Salute to Zambia’s first female neurosurgeon

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AFTER several years of study, resilience and endurance Misozi Miti has become the first female neurosurgeon in Zambia, adding to the scarce numbers of specialists in her field in the country.

Dr. Miti believes her accomplishment as a milestone for inspiring young women to pursue challenging medical specialties.

“I feel this accomplishment is going to help a lot of young ladies in that most young ladies try to choose specialties which are easy because there is this bias towards specialties which we feel they are more lady friendly.”

“People feel certain specialties are just for men. And for sure neurosurgery is not an easy field, it is somehow not friendly for ladies but I mean if you are determined, you are committed and you decided this is what you want to do and you have no plans of backing out, you can achieve anything,” Dr Miti told Kalemba in an interview.

What started as primary school dream to help the sick in society has materialised into reality after 19 years of pursuing higher education.

Dr Miti, the new hero in town, began her pursuit of becoming a medical doctor at the University of Zambia in 2005, however, like all great journeys, the road was not that smooth due to a couple of challenges.

After spending a year at the University she did not make the grades required to continue pursuing medicine, so she settled for another programme.

“I didn’t manage to get into med quarter. So I ended up doing a different programme, which was genetics and molecular biology,” she said

“Upon finishing genetics and molecular biology, I still knew I still had to go back and do medicine. So I went back immediately after we got our results. I reapplied.”

She went on to get two other degrees and later shot for neurosurgery as a specialty.

Some people may begin to wonder what a neurosurgeon is, well let us save you the trouble of googling, a Neurosurgeon is medical doctor specialised in brain surgery.

If you know how important the brain is, it will give you a glimpse of how important Dr Miti’s specialty is.

According to Dr Miti, there were only 12 neurosurgeons in Zambia and she became number 13 at the just the age of 38.

Dr. Miti emphasized the need for more neurosurgeons in Zambia to address critical cases promptly.

“So I think I would want a situation where I see to it, or I contribute to the numbers that are needed for the neurosurgeons,” said Dr Miti.

Whilst at UNZA main campus, Dr. Miti fell in love with the brain and all the intricacies involved. This fascination evolved into a passion for neurosurgery, a field that, at the time, seemed like a distant dream for her due to the absence of a training programme in Zambia.

However, in 2018, a programme was launched under Zambia College of Medicine and Surgery (ZACOMS). And like a fish at the sight of bait she got hooked and went for it.

“I think if it wasn’t for this training program being introduced in Zambia, most of the specialists that we are having now wouldn’t be here,” she added.

What is inspiring about Dr Miti’s journey is how she juggled motherhood, work, marriage and studies.

At the time of her studies, she was also raising three children and had a husband who needed attention as well.

She told Kalemba that it was not an easy undertaking as it was full of ups and down but thanked her husband, Jimmy Lufungulo for being an understanding man.

“I haven’t been 100 percent present for my children. I have had to rely so much on the fact that I am married to a good man.”

“But when I am available, I make up (for the lost time). That’s my rule. when I am available, I make sure I
support my kids (and) I spend all the time I can with them,” said Dr Miti.

Dr Miti further thanked God for excelling in her field.

However, she added that being a neurosurgeon was demanding and at times emotionally draining and took up more of her time as at times a surgery could even last up to 19 hours.

“At times you cry because you’ve lost a patient who you spent over hours operating and who you thought this one would do well. But as you know the brain is very complex and the way the brain heals is quite different from the way other organs heal,” Dr Miti remarked.

“So it’s quite mentally challenging and emotionally challenging. My weakness mainly is I fall in love with my patients. I mainly make them my friends. I get very close to them. So I regard every patient as my friend. It’s very personal to me.”

Meanwhile Dr Miti said being the only female in the neurosurgery programme posed its own set of challenges.

Dr. Miti acknowledged the gender biases and the demanding nature of the field but emphasized the importance of determination and commitment.

She encouraged young ladies to pursue their dreams and challenged gender biases in medical fields.

Dr Miti believes, Her accomplishment not only marks a personal triumph but serves as an inspiration for young women to challenge stereotypes and enter demanding medical specialties.

“My advice to the young ladies is that you can do anything in this life,” she added.

“it’s possible to be a lady surgeon the most important thing is to stay focused on the dream ,be ready to work hard and stay committed to the dream,” Dr Miti emphasized.

Looking ahead, Dr. Miti expressed her commitment to neurosurgery, considering potential specializations in pediatric or vascular neurosurgery.

Her ultimate goal, however, remains hands-on involvement in surgeries, contributing to the improvement of neurosurgical services in Zambia.

Dr Miti thanked ZACOMS and her teachers for making neurosurgical training accessible in Zambia.

“My thanks to the directors of the specialist training program ZACOMS, the director of the neurosurgery training programme Dr Kachinga Sichizya, professor Chikoya Lastone , Dr Humphrey Kunda, and all my other teachers in the programme.” expressed Dr Miti.

Dr. Misozi Miti’s remarkable journey serves as a beacon of inspiration, breaking barriers and paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive landscape in the field of neurosurgery in Zambia.

By Moses Makwaya

Kalemba January 15, 2024

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