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Unam School of Medicine: A Namibian success story

2022-03-18  Paheja Siririka

Unam School of Medicine: A Namibian success story

Having struggled for years with a critical shortage of doctors, Namibia established the University of Namibia’s School of Medicine, which welcomed its first intake of students in 2010. The school, a Namibian success story, has produced 400 medical doctors and four specialist anaesthetists since its establishment.

Situated at the Hage Geingob campus in Windhoek, the school offers a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery undergraduate degree (MBChB) and a post-graduate (MMed degree) in Anaesthesiology.

“The School strives to deliver excellence in medical education and produce competent doctors who can respond to the healthcare needs of the Namibian people and are advocates for the poor, underserved and marginalised in our society,” said associate dean, Dr Felicia Christians.

Overall, the campus has the School of Allied Health Science, Dentistry, Nursing and Public Health, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine as well as the School of Medicine.

The head of the faculty is the Executive Dean, Professor Judith Hall. The six Schools are all headed by Associate Deans.

Christians added: “We expect our students to display high levels of professional integrity, empathy, compassion and commitment as future healthcare providers. We plan to introduce more MMed courses in the future and train more specialists locally in the various fields.” 

The School of Medicine is well-placed within the Faculty of Health Sciences and Veterinary Medicine to become a centre of excellence in research, education and clinical training that is locally relevant and globally competitive.  Christians said the School also endeavours to strategically work together with the rest of the faculty towards financial sustainability. “The annual intake of first-year medical students is 70. This number is determined and set by the Medical and Dental Council of Namibia. We currently have around 500 medical students in the school,” she stated.

The School of Medicine employs around 60 full-time academic staff, but also uses the services of part-time lecturers and clinicians.

Christians said the team would like the School of Medicine to become a centre of excellence in education, clinical training and research that is cutting- edge, locally relevant and globally competitive. 

“We also strategically work towards financial stability and self-sustainability through our under- and postgraduate programmes, continuous professional development activities, and healthcare delivery through the Unam Health Centre,” she continued.

Additionally, the school has several PhD and Master’s programmes: PhD in Medicine and PhD in Medical Microbiology. Master’s programmes are MSc in Anatomy and MSc in Medical Microbiology.

Class of 2018 graduate and medical doctor Esperance Luvindao said the school has excelled at grooming skilled, qualified doctors who can serve their communities.

“During medical school, we all thought that they just hated us. But when it’s just you and that patient in that emergency room, and whether their family has a funeral that weekend or not depends on you, you realise just how important your training and skills are,” stated Luvindao, who is stationed at the Khomas Medical Centre.

She added: “People think I am biased when I talk about the Unam School of Medicine, which isn’t the case. The fact is that any medical school is what can make or break you as a competent doctor. It’s the first exposure that any student gets to their future profession.”

Luvindao said the Unam School of Medicine was a foundation that has led to many opportunities for her. “I understand that medicine is about so much more than just me. It’s about the people. They played a crucial role in helping me identify that passion,” she added. The health advocate and humanitarian award winner graduated from the University of Namibia’s School Of Medicine, with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree.

Her work is far beyond the theatre as Luvindao worked in northern Namibia (Onandjokwe Hospital), where she witnessed first-hand the long distances that patients travel to access medical care.  The tricenarian is a stern advocate for equitable medical care for poor, less privileged and marginalised communities. Another Unam School of Medicine product and one of the first to graduate in 2016 is Dr Theo Ben Kandetu, who said ever since he can recall, he always wanted to become a medical doctor. “From my early adolescent years, I was fascinated by the human body, and how it functions. The Unam School of Medicine allowed me to pursue my dream of becoming a medical doctor, with the added advantage of being home-grown,” said Kandetu, who is Namibia’s Health Attaché to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland. He said: “As one of the pioneers of the Unam School of Medicine, I benefited from training in the unique climate of Namibia’s public health sector, which provided me with a wide perspective on Namibia’s health architecture and the stark inequalities and inequities that erode it.” 

Kandetu said this fuelled his passion to be part of a generation of home-grown medical doctors who not only appreciate how these inequalities and inequities impede access to quality health services to communities that need it the most, but who are in a position to do something about it. “Thanks to the quality of training I received as a pioneer of the Unam School of Medicine, I am now doing my part to transform Namibia’s health architecture to achieve universal health coverage,” he stated.

2022-03-18  Paheja Siririka

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