Bridget Malewezi, medical officer and head of clinical department at Daeyang Luke Hospital in MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s capital, Lilongwe, speaks on the ordeal that influenced her choice of career, her decision to take away lessons from every experience and how she works on her major weakness
What do you do Bridget?
Currently, I am working at Daeyang Luke Hospital as medical officer and Head of Clinical Department. I also write weekly health columns for a weekly newspaper and I am the vice secretary for the Society of Medical Doctors (SMD). I will also be assisting MBTS this year.
When did it occur to you that you wanted to become a doctor?
My mother, Dr. Isabella Musisi, is a nurse and currently works as the principal of St. John of God Health Sciences in Mzuzu. She [has] MasterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s [degree] and a PhD in nursing. As a child growing up with a mother who was a nurse, there were lots of medical books in the house. I was always fascinated by the illustrations and reading about various medical conditions.
At school, I was really good at sciences and naturally felt inclined to follow a medical career. One of the other driving forces behind my choice of career is the fact that my sister died after being bitten by a rabid dog in 1996. That put into focus how a simple act of negligence by a health worker can cost a perfectly normal life. Simple measures can and do save lives, and even though I was not able to contribute to saving my sister, I hope that through my work, I have assisted others.
What challenges do you face in your current position and what strategies do you use to get through them?
It was difficult at first to try and get the correct balance of clinical work and managing the department. Also, as a young clinician in a relatively new institution, trying to get the department to the standards required of us is a constant challenge. We try and provide quality service above that of other institutions in the country and that often means we are pushing ourselves further than others.
My work ethic is simple Ã¢â‚¬ËœI try and manage others the way I would like to be ledÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a learning curve and I strive to improve on the areas where I can do better.
How has holding this position impacted on you as a person?
I believe that if everyday experiences donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t change you in some way, you must be missing the lessons life is trying to teach you. I have learnt a lot from my various roles in life and I continue to learn and grow each day. I can definitely see that I have become more focused and mature both in my personal and professional life. The biggest lesson I learnt is that Ã¢â‚¬ËœI am the driver of my own destiny and that of the things I am in direct charge ofÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Previously, I used to stress and worry, waiting for someone else to change the circumstances which were giving me problems. But IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve learnt to be solution oriented. Now, I ask myself Ã¢â‚¬Ëœwhat can I do to change this or improve this situation?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Instead of just focusing on the problem at hand.
What does an average work day involve?
An average day for me starts at 6 am when I get ready for work. Being a mission hospital, we start with prayers everyday at 7am, then we have hand-overs, which take approximately 30 minutes. I try to do managerial tasks such as coordinating clinicians, allocations and other items first for at least one hour and then I do ward rounds the rest of the morning.
The afternoons are dependent on whether we have any administration issues leftover or whether there are patients in the ward who need follow up care. Every day is different. I usually knock off at 4.30pm, unless am on call in which case I do a 24 hour shift till the next morning.
In the evenings at home, I usually try and do any tasks related to my other work such as SMD or column write ups. Often, I will make dinner with my husband (Qabaniso Malewezi)Ã‚Â and relax by watching TV before going to bed. I got married last year July, so currently itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just me and my husband who works as a writer, performer and consultant. I enjoy spending time with my husband, since he is not in the medical field, being around him is always a breath of fresh air because he always has very different experiences to mine in his work.
Who inspires you?
I have been blessed to have so many people mould and guide me through the years. While I have worked hard to be where I am, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t deny or take away the contributions of my teachers, friends and my family who have built me up to be the person I am.
If I have to isolate individualsÃ¢â‚¬â€two men and two women stand out. The first is my late father, who raised me to believe in my capabilities from a young age. Even though he passed away when I was 16, his influence is still very much present in my life today. He encouraged me to dream big and though I was young, he instilled in me the confidence that I can achieve anything.Ã‚Â Secondly, my husband Q who is my sounding board and drives me to see myself in a better light.Ã‚Â He shares with me his knowledge/input on various topics and has guided me to strive for things beyond the confines of the ordinary. My late aunt Ms. Patricia Makawa, who raised me in a single parent home and showed me that as women, we can do anything in life if we put our minds to it, also inspired me very much. Lastly but definitely the most influential of all is my mother whose life story is simply amazing. Being raised in a household with such a phenomenal woman makes it impossible not to be driven to pursue your dreams.
What does your history read like?
I was born at Blantyre Adventist Hospital in January 1983, the first born daughter of Phillip and Isabella Msolomba. There were three girls in the family; myself, Tiyanjana and Theana. The second born, however, passed away in 1996.
My father was an actuarial scientist and he passed on in 1999. My mother has since remarried Mr. Raymond Musisi and is currently working in Mzuzu as the principal of St John of God Health Sciences.
Memories of my childhood are divided between Zimbabwe and Malawi, as I spent part of my childhood in Zimbabwe with my late aunt, where she worked in the diplomatic corps.
What have you learnt from this journey?
No problem lasts forever; this too shall pass. And even when we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t clearly understand the reason something is happening, the belief that it could be the lesson or experience that will make you stronger is of vital importance.
That lesson stood out clearly for me when my favourite uncle passed away under my care. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even meant to be at work that day but I went to finish off some things. He called to say he wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feeling well so I told him to come to the hospital. Within two hours he was gone, we had tried everything to save him to no avail. While I still donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand why God planned it that way, I know in medicine, as in all things in life, we cannot solve all the mysteries, but we take from it what little lessons we can learn.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Everything happens for a reason and eventually God reveals his plans to you. Take each day as a new experience from which you will learn something, whether you succeed or fail the most important thing is what you learn during that process.
Would you mind sharing your biggest weakness?
I am never shy to voice out my ideas/ opinions, however,Ã‚Â when working in a team, especially in Malawi where people need to be coaxed to give their input, that can lead to discussions being one sided. So, I have learned to slow down and listen to others before I speak. This not only allows for a more rounded discussion but also helps me to take into account other opinions which might be different from mine.
What are some of the things that you absolutely love and cannot do without?
My phone Ã¢â‚¬â€œ since I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wear watches, I use it as my clock and calendar so any time I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have my phone, I get a bit disoriented.Ã‚Â Obviously my family and husband must fall into this category, otherwise all other things I can cope without. Oh except my camera Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I love taking photos and am often the one taking pictures at most family gatherings.
What do you think is one of the biggest challenges Malawian women face?
Our low self esteem. I believe that if half the women had even a slight boost in our perceived self efficacy, we would achieve so much. So, while poverty, diseases or lack of education may be the visible challenges, internally, if all of us really believed that we are capable of overcoming these challenges, a lot of innovative ideas would come through.
But often we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even allow ourselves to think in that direction and wait for someone else to take us out of it. To be honest, even highly educated women suffer from this, which is why often women will get paid less than their equally qualified male counterparts. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time we believed in our own self worth and capabilities.
What is it that you do when you get some Ã¢â‚¬Ëœalone timeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢?
I love reading novels and magazines; I also have a passion for cooking so sometimes IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll get engrossed in looking at pictures in my many cookbooks or the food channels. Everyone knows that if the TV is on a food channel, Bridget must be nearby.
Any future ambitions, dreams yet to be achieved?
Am still young, I have been working for five years now so there are plenty of things that I still have to achieve. I definitely plan to go back to school for postgraduate training and hopefully assist in a broader way to improve health care provision in this country or better still worldwide.
Kamuzu Academy:Ã‚Â Ã‚Â 1999 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ IGCSE (10 subjects)
International School of South Africa 2001 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A Levels (Maths, Biochemistry, Biology)
College of Medicine Ã¢â‚¬â€œ National Bank Best Medical Student 2002 and 2003
College of Medicine 2006 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS)
Part-time lecturerÃ‚Â in HIV/Aids Management course (Health Education module), Shareworld Institute of Management in 2008