Dr. Kwizera, an anesthetist facing COVID-19 head-on in Uganda

KAMPALA – Frequent trips to intensive care units (ICU), sleepless nights, and resuscitating patients back to life is a frequent routine in Dr. Arthur Kwizera’s work life. He is a senior anesthesiologist in Mulago Hospital’s ICU and Ph.D. fellow under THRiVE (Training Health Researchers into Vocational Excellence). With COVID-19 forcefully grabbing the globe and changing life patterns, his work portfolio has expanded. He is now using his expertise to nip the pandemic in the bud.

At the start of 2020, just as the pandemic was gaining domestic fame, Dr. Kwizera was in the UK with a team of medical experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop COVID-19 clinical guidelines. He was the only African on the team. His work involved conducting a rapid review of 120 research papers to contribute to using grade methodology.

Upon return to Uganda, Dr. Kwizera was recommended by the WHO to offer support on assessing critical care preparedness of Entebbe Grade B Hospital.

“WHO requested me to participate in case management and we have officially released the National Treatment Guidelines for Uganda,” he says.

Later, he was co-opted onto the ministerial scientific advisory committee for COVID-19 chaired by Dr. Misaki Wayengera. This committee includes Uganda’s Minister of Health, Director-clinical services, CDC Country Director, WHO representative, among others. Within this committee, Dr. Kwizera chairs the ad hoc committee on research and is mandated to review and synthesize global research to inform our decisions as a country.

Additionally, he was tasked to compile the solidarity trial, a batch of 12 clinical studies on COVID 19, and submit the compilation to the Ministry of Science and Technology for funding. Some of the studies in this trial are being undertaken by THRiVE fellows. Owing to his expertise as an intensivist, Dr. Kwizera was seconded to the Ministry of Health’s Infrastructure Committee which is tasked with setting up ICUs in the regional referral hospitals.

“Here, I advised on equipment specifications and doing floor plans for the hospitals’ ICUs. Later, the ministry co-opted me onto its drug discovery committee and here we are looking at potential drug discoveries for COVID-19 using herbs,” he said in an interview.

Still, the senior anesthesiologist is leading the National Intensive Care Committee tasked with developing the National Intensive Care Strategic Plan. This plan is a blueprint for developing a tool kit that will guide the expansion of Uganda’s intensive care capacity to at least 4000 acute care beds.

Science and innovation are bedfellows and the latter is inevitable when handling pandemics. The COVID19 pandemic hasn’t been spared of new treatment techniques. Dr. Kwizera, together with a team from Cambridge University are developing a ventilator to be used in hard to reach areas worldwide.

“The innovativeness of the ventilator that it will be able to produce its own Oxygen. The prototype has been developed and we are currently doing test lung studies in the UK. We have also applied to the Cambridge- Africa Labrador Trust for a grant to test the ventilator in a feasibility study in Uganda,” said Dr. Kwizera, Uganda’s principal investigator for this project.

Up his sleeve on COVID19 work is the writing of manuscripts and doing rapid reviews of papers published in scientific journals. For example, he has been invited by the British Medical Journal (BMJ) to review papers on Remdesivir, one of the drugs being investigated as a potential cure for the ailment. Moreover, Dr. Kwizera is co-authoring a manuscript on COVID-19 response and preparedness in low middle-income countries.

Dr. Kwizera’s professional profile:

Dr. Arthur Kwizera is a Lecturer in anesthesia and Intensive care at Makerere University College of Health Sciences and a staff intensivist at the Mulago National Referral Hospital Intensive care unit.

He has a bachelor of medicine and surgery (MBChB) and a Master of Medicine in Anaesthesia and critical care from Makerere University. He obtained further critical care training from the University of British Columbia in Canada. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. fellowship under THRiVE focusing on Acute Lung disease with a particular emphasis on Acute Respiratory Failure (ARF) and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). He has conducted some work on the genomics of ARF but now wants to further determine the microbiology of ARF/ARDS as well as explore novel low-cost strategies to manage acute respiratory failure in the Ugandan (and African) acute care setting.

He is a re-known vastly skilled anesthesiologist and intensive care expert with a passion for improving medical care through research and clinical excellence.