Meet first female paediatric neurosurgeon Tafadzwa Mandiwanza

Lynn Murahwa Lifestyle Correspondent

If there is anything to take away from Tafadzwa Mandiwanza’s story, it that you can achieve greatness, regardless of where you are in the world.

The world has come a long way in innovation and people have taken up the reins in multiple fields that lead advancement. Thus it has become rare to anyone to be the first to do something. Rare but not impossible. Mandiwanza is living proof that the seemingly implausible is possible.

Who would have thought that Harare born girl would one day send international headlines buzzing as the first female paediatric neurosurgeon in Ireland! Take a moment to let the significance of that sink in.

In March, Women’s Month, we would like to give a nod towards Mandiwanza’s parents, especially her mother, her source of inspiration, where the seeds of interest in medicine were sown from.

“My mum is a nurse and my dad remembers me telling him when I was three years old that I was going to be a doctor,” said Mandiwanza, chatting with the Irish Times.

An interest alone is not enough to propel one to greatness, but when it is nurtured into passion, it becomes ambition, dedication and success. ‘‘My parents fostered that ambition,” she added.

Making history does not come without a price. As a mother to three girls, Mandiwanza wishes she had more time with them but is grateful for the opportunity to be a positive role model in their lives. In a way, she is paying it forward, from her parents to her own children.

“I assuage the guilt of being a working mum by being a role model for my girls so that they can achieve whatever they want as long as they are decent human beings, she said.”

Mandiwanza’s desire to pay it forward does not end with her family alone. As one of the only two female neurosurgeons in Ireland — the other being Catherine Moran, who is an adult neurosurgeon — she would like to see more women step up to the plate.

“I don’t think I’d be in this position if I hadn’t had the mentors that I had — people who had my back and offered me advice and encouragement.

‘‘ I’d like to be available now to mentor other neuro-surgeons — particularly women coming through those long training pathways,” she added.

Life as a surgeon seems to blend well with Mandiwanza’s character, as a person who naturally likes to focus and complete precision tasks, one at a time.

“You can just focus on one thing. Every surgeon is a perfectionist. You have to be slightly obsessive, but most of us are critical of ourselves as well.”

“If things are disordered, my thought processes don’t work as well.

‘‘My family tease me about how I like everything to be tidy in the house,” she added jokingly.

Mandiwanza was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and her husband, Rebabonye Pharithi, is originally from Botswana.  The couple has lived in Ireland for 20 years and all of their children were born there.

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