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UP Accelerate Spotlight: Kyomuhendo Phyllis — Finding a passion in saving lives using Technology.

Up Accelerate participant Kyomuhendo Phyllis, knows she didn’t have the average childhood, juggling between making a living at her day profession as a Medical Imaging Technologist and a startup that she is very much invested in, mSCAN — an ultrasonic probe and software that will support ultrasound scanning in low resource areas. This technology will address the problem of inadequate ultrasound services for expectant mothers.

Growing up in the heart of Kampala with two (2) sisters and a single mother, Phyllis recalls one of her fondest childhood memories being family parties — as it is with most Ugandan families, she comes from a large tight knit extended family. Luckily for her, the large number added to the love and lots of laughter.

Growing up was quite challenging, at the age of 10, Phyllis’ mother made the decision to pursue her PhD. It was not an easy decision for her mother — but as a single mother of three, she had to sacrifice everything in order to knit a better future for her and her siblings. In the absence of her mother, Phyllis slowly grew into a shrewd decision maker, growing up fast for a child her age.

Her initiation into the technology space was unexpected, In her own words, “I had never at any one point in time thought of being a medical technologies developer.” As a child in nursery school, I had always wanted to be a secretary because they always looked smart. But that changed drastically. By Primary seven(7), Phyllis was sure that she wanted to be in the medical field. She found passion in saving lives — a passion she followed through amidst the challenges growing up. “Well, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention.” — she jokes, a joke that goes to say she needed this.

“Being in the medical field I realized gaps in medical service delivery that could only be solved by technology. I believe this is what triggered me to start developing tech solutions.” she adds.

“During my undergraduate degree at medical school, we were often times posted to rural areas for COBERS (Community Based Education, Research and Service). Personally, I was posted to Amach Health Centre IV in Lira, Northern Uganda. It was quite a sad experience especially for me being a medical Imaging technologist. I kept witnessing several mothers die because of risk factors of maternal mortality that could be scanned, detected early and managed appropriately,” she continues

While Uganda has made great strides in maternal health, according to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) key indicators report of 2016. Maternal mortality has reduced from 438 deaths per 100,000 live births registered in the 2011 UDHS report to the current 336 deaths per 100,000 live births, its maternal health care has failed to reach international standards. Nearly 336 women die for every 100,000 live births. There is a significant shortage of quality, affordable healthcare options for families, particularly in rural areas. The facilities that do exist are ill-equipped, poorly distributed across the country, and lack experienced healthcare professionals (There is 1 nurse trained for every 1000 patients.) and those in service are ill equipped.

Phyllis noticed a challenge she needed to stand up to, she dreamed of finding a way to bring low-cost Ultrasound services to the rural mothers of Uganda. It is this need to create impact that led her to start mSCAN, her first social enterprise as a medical technology developer

“Sexual reproductive health challenges are mostly affecting youth and women in Uganda. I have not only experienced this ,hands on, in my medical practice, but I also happen to be both a woman and a youth. So it is something that I have keen interest in”.

For Phyllis, diving into a male dominated profession, she’d call it a walk in the park. during her undergraduate degree, she was the only girl in her class. So, for 4 years, she was a queen amongst kings. “I believe this was more than enough training for me to flawlessly handle anything male dominated, In my opinion, I am empowered woman, an empowered woman is one who believes she can do whatever she sets her mind to regardless of any gender stereotypes” she says. — That’s what gets her endorphins going.

“Sexual reproductive health challenges are mostly affecting youth and women in Uganda. I have not only experienced this ,hands on, in my medical practice, but I also happen to be both a woman and a youth. So it is something that I have keen interest in”.

But despite her zeal to bring change and offer applicable solutions to real problems, Just like many social businesses in Uganda, most startup face a problem of being accepted into the market, — “It is difficult growing a business here, several people have actually gone the extra mile to assure my team and I that what we are trying to do is impossible in a third world country like Uganda with limited resources. However, we have faced them with optimism and tangible results”.

Besides the challenges in the market, One of the major challenges is finding human resource. It is quite difficult to get access to some key hires needed to execute the project and also suitable mentors. Up Accelerate exposed us to an array of top notch professionals that were not only able to help us execute our project but were also very optimistic and enthusiastic about working with us.

And just like her personal Mantra states, “Grow through what you go through”, this lady has surely grown through what she has gone through.

“I call upon the community to continue offering us further support which includes both financial resources and market access. We seek to grow the production of our product, and most importantly test user acceptability in low-resource settings.

My dream right now is to see mSCAN reach mass production level and above all I hope to see mSCAN make a great impact in our society especially by reducing the maternal mortality rate in Uganda and Africa at large. mSCAN — save a mother, save a life. “The support we have had from Up Accelerate has been massive and a good place to start,”

About Up Accelerate

Up Accelerate is the Ugandan brand of the UNFPA Innovation Accelerator, an initiative of the UNFPA Regional Office for East and Southern Africa that seeks to accelerate youth-led social enterprises focusing on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Find more at http://upaccelerate.co.ug The initiative is implemented by Outbox in Uganda.



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