Dr. Chikumbanje Expresses Thanks

Dr. ChikumbanjeBy Stella Chikumbanje, MBBS

Malawi is a landlocked country located in the southern African region.  She has a population of 17 million, more than 50% of which is the youth. About 70% of the population live under the poverty line.

Malawi has one of the highest under-five mortality rates mostly due to Malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS.  However, surgery also contributes a significant number to the mortality. It is against this background that 25 years ago, Malawi opened its medical school to train doctors with an aim of improving among other things infant and child mortality. The college has since grown and is now providing postgraduate training to doctors.

Despite its advance over the years anaesthesia was provided by non-physician anaesthetists until 2013 when the first ever physician anaesthetist graduated from the college of Medicine. To date Malawi has 4 physician anaesthetists and three in training.  

Over the years, there have been an increasing number of paediatric patients undergoing surgery. Most of these are done at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, which is the main referral hospital and teaching hospital for the country.  It is also an approved site of the Colleges of Surgeons of East and Central Africa (COSECSA) to train paediatric surgeons. To accommodate this increase in volume, a dedicated paediatric theatre and Intensive Care Unit is now being built in order to improve the quality of care for paediatric patients. This and my interest in paediatrics led me to pursue the paediatric anaesthesia fellowship in Kenya, Nairobi that I completed in August 2016.

Being the first and only trained paediatric anaesthesiologist, I am expected to head the paediatric anaesthesia section in Malawi. This will involve service delivery and teaching both at undergraduate as well as postgraduate level.

It is against this background that I write to the SPA to acknowledge and appreciate the sponsorship towards my training in Kenya. The training equipped me with the necessary skills to provide safe anaesthesia for paediatric patients undergoing surgery in a resource poor setting.  During my stay in Kenya, I learnt a lot on how I can mobilise resources and use the available resources without compromising quality. Through the fellowship, I made friends and developed links with fellow paediatric anaesthetists not only within Africa, but also throughout the world and learnt that much as I may be alone in Malawi, in reality I am never alone as I have support from the world at large.

I am greatly indebted to the SPA, Boston Children’s Hospital, Vanderbilt University, as well as the ASA Global scholars program for sponsoring an observership program in the United States and giving me an opportunity to attend the SPA and ASA meeting.  I never been to the US and this experience is invaluable, as it will cultivate learning and allow me to appreciate the practice of anaesthesia in the developed world.  An observership program that will help develop links with the international community and so help develop anaesthesia in Malawi through training and exchange programs is invaluable.

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