Psychiatrist, Systematic Reviewer & Post Doctoral Fellow

Dr Dickens Akena is a psychiatrist and a lecturer at the department of psychiatry at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences in Kampala, Uganda. Dr Akena’s role at Makerere University includes teaching undergraduate and post graduate students, mental health research and patient care. Dr. Akena conducts his clinical duties at the Butabika National Referral Hospital for mental health. Dr. Akena has published over 20 papers in peer reviewed journals.

In June 2013, Dr Akena completed his PhD training from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, and was supervised and mentored by Prof Dan J Stein and Prof John A Joska. Dr. Akena developed and validated a comprehensive visual screening instrument for use by persons of low literacy. This visual instrument is the first of its kind to be used in Africa, and has the potential of being scaled up for use in many low and middle income countries. In December 2016, Dr Akena completed a one Year Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Cape Town in South Africa under the mentorship of Prof Dan Stein, Eugene Kinyanda and John Joska. During the fellowship, Dr Akena refined and validated the visual scale he had earlier developed across sites in Uganda and South Africa. Furthermore, during his post-doctoral training, Dr Akena developed a multimedia prototype that can detect depression and psycho-educate depressed persons.

Dr Akena is involved in other mental health research and has successfully applied for funding from prestigious organizations including the MRC of the UK and NIH through the NURTURE fellowship. Currently, Dr Akena is the Ugandan based Principal Investigator of the Neuro-Genetics of African Psychosis (Neuro-GAP) project, a multi-site (Mbarara, Arua, Gulu, Butabika and Naguru) research project. The main objective of the Neuro-GAP project which is being implemented in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa is to collect and analyze 40,000 DNA samples from patients with Psychosis and Bipolar Illness as a means of mapping out the genes associated with those illnesses. Previously, Dr. Akena was a co-investigator and project director of an NIMH/PEPFAR funded grant titled ‘task shifting model of depression treatment to unleash HIV public health benefits’.

Dr Akena has designed two short courses being taught at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology. These courses are a) Systematic Review and Meta-analysis for clinicians. The first course cohort consists of 6 individuals who are conducting systematic reviews and in the process of publishing their protocal with PROSPERO. Dr Akena has attended a number of systematic review training courses including the 10 week, on-line PRIMER course from Stellenbosch University (2017), GRADE training from the Cochrane group in Kampala (2016) and held a Cochrane Fellowship in 2014. Dr. Akena also designed a course called Psychometrics for Mental Health Clinicians. Both courses are conducted over a week’s period (twice a year)