Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is an award-winning veterinarian, founder and chief executive of the Conservation Through Public Health.
PHOTO BY MORGAN MBABAZI
Story by Bamuturaki Musinguzi
IN SUMMARY She divides her time between Uganda and the US.
She is the founder and chief executive of Conservation Through Public Health, an NGO that promotes conservation by enabling communities to coexist with wildlife and livestock through improving their health and livelihoods around protected areas in Africa, and primarily works with the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
In 2007, she became an Ashoka Fellow for leading social entrepreneurs in merging Uganda’s wildlife management and rural public health programmes to create common resources for both people and animals.
Her conservation journey began in 1988 when she revived Kibuli Secondary School Wildlife Club in her local high school in Kampala, where she also won the Six Sciences Award. This inspired her to pursue studies in veterinary medicine.
She got her first degree at the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in 1996, and later established the Uganda Wildlife Authority’s first veterinary department. In 2000, she did Zoological medicine residency and masters in specialised veterinary medicine at the North Carolina Zoological Park and North Carolina State University, where her research on the human/wildlife/livestock disease interface led her to found the NGO in 2003.
On her list of awards is the 2008 San Diego Zoo Conservation in Action Award; the 2009 Whitley Gold Award for outstanding leadership in grassroots nature conservation; the 2011 Wings World Quest Women of Discovery Humanity Award; the 2014 CEO Communications Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government Regional Award in the category of medical and veterinary; and winner in the Health Category of 2015 E4 Impact Business Model competition for Tangaza University.
What’s your off-duty passion?
Reading inspiring books and writing.
What would you have been if you did not become a veterinary doctor?
An actress, I used to play leading roles in plays in high school.
What signifies your personal style?
Down to earth, transparent, friendly, and assertive.
How do you manage your wardrobe?
When at work in the field with the wildlife, I wear T-shirts and trousers, when in the office I am smart casual. I like dressing up in traditional or elegant clothes when the occasion calls for it, like at formal events.
While in East Africa, where are you most likely to spend your Saturday afternoon?
In a swimming pool with my family, when I am not at work.
Describe your best destination yet in East Africa?
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, where I work, followed by Zanzibar where my husband Lawrence and I went on our honeymoon and continue to visit with our children.
Do you have a must-visit list?
Yes, hot air ballooning during the wildebeest migration from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
What is East Africa’s greatest strength?
The rich and diverse wildlife, culture and landscapes.
What’s the most thoughtful gift you’ve received?
A Kitenge fabric from The Gorilla Organisation depicting images of the kind of work we do with the mountain gorillas and local community, which I made into a dress that I can wear when giving presentations.
What’s the best gift you’ve given?
Coffee linked to our gorilla conservation work.
What big book have you read recently?
Three great books I read recently are: Count Down by Alan Weisman on the dangers of high human population growth for a sustainable environment and secure future for our planet, it has a chapter on Uganda featured our work at Conservation Through Public Health; A Good African Story by Andrew Rugasira, an inspiring story of how he created a Ugandan-owned global coffee brand, and The Entrepreneurial Mind by Kevin Johnson listing 100 habits of outstanding entrepreneurs.
Which film has had the most impact on you?
Exodus, based on the bible because it made the Bible more real through the amazing story of Moses, with spectacular images and scenery of the time.
What’s your favourite music?
The music by Youssou N’Dour, I also like Afrigo Band and Lingala music.
Which is your favourite website?
What is never missing in your fridge?
Passion fruit juice.
Read the story on the EastAfrican Newspaper website on this link