Alumni Spotlight: Caesar Lubangakene, MS’15

A foray into Ugandan politics shows Lubangakene a new way to serve his community.

Caesar in the field

Caesar Lubangakene in the field in East Africa

By Joan Kimani

Published June 10, 2024 under Alumni Stories

After more than a decade working in international humanitarian aid, it might be a surprise to find Caesar Lubangakene contemplating a future in politics.

But that is what Lubangakene, a 2015 graduate of the DGHI Master of Science in Global Health program, envisioned for himself two years ago, when he decided to run for a parliamentary seat to represent his district of Gulu in Uganda, his home country.

"I came third out of 13 candidates, on my first try," Lubangakene says. "I think we as young people who have traveled, gotten exposed, and have had good education need to embrace the opportunity to serve our country in leadership."

Service has always been a profound commitment for Lubangakene, who works as a regional grants manager for an international relief agency.  He oversees primary healthcare, food security, and clean water and education programs in Sudan and South Sudan. (In light of the conflict in the region and the sensitive nature of its work, we have omitted the name of the organization.

Lubangakene has been with the organization since graduating from DGHI. “I looked them up online, applied, and after two interviews, I got the job,” he recalls. He chose the position in South Sudan over options in the U.S. because he wanted a more hands-on role with humanitarian work.

At his agency, Lubangakene began as a monitoring and evaluation manager, a mid-level role where he led a team of seven people. His education at Duke proved invaluable in this role. “The research methods class gave me the skills to run the research component of the organization,” he says. His responsibilities included answering donor questions about baseline assessments and impact evaluations.

Lubangakene is also pursuing a doctorate in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a remote program that allows him to continue his work in the East African region. His research focuses on health policy analysis, specifically Uganda's national response plan to major disease outbreaks like COVID-19 and Ebola.

“I’m interested in the factors and processes in the development of a national response plan and how it is implemented in the country,” he says. He aims to develop recommendations that can be applied globally, highlighting the importance of pandemic preparedness and response.

This desire to effect change has been a central theme for Lubangakene, who completed his undergraduate studies at Uganda Christian University. After graduating, he worked with Innovations for Poverty Action as a research coordinator. “I conducted a lot of research work in reproductive health and economic empowerment,” he says.

Reflecting on his time at Duke, Lubangakene is grateful for the support he received from mentors and the camaraderie of his peers. “The professors were always ready to talk and have a conversation with students who required help with their learning experience,” he says. “I also remember my favorite moment being the camping time to get tickets for the school basketball games. I saw the solidarity that students have towards their university.”

As for his future in politics, Lubangakene remains contemplative. "I will, however, stay observant and decide if I will be going for an elective seat again in the next election in 2026," he shares. Whether or not he decides to run again, there is no doubt he will continue to find ways to use his skills to serve his country and the people around him.

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