated service of our staff, the Government has the right partners in the quest to achieve a Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country as espoused by our Vision 2040.” he remarked.

Earlier, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in his welcome remarks said that Makerere University was not only recognising Dr. David Poplack’s innumerable contributions to the field of Hematic Oncology but also his character “as an infinitely humane, kind, generous, and principled person with a deep sense of social justice in a global context.

Part of the delegation from the Texas Children's Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine who attended the Honorary Award Ceremony

“We are delighted that Dr. Poplack accepted the award and is personally here, together with his wife Mrs. June Poplack, and daughter Ms. Jocelyn Poplack, and the representatives from Texas Children’s Hospital Baylor College of Medicine. I congratulate him upon the much deserved award” added Prof. Nawangwe.

The Vice Chancellor further paid tribute to Ryoichi Sasakawa, who through his foundation supported innovative degree programmes at Makerere University, resulting in improved household incomes and food security for several smallholder farmers.

Part of the delegation from the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) that attended the Honorary Award Ceremony

“It is also pleasing to note that some of the graduates who benefited from the Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) support are members of staff holding various positions of leadership in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and other respected organizations in Uganda and the region” supplemented the Vice Chancellor.

Following Ryoichi Sasakawa’s death in 1995, his son, Yohei Sasakawa took over his father’s philanthropic work in earnest, fighting for people affected by several emergencies. He was therefore unable to personally attend the honorary award ceremony. Receiving the award on behalf of the family, the Chairperson Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA) and Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE) Prof. Ruth Oniang’o profusely thanked Makerere University for honouring Ryoichi Sasakawa.

Prof. Ruth Oniang’o (Left) displays the Late Ryoichi Sasakawa's Honorary Doctorate of Law Award, shortly after receiving it from the Chancellor-Prof. Ezra Suruma (Right)

“I have worked with the Sasakawa family for a long time and what I have learnt is that the Japanese greatly value humility and selflessness. This is a very great day for the Sasakawa family and we shall take these photos and awards to them and I am sure that they will say Origato (thank you)” she concluded.

The Japanese Ambassador to Uganda, H.E. Kazuaki Kameda expressed his joy at having an exemplary senior citizen of Japan recognised by Makerere University. “I am very happy that the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences proposed that Ryoichi Sasakawa be awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Laws and I thank the Senate for approving this award.

Orators of the day, Principal CAES-Prof. Bernard Bashaasha (L) and CHS' Prof. Sarah Kiguli (C) with the Principal CHS-Prof. Charles Ibingira (R)

“Ryoichi Sasakawa’s philosophy The world is one family; people are all brothers and sisters was repeatedly aired on Japanese television stations and I must say that all his charitable activities embodied this vision” added H.E. Kameda.

The Award Ceremony also paid tribute to Dr. Poplack in a special way, when the congregation witnessed the presentation of certificates to the first cohort of graduates from the East Africa Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship Program. Dr. Barnabas Atwiine, Dr. Fadhil Geriga, Dr. Philip Kasirye and Dr. Ruth Namazzi received their certificates from the Chair of the Fellowship Program’s Advisory Council-Prof. Charles Olweny, Principal CHS-Prof. Charles Ibingira and the Fellowship Program’s Director-Dr. Joseph Lubega. These are the certified pediatric cancer and blood diseases specialists to be trained in Uganda.

The first cohort of graduates from the East Africa Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship Program L-R:  Dr. Fadhil Geriga, Dr. Barnabas Atwiine, Dr. Philip Kasirye and Dr. Ruth Namazzi

True to his humane and genial character, Dr. Poplack started off his acceptance speech by congratulating the family of the Late Ryoichi Sasakawa as represented by Prof. Oniang’o upon the conferment of the Honorary Doctor of Laws. “I am extremely thankful to Makerere University for this outstanding honour today. I am very proud to be identified with Makerere University” he added.

Dr. Poplack equally paid tribute to his wife, children and the staff at the Texas Children’s Hospital for all the support rendered to him throughout his professional journey. He further paid tribute to Uganda as a Nation, which contributed to his foundational training as a Pediatric Oncologist, through to his mentor Dr. John Ziegler, the first Director of the Uganda Can¬cer Institute.

Dr. David Poplack (C) with Dr. Joseph Lubega (L), Staff of SAA, Fellowship Graduands and Mak Staff after the Award Ceremony, 9th August 2018, Kampala Uganda
He further noted that the strides made in research on burkitt lymphoma among children in Uganda greatly improved the rate of children being cured of cancer in developed countries from less than 20% in 1975 to more than 80% presently. “We remain focused on building a specialised training centre of excellence for the treatment of cancer among children in Uganda and no one is better placed to lead these efforts in Africa than the Ugandan stakeholders.”

He paid tribute to the leadership at the Ministry of Health, Uganda Cancer Institute, College of Health Sciences, and Mulago National Referral Hospital for all the support that had resulted in his recognition “We are indeed, as your motto suggests, building for the future and, together, we will most certainly succeed” concluded Dr. Poplack.

Chairperson Council-Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem (2nd L) flanked by Academic Registrar-Mr. Alfred Namoah Masikye (2nd R) and Emcee-Dr. Allan Birabi (R) hands over a plaque and souvenirs to Dr. David Poplack (L)

On behalf of Makerere University, the Chairperson of Council, Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem presented plaques and an assortment of souvenirs to Dr. David Poplack and Prof. Ruth Oniang’o on behalf of the Late Ryoichi Sasakawa. Reflecting on a personal point of loss, an emotional Chairperson said, “In 2008, I lost a nephew to leukemia and at that point, I came face-to-face with the challenges of this disease. I therefore thank you for the great work you are doing in this field and may God bless you.”

In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Hon. Vincent Ssempijja could not help but share his great admiration and respect for the honorary doctoral recipients of the day. “I am greatly encouraged to see that Ryoichi Sasakawa whom I knew until his death in 1995 is being recognised by Makerere University today. As a District Leader in Masaka for fifteen years, I worked with Sasakawa staff and I have seen them teach poor farmers the importance of planting quality seeds and multiplying them. As a result, I have seen them change the lives of farmers in the remotest parts of Masaka and Busoga” remarked Hon. Ssempijja.

Hon. Vincent Ssempijja (L) congratulates Dr. David Poplack (R) upon his Honorary Doctorate of Science Award

The Minister also paid tribute to Dr. David Poplack, whose extent of dedication to the betterment of humanity had become clearer as his citation was read by Prof. Sarah Kiguli. “Congratulations and thank you from the bottom of my heart for this invaluable contribution. I wish a good life to you and your family” concluded Hon. Ssempijja.  

In his address to the special congregation, the Chancellor Prof. Ezra Suruma observed that both Dr. David Poplack’s and Ryoichi Sasakawa’s stories testified of the need to go beyond success in our personal spheres and reach out to the community in ways that significantly impact lives.

Guest of Honour-Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo (C) poses for a group photo with Chancellor-Prof. Ezra Suruma (3rd R), H.E. Kazuaki Kameda (2nd R) Vice Chancellor-Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Rear 2nd R) and other dignitaries after the Honorary Doctorate Award Ceremony

“It is only when we choose to go beyond our comfort zones and the glory of our personal accolades that we truly start to become significant. Both Dr. David Poplack and Ryoichi Sasakawa recognised that it was not simply enough to be a successful Pediatric Oncologist or well-known politician and boat racer. They both strived and succeeded in making the most of the knowledge, influence and networks that they had garnered over the years to alleviate the suffering and helplessness that they continually witnessed” remarked the Chancellor.

The Chancellor reiterated that the awards to Dr. David Poplack and Ryoichi Sasakawa were well-deserved and a great addition to the rich heritage of immediate past recipients; the Late Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the President of the Republic of Turkey, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. On 19th January 2018, Ms. Gandhi Baai received the Honorary Doctorate of Laws (Honoris Causa) on behalf of her Aunt Mama Winnie Madikizela Mandela, while on 1st June 2016, Prof. Ezra Suruma conferred the Honorary Doctorate of Laws (Honoris Causa) upon H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Article by Public Relations Office

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