First African surgeon appointed Snr Registrar
The Rhodesia Herald,
January 10, 1972
THE first African surgeon from Rhodesia to qualify as a surgeon, Mr Oliver Munyaradzi, FRCS (Glasgow and London), was appointed Senior Registrar at Harare Hospital on January 1.
Born in Gutu, the son of a now retired agricultural demonstrator, he was educated at Goromonzi Secondary School, though this was a strain on the family.
“In my time African education only started about the age of nine. So I made a late start at the medical school for non-Europeans at Durban at the age of 23. Medicine is a strenuous calling. It is better to start it early.
Now 38, Mr Munyaradzi said his medical studies were sponsored by the Federal Government “with no strings attached”.
He served his housemanship at Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo before going to London where he obtained his primary FRCS in 1969.
Paying his own way to Britain, he says the Beit Trustees declared him too old for their scholarship, he was 35 when he arrived in London.
“I had to re-orient my thinking completely. I had never dealt with white patients before. There were diseases which were different. For example, the commonest cause of intestinal obstruction in Europe is strangulated hernia. Among the African people it is likely to be caused by adhesion bands.
“Peptic ulcer is a common cause for vomiting blood in the European patient. An African in the same condition is more likely to have fibrosis of the liver.”
For six months Mr Munyaradzi supported himself from capital. He says he received no help from the Rhodesian Government to complete his surgical training nor did he ask for any.
Granted a scholarship by the British Minister of Overseas Development, when he ran out of funds, he worked at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children for several months. This inspired in him a desire to specialise in paediatric surgery.
“This means operating on those patients under the age of 12. In some cases, they can only be a few hours old.”
He said in England he learned much.
“I was exposed to a broader view of medicine. I was able to mix with doctors who were surgeons but held interests in other fields and who were qualified in other disciplines.
“I worked in places where the staff had time for individual patients. There we were able to study individual progress, not only medical improvement, but the patient’s social and personal problems as well. This is a field which we neglect here mainly because of the volume of patients and the pressure which we work.”
Mr Munyaradzi was awarded the FRCS (Glasgow) in February last year. In May he gained the London fellowship.
He said taking the double fellowship was an insurance: one did not know if one would pass both.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
Professionals in various specialist disciplines can today, reverse the brain drain challenge by acquiring skills in foreign lands and come to invest it back home.
For years, Zimbabwe has been running a Presidential Scholarship scheme aimed at according brilliant pupils the opportunity to learn, both locally and abroad, mostly in the science and technology disciplines.
Zimbabwe has also benefited from medical experts from other countries such as Cuba and China.
The economic challenges caused by the imposition of illegal sanctions in the country has led to some brain drain in all sectors.
Irvine Perkins Nyamapfene is a Zimbabwean born award-winning engineer based in the United Kingdom. Nyamapfene led the groundbreaking project that created the first electric buses in London.
United States-based Zimbabwean scientist Dr Tatenda Shopera made history by being part of a team that was directly involved in the development of the world’s first Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by US drug firm, Pfizer, where he is the principal scientist.
National hero Dr Munyaradzi was Minister of Health in the First Republic in 1980.