By Mwesigwa Yusuf
The government of Japan established the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize in July 2006 in memory of Dr Hideyo Noguchi whose contribution to medical advancement and self sacrificing activities in Africa remain a paragon of professionalism.
The prize aims to honour individuals with outstanding achievements in the fields of medical research and medical services to combat infectious and other diseases in Africa.
The prize is awarded every after six years to coincide with the Tokyo International conference on African Development (TICAD) although the TICAD itself is held every three years and can be hosted by an African country.
Professor Omaswa received the award in recognition of his efforts towards addressing the global health workforce crisis across Africa.
Omaswa was born in Mukula village, Kumi District in the Eastern Region of Uganda. His parents were Yafeesi Ijookit and Matilda Acom.
He studied at St Mary’s College Kisubi for both his O-Level and A-Level education.
In 1964, he was admitted to the Makerere University School of Medicine, graduating in 1969 with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery Degree.
In 1974, he received a Master of Medicine in Surgery Degree from Makerere University. He subsequently was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He is also a Fellow of the College of Surgeons of East Central and Southern Africa, a college he helped found.
Omaswa worked as a medical officer from 1970 until September 1974 when he left for further studies in the United Kingdom.
He trained as a cardiothoracic surgeon. In 1979, he accepted the invitation by the Kenyan Government to become the head of cardio-thoracic surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital and the University of Nairobi.
From 1987 until 1992, he served as the first Medical Director of Uganda Heart Institute which he helped establish.
He concurrently served as Professor of Surgery at Makerere University School of Medicine. From 1992 to 1999, he served as the Chief Government Surgeon and head of the Quality Assurance Program that he established at the Ministry of Health.
In 2005, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan invited him to set up the Global Health Workforce Alliance (GHWA). He moved to Geneva, Switzerland to set up the Alliance.
He returned to Uganda in 2008 and was appointed chancellor of Busitema University in 2009.
The Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize consists of a citation, a medal and an honorarium of 100 million yen.
The selection process comprises two stages, namely: a) a recommendation of a maximum of three candidates by two sub committees administratively by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) in respect of medical research and the Regional Office for Africa of the World Health Organisation (AFRO) in respect of medical services and b) finalization of candidates by the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize Committee to be referred to the Prime Minister for final consideration.