From Uganda to the U.S.: Dr. Kisuule ’01 Finds Fulfillment in Tough Situations

Flora Kisuule, MD, an ’01 graduate from the University of Minnesota Medical School, was 19 years old when she left her home country of Uganda to follow her dream and come to the U.S. to get an education. 

“I came from Uganda without too much. In fact, with almost nothing. I had about $2,000 in my pockets,” Dr. Kisuule said. 

During the summers she was in college, she was a caregiver for a family to make ends meet. 

“Doing that caregiving work was really fulfilling for me. Especially since at the time, my own mother in Uganda was sick and I couldn’t travel to be back with her. So it was really rewarding for me to take care of that family,” she said. “It was not what I was thinking of when I thought about going into the science fields, but it felt so good. So, I looked into it some more.”

Dr. Kisuule applied to medical schools across the country. After being offered a full tuition scholarship from the U of M Medical School, she said yes, canceled every other interview and came to Minnesota.

“I was a poor girl from Uganda who did not have hope of ever being a doctor. All I had were big dreams. The U of M definitely helped me get to where I am today,” she said.

Reflecting on her time at the U of M Medical School, Dr. Kisuule shared, “I think it really was the most fun that I had at any point during my training, and it set me up so well for the path to the things that I have done subsequently.”

“This is an example of what can happen when you seek out people who may not have a chance,” she added.

Giving Back

Dr. Kisuule is now doing her part to give back. Dr. Kisuule is a hospitalist, director of the Division of Hospital Medicine and vice chair for Clinical Operations at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She is also passionate about building hospital medicine programs internationally and is very active in the Society of Hospital Medicine. She has also been highly involved in the response to COVID-19. 

Dr. Kisuule has two different experiences with COVID-19: One as a frontline clinician and one as a leader of her group. 

Taking herself back to the spring of 2020, Dr. Kisuule recalled being one of the first physicians taking care of COVID-19 patients within her hospital. 

“I had to lead by example,” Dr. Kisuule said. “Even though my ultimate role needed to be the person figuring out the health systems for taking care of COVID-19 patients, I first needed to make it okay for my team to take care of the patients.”

She led her team on the frontlines for a few days and then stepped away to fulfill her leadership duties and focus on creating processes for the system. 

Dr. Kisuule says all the work that she is doing, COVID-19-related and non-COVID-19-related, is incredibly fulfilling. 

“All of the things that I am doing, particularly in the clinical space and with my society and building hospitals programs is my way of giving back,” she said. “All of these things are rewarding and they make me feel balanced. I am very whole.”

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