Tracking Graduates from Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College: Progress, Benefits, and Challenges

An exultant white building surrounded by lush gardens, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College (KCMUCo) gazes at Mount Kilimanjaro, known as “Mama Kili,” with each sunrise. Located in Moshi, Tanzania, the school has been training physicians for over a decade. The first 15 medical doctors graduated in 2002.

While it is still a young institution, KCMUCo has been working hard to address the unmet health care needs of sub-Saharan Africa by increasing the number of health workers and retaining them in Tanzania. Through the support of the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI), the school is focusing on scaling up training, with the number of annual graduates rising to 150 to date. KCMUCo has also updated its programs of study to ensure that medical students are acquiring relevant competencies to provide care for rural and underserved populations.

Part of the issue is that there was no alumni database or tracking system to maintain contact with the graduates. KCMUCo does not know where the graduates are located or exactly what work they do. To assess long-term impact, KCMUCo wanted to ascertain its graduates’ work status, current employers, and retention within Tanzania. The school was especially interested to learn about graduates pursuing careers in academic, research, and policy positions.

In recognition of the importance of graduate tracking, KCMUCo decided to employ a focal person dedicated to graduate tracking activities and career counseling. This position, which I hold, enables me to represent KCMUCo in the Graduate Tracking Technical Working Group among MEPI schools.

The Technical Working Group, which includes representatives from 11 MEPI-supported medical schools in 10 sub-Saharan African countries, focuses on implementation of the graduate tracking processes through collaboratively developed software, and provides an opportunity to share experiences among MEPI schools by supporting each other as we progress in the implementation process. CapacityPlus, together with the MEPI Coordinating Center, supported the Technical Working Group and its members in defining the business processes and functional requirements for graduate tracking that are relevant to the schools, and led the development, testing, and refinement of the graduate tracking software.

Our team at KCMUCo is doing this for various reasons: assessing and improving institutional quality; monitoring graduates’ employment outcomes; informing our curriculum review and mentorship for current students; and encouraging graduates’ participation in research and other academic activities. An expected outcome is to have graduates who will be more engaged in the development of the institution through research, training, and service provision, thereby increasing the number of high-quality health workers serving the population.

The contribution a graduate tracking system will have in locating doctors and discovering their migration trends is clear. However what remains undervalued is the impact the system will have on the universities’ ability to improve the quality of medical education.

Our team intends to use the graduate tracking system to improve the quality of medical education. The development of graduate tracking software has been a collaboration among the 11 schools. Here are some examples of the important role KCMUCo has played in the development process:

  • We participated in the K4Health East Africa Regional Share Fair in Tanzania by sharing our experience with using graduate tracking to learn more about how graduates are providing family planning services, as well as how alumni might network with students to improve medical education.
  • Through the efforts and leadership of the Technical Working Group, we conducted a proof of concept at KCMUCo in advance of the user validation workshop and preparation for the graduate tracking software’s pilot phase. By completing the proof of concept, we were able to demonstrate that the software can be used in a functioning medical school if institutional support is obtained and other stakeholders are involved in the planning stage.
  • Working with the technical support arm to the Technical Working Group, CapacityPlus, KCMUCo hosted a second graduate tracking workshop for members of the Technical Working Group to further their aspirations for a graduate tracking software to come true!

Here are a few examples of graduates we have already tracked:

Dr. Pius Mzazi (2008 graduate), pediatrician at Kibaha Hospital

Dr. Isidor Henry Ngayomela (2002 graduate), orthopedic surgeon and head of Department of Surgery, Bugando Medical Centre in Mwanza; also has an appointment at the Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences as a lecturer, and is a well-known mentor

Dr. Johnstone Kayandabila (2011 graduate), resident, Selian Hospital Internal Medicine Department, Arusha

Dr. Mandara Celine Isaack (2002 graduate), research scientist at National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), Dar es Salaam, Tanga Centre.

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Photos courtesy of Rose Mwangi