This profile was prepared when Rita Sembuya was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2003.
The New Idea
In Uganda, as many as 30 percent of child-bearing-aged couples have difficulty conceiving a child; infertility is a huge problem, often devastating couples. Rita sees that her efforts both to educate and connect affected men and women in a supportive network and to launch a national awareness campaign will go a long way toward addressing this particular problem. But more fundamentally, she sees that the culture of healthcare–a culture that is decidedly top-down in Uganda–needs fixing. Through her work on infertility, she encourages doctors and patients to explore treatment options jointly and in ways that consider the psychological and emotional, as well as the medical, implications of health problems. The shift she is engineering will mean that patients challenge their doctors to deliver high-quality, relevant care; that doctors value patients' counsel and use opportunities of patient interaction to educate as well as treat; and that policymakers seek citizens' input in shaping healthcare policy. To aid this shift, Rita taps the network of Ugandan physicians abroad, drawing in expertise from more developed countries.