1. Where and when were you born?
I was born in a small provincial town called Kasama in Zambia in 1983. Kasama is in the northern province of Zambia.
2. What was your family life like?
My parents are teachers by profession and I am the first born. We are a big family - 9 children! While I was born in Kasama, I grew up mostly in Chipata because my father was transferred there to work in a secondary school as a science and mathematics teacher. Teachers are government employees whose positions are determined by the government and local needs. My mother is a primary school teacher, who teaches all subjects. We were encouraged to work hard at school. We walked to school each day, just about a ten minute’s walk from our home. My youngest sibling is 16 years old, we are 21 years apart. He’s currently in high school. I grew up going to church every week with my family, it was a tight-knit community - we all went to the same school and the same church. For secondary school I went to boarding school in a small town called Sinda at Chassa Boys Secondary School. Then for senior secondary school, I transferred to David Kaunda National Technical High School. After that, I attended the University of Zambia in Lusaka where I began studying medicine.
3. Why did you want to be a doctor?
My dream goes as far back as grade three when during class we’d learn about the different professions and I decided I wanted to be a doctor. From then on, I held on to that same dream: to help people who are suffering. My parents encouraged me.
4. What experiences motivated you to pursue medicine?
I used to get sick with malaria once every three months or so when I was in primary school. So I remember trekking to the hospital 3-4 times in a year. My father would take me. I got to meet some clinicians through this which peaked my interest in the field.
5. What medical training have you received and where?
University of Zambia. Seven years in total: 2 years at the School of Natural Science, then from the 3-7th year you attend the medical school.
6. Why did you choose your specialty?
After medical school I went for an internship at Kitwe Central Hospital in the city of Kitwe, Copperbelt Province. And after that I took a rural post in a town called Siavonga. There I saw quite a number of surgical patients and I realized that my skills were inadequate to attend to them, so I was motivated to pursue a career in surgery. Following my rural service I returned to the University of Zambia’s Teaching Hospital and began my residency in general surgery. I found cardiac surgery interesting, especially with regard to the results - which are instantaneous - when you perform surgery on a cardiac patient. It’s something you can really appreciate.
7. How did you find out about the medical training program in Israel?
I was told by a friend who was interested in doing cardiac surgery that there was an organization called SACH. So, I looked them up on the internet and luckily soon after SACH was coming to Zambia and to the University Teaching Hospital for its first screening mission. I happened to have been among those to receive the SACH team, showing them around the hospital and I expressed my interest in training with SACH that day. We were waiting to hear what kind of agreement would be forged between SACH and the Zambian Ministry of Health. Following the mission they signed a MOU that included a promise to both treat children and train doctors. At that time, I was the only surgeon who had finished general surgery with an interest in cardiac surgery at the hospital.
8. Why did you decide to pursue this program with Save a Child’s Heart?
Firstly, I was glad to have the opportunity to train with SACH and having seen the activities of SACH online, it was something that I was looking forward to experiencing.
9. What is the status of pediatric care and/or your specialty in your home country?
Zambia is a country of about 18 million people, without a single pediatric cardiac surgeon. Options for training in the specialty remain outside of the country. And options for care are limited to medical missions and treatment abroad at prohibitive costs. We currently have an adult cardiac surgeon who has begun doing some pediatric cases. Our waiting list is 150 patients long - 100 congenital cases and about 50 acquired cases. Approximately 30 are treated by visiting teams from Italy and Japan each year. Our center has three pediatric cardiologists who all completed their training abroad. The country has two more pediatric cardiologists in the Copperbelt province.
10. What motivates you to train and return to your home country to practice medicine?
I love my country and I want to help my people. Because I see that there is a lot that we can do for our country.
11. How long is your training in Israel for?
My training is a total of five years in Israel. Recently, due to border closures I had to pause my training for three months, while awaiting the opportunity to re-enter Israel. I now have three and a half years left in my training period.
12. What experiences have you had so far with Save a Child’s Heart have stuck out to you - can you share a story?
The thing that sticks out in my mind was the surgery for Yasmin, when she was going in for her final surgery. We thought she would die on the table, but she survived. That really touched me. It’s something you can see the results of there and then.
13. How did you prepare to travel to Israel?
I had to get leave from my government and the usual passport work. It was not easy to think of being away for such a long time, but I had to do it.
14. What were your first impressions of Israel?
Prior to coming here my first thought was that this is a country that is at war. Now I see Israel as a very friendly, very peaceful country, and completely different from my initial impression.
15. What did/do you miss most about your home life/country?
I miss my wife and my family. I miss Nshima, but this time we came with all of the ingredients to cook it.
16. What is your hope for the future?
My hope is that we can establish pediatric cardiac services and we should no longer have a waiting list for Zambian children. I hope to help out our neighboring countries as well. I hope that we can have a center of excellence, where our neighboring countries can come to seek care as well. And I hope we can make it the best center that we can.