IN the beginning, the medical profession was sacred ground and somehow, a preserve for men. However over the years, women have made remarkable contributions to the field of medicine. As women around the world were permitted to graduate from medical schools, their accomplishments became more influential and far-reaching.
In 1847, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. She was born in England but raised and educated in New York City. Years later, more women in Europe and the Americas enrolled for medical degrees and ventured into what was used to be male dominated terrain. Even back home in Africa, women have evolved over the years and have taken up medical studies amongst other demanding professions.
In the spirit of Women’s Month, this article seeks to appreciate some female medical doctors who are holding the fort and making waves in their various areas of specialty in the medical field.
Please note that the following list in not in any order and the list is not exhaustive.
Dr Agnes Mahomva
From spearheading and managing paediatric HIV during her days at EGPAF to coordination the country’s national COVID-19 response, Dr Agnes Mahomva’s reputation speaks for itself. Dr Mahomva is currently the Chief COVID-19 Coordinator in the office of the President and Cabinet in Zimbabwe. Before joining the esteemed office, Dr Mahomva also served diligently as Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC). She also served as the Country Director for EGPAF before joining the ministry of health. As the country’s Chief COVID-19 coordinator, Zimbabwe has made significant strides in managing COVID-19 and the country is currently one of the highest in Africa in terms of vaccinating its citizens. To date, Zimbabwe has immunized 45% of its population with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines and 35% for the second dose.
Dr Anna Mary Nyakabau
In Zimbabwe, you cant talk of cancer without mentioning the name Dr Nyakabau. It’s just impossible. Dr Anna Nyakabau is an Oncologist and has vast experience in treating and managing cancer. Even though she left the ministry of health and child care in 2021 where she served as a Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Parirenyatwa Hospital, Dr Nyakabau continues to serve the Zimbabwean community through offering consultant services in the private sector. Dr Nyakabau was also the brains behind the formation of Cancer Save back in 2018. Cancerserve Trust foundation is an initiative that is meant to raise funds for cancer prevention and management will go long way in addressing the funding gaps that exist in cancer prevention and mitigation strategies.
Dr Tsistsi Siwela
The old saying which goes, “Still waters run deep,” best describes Dr Tsitsi Siwela, whose placid exterior hides a highly passionate and fully charged live wire, whose passion for health is unmatched. Having served as the District Medical Officer (DMO) for Bindura under the Ministry of Health, Dr Siwela later joined the World Health Organisation (WHO) where is currently serving as the Technical Director for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Dr Siwela also coordinated the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project (ZIRP) under WHO that was implemented in the Cyclone Idai hit Chimanini district. The project was successful in bringing integrated health services to the affected communities.
Dr Davidzo Murigo Shumba
Zimbabwe, as big as it is only has two paediatric cardiologists. The other one is male and the other one is a woman. Her name is Dr Davidzo Murigo Shumba and the Paediatric Cardiologits at Mpilo Central Hospital. Dr Shumba is literally a history maker par-excellence. Her job is to diagnose and treat heart problems in children. Before leaving Zimbabwe to further her studies in South Africa, Dr Shumba once worked as a junior doctor at Mpilo Hospital. She however returned home a few days before the opening of the Bulawayo pediatric cardiac centre.
Dr Shingai Nyaguse
The fight for better living and working standards for healthcare workers has been going on for a while now. Bringing government to the negotiating table is not always that easy. However, for Dr Shingai who is the current president for the Senior Hospital Doctors Association (SHDA), hope for better standards for her working environment and that of her colleagues has seen her taking a lead in negotiating with the employer on behalf of her colleagues who work in public hospitals around the country. Dr Nyaguse is a Consultant Anesthesiologist at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.
Dr Privilege Makanda-Charambira
It always feels great to come first or to be the one who discovers something first before anyone else does. Dr Priviledge Makanda Charambira is Zimbabwe’s first ever Paediatric Nephrologist. Childhood Kidney health is actually a growing problem the world over and in Zimbabwe, Dr Priviledge Charambira is actually at the forefront offering solutions and helping little ones who would have developed that problem. Keep flying that banner of excellence high.
Dr Portia Hunidzarira
Every epidemic requires researchers and teams that work behind the scenes to find solutions to certain problems. The HIV and AIDS pandemic has been with us for more than three decades and for years, many lives have been lost. However, it is enlightening to note that there are ongoing studies and attempts to find a vaccine for HIV. Dr Portia Hunidzaria was the lead researcher in the Imbokodo HIV vaccine or HVTN 705/HPX2008 studies. Even though imbokodo efficacy studies were abandoned, it is inspiring to know that all hope has not been lost, someone and some people out there are making it their business to find a lasting preventive solution to the HIV virus.
Dr Patron Mafaune
Dr Patron Mafaune served as the Provincial Medical Director (PMD) for Manicaland Province under the Ministry of Health and Child Care. When the Cyclone Idai hit Manicaland province’s districts, Dr Mafaune was at the forefront coordinating the distribution of Medical supplies and services in the affected areas. Dr Mafaune is currently the Global Financing facility (GFF) Liason officer in the World Bank (WB). The GFF is a catalytic, country-led financing mechanism for women, child, and adolescents’ health and nutrition. The GFF Trust Fund provides flexible financing to governments for the preparatory work and technical assistance required to identify priorities.
Dr Rumbidzai Dahwa
Dr Dahwa is a specialist Nephrologist with vast clinical experience and a member of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.
Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi
In 2021, Zimbabwe through the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) approved the use of the Dapirivirine ring or Vaginal ring for use as An HIV prevention tool for women. Thanks to Doctor Nyaradzo and her team who were at the forefront leading research around the ring. She is a clinical pathologist with over 10 years of experience conducting clinical trials for HIV prevention in women of reproductive age in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Zimbabwe, home to the University of Zimbabwe-Clinical Trials Research Centre. As lead investigator in Harare, she has overseen the implementation of several trials assessing acceptability, safety and effectiveness of oral PrEP, vaginal microbicides, the Dapivirine vaginal ring, long-acting injectable PrEP and broadly neutralizing antibodies for HIV prevention in African women at risk for HIV. She is protocol co-chairperson for HVTN 703/HPTN 081 study, also known as Antibody Mediated Prevention (AMP) and of MTN 025/HOPE study. Nyaradzo, who serves as the International Principal Investigator on the HPTN Executive Committee, is also a scientific reviewer for the Medical Research Council of Zimbabwe, and has served as a technical advisor for the Zimbabwe Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (ZIMPHIA) survey.