A Tribute to Dr. Cillasy Tumwesigye

Prominent Ugandan ophthalmologist and friend to many at Santa Fe College Dr. Cillasy Tumwesigye  passed away suddenly this summer. Dr. Cillasy, as he was called, was able to visit Gainesville and Santa Fe College in October 2010, making an impact on everyone he met. The trip was facilitated thanks to his friendship with Health Sciences Professor Carol Thomas. Thomas often volunteers  at Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s leading teaching hospital, where Dr. Cillasy ran the eye clinic.

A Tribute to Dr. Cillasy Tumwesigye by Carol Thomas

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world is and remains immortal.” -Albert Pine

Dr. Cillasy Tumwesigye, a Uganda ophthalmologist, exemplifies the quote from Albert Pine. This summer the Ugandan people experienced the sudden passing of such a remarkable physician, teacher and ambassador for his country.  A personable and gentle person, he was fondly called Dr. Cillasy.  He was one of only 40 ophthalmologists in the country of Uganda, where the loss of one physician has a tremendous impact on those who are in dire need of care.

I met Dr. Cillasy in 2009 in hopes of helping him direct an outreach program that connects volunteer eye specialists in the US with Ugandan professionals. Unite for Sight, an NGO of the US, was exploring the possibility of setting up a project in Uganda. In preparation for this connection, Dr. Cillasy attended two meetings of the American Ophthalmology Association, where he was able to network with the NGO and developed professional connections with other ophthalmologists.

As a physician based in Kampala, Uganda, Dr. Cillasy delivered care to many patients at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.   He also directed outpatient clinics, conducted surgeries, and directed and performed eye care to underserved communities in rural Uganda. As a teacher, Dr. Cillasy taught both undergraduate and postgraduate medical students in ophthalmology at Makerere University Medical School.   As an ambassador, he was an active member of the Lions Club Kampala Central, and, in the Fall of 2011, he was excited to extend his friendship to the Alachua Lions Club here in Alachua, Florida. At Santa Fe College he spoke with students, faculty and staff and shared the challenges faced in delivering eye care in rural Uganda. The following quote from a student exemplifies the affect his presentation had on the audience at Santa Fe.

“This presentation really opened my eyes on how some parts of the world really lack basic health care for their population. It also made me realize how things that we take for granted here in the US can make a dramatic difference in the lives of other people. I hope to be able to use my education to make a difference in other people lives.” RGG

Each of us would hope that, when our body leaves this earth, we would have left behind positive footprints that others can step in.   Dr. Cillasy was one individual who left enormous “prints” that impacted so many people.  Our hope for the future is that a Ugandan physician will step forward and follow his impressive and positive lead in health care.  As one Ugandan physician stated “ there were over 1000 people who attended his services, with some traveling many hours in from the villages”  – an example of the many Ugandans he touched.

I am grateful to Santa Fe College, Shands Hospital – University of Florida and the Lions Club of Alachua for being wonderful hosts during Dr. Cillasy’s visit to Gainesville in 2011.  His inspiring time with us shows   that we can understand each other and diverse cultures better when we share ideas and aspirations, one person at a time.

Let us keep those closest to Dr. Cillasy in our thoughts:

His family: wife, Anne and children, Amelia, Anthony and Grace

Ophthalmology Dept.Mulago Hospital, Kampala Uganda

Makerere University, Medical School students, faculty and staff

Lions Club Kampala Central, Kampala Uganda

Exchanging flags with the Alachua Lions Club
Dr. Cillasy speaks at the Alachua Lions Club meeting
Dr. Cillasy working in his clinic at Mulago Hospital, Kampala Uganda
Dr. Cillasy visits the UF campus