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Dr Jack Jagwe of Hospice Africa Uganda receives Presidential Award for his contribution to palliative care

Author: Dr Anne Merriman
23 January 2015
  • Dr Jagwe receives his award from Ugandan President Museveni
  • Dr Jagwe with the group of Gold Award recipients

On 9 October 2014, Dr Jack Jagwe received a Presidential Award from President Museveni of Uganda, for his contribution to palliative care in the country.

Famous in Uganda and throughout Africa for his work on the regulations of oral morphine and dispelling the many myths which many of us were taught in medical schools, leaving patients suffering in agony in efforts to control drug abuse, Dr Jagwe remains the humble and caring physician he has been all his life.

His contribution to palliative care commenced in 1993, when he supported the then Minister of Health, Dr James Makumbi, allowing powdered morphine to be brought into Uganda to make up affordable oral morphine. This opened the gates to holistic caring of patients suffering from cancer.

A year later this was extended to those suffering from AIDS and today is extended even further –through those we train – to many life threatening diseases, including NCDs.

In 1998, Dr Jagwe joined Hospice Africa Uganda as the Senior Advisor in National Policy to the Ministry of Health for Palliative Care.

He had had an illustrious career before then, including being an eminent physician with training in UK, a fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and Edinburgh.

He was also the Medical Director of Mulago Hospital, the national referral and teaching hospital, in a period (1979 to 1986) spanning many years during the wars in Uganda.  

Later he held the post of Deputy Director of Medical Services in charge of Clinical and Pharmaceutical Services in the Ministry of Health.

He chaired the national committee which developed the National Drug Policy for Uganda from 1993 to 1994 and subsequently joined the Board of the National Drug Authority in 1994 as the founder chairman, serving from 1994 to 2000.  

He helped to establish the Headquarters of this Authority and his team was responsible for the regulation of importation and distribution of quality medicines in Uganda. 

During his time with Hospice Africa Uganda, he constantly worked in line with the Ministry of Health, slowly converting the senior doctors, who had many reservations regarding morphine use, and indeed were very opposed to this. These were attitudes which left several patients, including some of their own colleagues, in severe pain.

Dr Jagwe headed up education programmes on the regulations surrounding the use of morphine.

From 2000 to 2003 he travelled with Dr Anne Merriman to many countries in Africa, introducing palliative care.

During that time, five of these countries legalised and imported morphine for reconstitution to oral morphine, for use wherever the patients and family wished for the patients to be at this special time of life (this was usually the home).

He has continued to teach on the many programmes at HAU, training students from Uganda and other African countries in the regulation of morphine, while working with the government and writing several papers on the progress of the affordable manufacture of oral morphine. 

The Ministry of Health (Pharmaceutical Department) has had confidence in Hospice Africa Uganda and assigned this organisation the responsibility of manufacturing oral morphine for the whole of Uganda!

We salute Dr Jack Jagwe for his contribution to palliative care in Uganda and in the rest of Africa. He has brought about the relief of pain to many, while acknowledging that there still remain millions who still suffer today.

We also salute President Museveni of Uganda for recognising the life work of Dr Jagwe with this Presidential Award.

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