Interview: Dr Ian Clarke

Dr Ian Clarke arrived in Kiwoko, Uganda with his wife and three small children, in 1988. Remnants of the Bush War in the Luweero Triangle, between the National Resistance Army and government forces, were everywhere — bones, skulls and devastation.

As a physician doing humanitarian work for Church Mission Society, (part of the Anglican Church), Ian was carrying out primary care. However, he quickly realised that this alone could not meet the needs, and ended up building Kiwoko Hospital. He worked there for the following six years establishing the hospital, which has recently celebrated 25 years of existence.

After six years the family moved back to the UK for the sake of his children’s education, but he didn’t want to settle there. During his time in Uganda he had gained much experience in the fields of HIV, TB and tropical diseases, and he wished to continue that kind of work, and build on it. Hence, he decided to return to Kampala, this time to work as a private medical practitioner in order to be financially sustainable. His vision was to provide medical services to middle income Ugandans and use the surplus to develop a first-class hospital. Starting with a modest clinic, he then developed a small hospital in Old Kampala; from there he developed another clinic at Jinja Rd, and a small health membership organisation for his network. Ten years ago, he opened a purpose built hospital – International Hospital. Today, the whole group is called International Medical Group, and includes the popular International Hospital Kampala (IHK), 17 clinics, IAA Healthcare insurance, a charitable foundation – IMF, and International Health Sciences University, which is located on the top floor of IHK.

The adroit physician-cum-entrepreneur has another feather to his cap – politics.

Six years ago, he decided that instead of complaining about the roads, potholes, garbage and local services, he should be part of the solution. So he contested for the position of Chairman (now called Mayor) of Makindye Division of Kampala. He won, and was in office from 2011 to 2016.

Since last year, he has shifted his focus to education and agriculture. Part of this dual-pronged plan is the Clarke Junior School started last year. “Lifelong learners, and not mere receptacles,” is what this school strives to encourage, states Clarke.

He is also in the process of expanding the university to become broad-based and will start building a campus in Muyenga soon. A commercial farm at Fort Portal is part of his repertoire.

Clarke has witnessed many changes in Uganda over the almost thirty years he has spent here: the journey to Kiwoko has reduced in time from the initial 2.5 hours because of bad roads to 1.5 hours because of good roads but heavy traffic. He recalls that 25 years ago the only place one could get pizza was at a place known as ‘Half London’ in Kansanga, now demolished. Now, one can get pizza at practically every corner of the city, including ‘Pizza Hut’.