Breaking new ground, Zimbabwe’s Dr Kawome becomes first fellow in College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Southern and Central Africa
By Edward Mukaro
ZIMBABWEAN women continue to break barriers in their various areas to expertise, nothing seems to slow or hold them down. This week, a medical practitioner of note, Dr Martina Kawome, became the first fellow of the College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa. In medical circles, Ophthalmology is regarded as the branch of medical science dealing with the anatomy, functions, and diseases of the eye. It’s no mean feat. Our team caught up with Dr Kawome to get an insight into her medical journey as we join her in celebrating her milestone.
Q: Who is Dr. Martina Kawome?
A: 36-year-old, proud mother of two. She is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Sally Mugabe Central Hospital, Board member and Fellow of College of Ophthalmology of Eastern Southern and Central Africa (COESCA), Board member of Child and Youth Care Zimbabwe, Telemedicine (Ophthalmology) Consultant for Solid-armed, Co-founder of Rare Disease Zimbabwe Trust, World Health Organization Collaborative Global Network for Rare Disease panel expert, Africa Ophthalmic Council conference committee member, Ophthalmology Society of Zimbabwe committee member and committee member of the newly formed Zimbabwe Women Doctor Association. She is also a research fellow at the University of Zimbabwe.
Q: Which qualifications do you hold?
A: Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery; Diploma in Ophthalmology; Masters in Ophthalmology; Fellow of the College of Ophthalmology of Central Southern and Eastern Africa (COESCA)
Q: When did you finally set your heart on being a medical doctor?
A: I was awarded a scholarship in high school by KAPNEK Trust to study medicine in college and passed it. Since then it has been a difficult, but amazing journey.
Q: What other academic qualifications do you hold?
A: Diploma in Ignatian Spirituality; Certificate in leadership in global health. My recent achievement, as the first fellow of the college of Ophthalmology of Eastern Central and Southern Africa. Currently, I am enrolled for a certificate in policy planning and advocacy with the University of Washington.
Q: What does it mean to you
A: As a medical practitioner: That l am recognized as proficient to practice Ophthalmology in the region. It is a confident booster and a challenge at the same time. (ii) As a human being apart from my profession: That l have become part of a bigger community with diverse values and experiences. It brings about a sense of belonging and poses a challenge to me that l need to move at the pace of the group.
Q: With this new portfolio, is your dimension of medicine broadened? And if so, in what way?
A: Yes it has. My focus has shifted from clinical practice, which achieves immediate relief but to investigative practice where I would like to improve the practice of medicine from teaching to evidence-based practice, through research. As Africa, we need to investigate and understand our health problems. We need to find tailor-made solutions for these problems and teach our interns.
Q: How big is your family?
A: I have a son and a daughter. We are currently expecting a third one.
Q: What challenges have you had to go through as a female doctor that made you strong and achieve what many others have come short of achieving?
A: I did consecutive 13 years of demanding tertiary education during my early adulthood, a time l also needed to make time for courting, marriage and of course having babies. It was and is still hard to balance. A year into my Masters, l fell pregnant and the college only allowed students 2 weeks off per year for whichever reason. I had to deliver and go back to school in 2 weeks. As if it was not enough, I had to deliver via Caesarean Section. However, my husband, colleagues and teachers were very supportive and it all went well.
Q: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, what is your word to Zimbabweans and the globe at large?
A: Pandemics do happen and they do end. I urge all to remain vigilant and to keep safe. We should also not despair and deteriorate mentally.
Q: Many young women wish to achieve what you have achieved, professionally. Any message of encouragement to those who wish to follow in your footsteps, academically?
A: I would like to tell them that as females, we have the capacity to multi-task and that is a huge advantage, which should give us the courage to start anything anytime.
Q: Which medical schools have you enrolled with so far? May you also state years of enrollment?
A: University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences 2003 – 2008 and 2011 – 2014; Internship – Parirenyatwa Hospital 2009- 2011
Q: What has been your inspiration as a medical doctor?
A: Jesus and the many saints who lived a holy and tireless life.
Q: Apart from medicine, what spurs you on in life?
A: Farming, exercising, cycling and philanthropic work.
Q: Who has been a major influence in the career path you chose?
A: My late mother, who was a nurse.