A year-old partnership between Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the health care system in Mbarara, one of Uganda’s largest cities, is redefining what it means to support underserved communities “on the ground.”

The program, The First Mile, is built around the idea of taking care of Uganda’s people—most of whom are rural subsistence farmers without routine health care access—within the first mile between their village homes and the 400-bed Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital (MRRH). Initially focused on the HIV/AIDS crisis, the partnership—which also involves the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST)—has expanded to address quality improvement initiatives, biomedical research, and solutions to local health care challenges. “The idea of the program is to continue in partnership with Ugandan leaders to build up the capacity of the university and hospital to take care of people in that first mile between people’s homes in the villages and the regional hospital,” says Louise Ivers, MD, MPH, DTM&H, Executive Director of Mass General Global Health.

Through the Mass General Global Nursing Fellowship, MGH nurses with expertise in areas of local clinical need, such as cancer care or wound care, go to Uganda for three months at a time to train and mentor nurses. Supported through funding from the Wyss Medical Foundation, the partnership is equipping the next generation of health workers to meet the needs of the community, notes Stephen Asiimwe, MD, MPH, DrPH, Mass General’s program director in Uganda. “This program will have a lasting impact on health practice in Uganda for years to come,” he says.

Read more on the First Mile program in Uganda here.

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