What is your name and how old are you?
My name is Musa Kalembe Lwara and I’m 37 years old from Lusaka, Zambia.
What was your childhood like?
I was raised by my grandparents while my mother was studying education at the University of Zambia.
After giving birth to me, my mother got remarried to someone else. I never met my biological father, which is common in Africa, but it always held great significance for me. When my mother remarried, she left me with my grandparents. I took on my grandfather's last name, Lwara, as he considered me one of his own children. Growing up, I had many cousins, and my grandparents welcomed all of us into their home. It was an enjoyable household, with 10-15 children living together as friends. My grandparents managed to provide food and education for all of us.
When I completed the 8th grade, my grandfather retired, and I moved in with my uncle, who had recently graduated from university.
I successfully passed my exams in the 9th grade and earned a spot at the best boarding school in the country. I was selected for the national technical high school, and I was ecstatic because I had performed well. Although I wasn't sure what I wanted to become, I knew that passing my exams in school was crucial for finding a way out. I used to wonder where I would be if I didn't succeed. The school became my only pathway to escape, aside from possibly becoming a rockstar. I stayed at that school for three years until the 12th grade, achieving good grades. Consequently, I gained admission to the country's most esteemed educational institution, the University of Zambia. Due to my excellent grades, the government sponsored my education, covering all expenses.
How did you decide to go to medical school?
I chose to pursue a career in medicine because the government offered unlimited financial support for my education. Additionally, I had a strong talent for chemistry and biology, excelled in retaining information, and genuinely enjoyed working with children. Throughout my childhood, I had a natural ability to connect with kids, bringing laughter and smiles to their faces. It occurred to me that perhaps I could extend this talent to healing them as well. This realization solidified my decision to pursue medicine as my chosen path.
What did you do after medical school?
In 2012, after completing my seventh year of schooling, I graduated from medical school. Following that, I undertook a 2.5-year internship in Livingston, Zambia. Subsequently, I assumed the role of the sole doctor and medical officer in charge at St. Margaret's Mission Hospital, located in a rural area of Zambia. Despite the limited resources, I performed numerous surgeries with the bare essentials. I was on duty around the clock, working tirelessly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a general practitioner, my primary focus was in the operating room.
Fortunately, I received a promotion to become the district health director, transitioning from clinical work to administrative responsibilities. At the age of 30, I became a government employee and was provided with a government car. In 2017, I enrolled in a post-graduate program in pediatrics and children's health, sponsored by the Zambian government. This four-year program culminated in successfully passing the examination to become a certified pediatrician.
I started my work as a specialist in pediatric and child health at Mansa General Hospital. In this capacity, I encountered numerous children suffering from malaria. It was during this time that I received a phone call from the Head of Clinical Care at the National Heart Hospital (NHH), who introduced the idea of pursuing a fellowship program in cardiology as an intensivist. This particular program was offered in Israel. Eager to contribute to my country and faced with my wife's departure for a fellowship in China, I decided to pursue the opportunity. I promptly began completing the necessary paperwork. Dr. Ziwa contacted me, expressing the need for someone to join their team and complete the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) program. I readily agreed to join the program.
How did it feel to first come to Israel?
When I arrived in Israel, it marked my first experience of boarding an airplane, among many other "firsts" for me. Working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) has proven to be incredibly fulfilling because children exhibit distinct characteristics compared to adults. They possess an incredible resilience and bounce back remarkably quickly. Witnessing their recovery process is truly astounding. Despite being critically ill and connected to various medical devices, it's astonishing to see them play and smile the very next day.
How does it feel to be in Israel for 2.5 years?
I view my current situation from two distinct perspectives. On one hand, being away from my family for such an extended period poses its challenges. However, on the other hand, I recognize the invaluable opportunity I have been afforded to gain knowledge and immerse myself in the Western world. Each day brings new learning experiences, contributing to my personal growth and evolution as an individual.
What motivates you to train in Israel?
During the past six months since my arrival in the ICU, I have been fortunate to witness a remarkable trend: not a single mortality, not one death. Children who arrived in an extremely critical condition have made astonishing recoveries, and I'm thrilled to say that every patient I have encountered in the past six months has been able to return home. This constant stream of positive outcomes motivates me immensely and fuels my passion for my work.
What sets this experience apart from my medical school days back home is the practicality of it all. Previously, much of my learning was confined to theoretical knowledge. I would memorize information and pass exams, but I rarely had the opportunity to see certain machines or technologies in action or experience them firsthand. Now, in the PICU, I have the privilege of witnessing and utilizing a wide array of machines and cutting-edge technology. When faced with a question of what course of action to take, I am equipped with a multitude of options and have access to all the necessary machinery. This comprehensive exposure has provided me with a holistic understanding of medicine and made me feel like a well-rounded and complete physician.
What do people think back home about you being here?
It often confuses many people when they find out that I am in Israel. They ask, "How did you end up there?" rather than questioning why I chose to be here. My family, specifically my aunt and uncle, take great pride in my achievements. They have witnessed my journey and are immensely proud of what I have accomplished, which I can see in their eyes. Unfortunately, my mother had three sisters, and all of them have passed away except for one. In addition to that, my mother herself passed away when I was in 9th grade, just a few months before my exam results were announced.
Did you have any thoughts about coming to Israel before you arrived?
I was aware of the existence of this place, but I never imagined that I would actually come here. My knowledge was limited to a religious context, not in terms of its advanced medical capabilities. People would often offer words of caution, advising me to stay safe and be cautious when visiting.
What is your hope for the future?
My hope is that we successfully set up the cardiac team and we can start transferring knowledge to the local team on the ground in Zambia. I hope to grow the team and manage cases locally. I hope the program in Zambia at the NHH can get to the level of international standards in terms of pediatric cardiac care. I hope to maintain my strong ties with SACH and eventually expand services to other facilities.
Where will you work when you return home?
The National Heart Hospital (NHH).
Anything else you’d like to say about SACH or anything else you think I’ve missed about your story?
The mission undertaken by SACH is of immense significance and should not be taken lightly. Their work extends beyond just treating the children who come to Israel. The core focus lies in transferring skills and advancing healthcare facilities in Africa. For instance, in Tanzania, they have successfully established a fully functioning team, and my determination is to achieve the same in Zambia. SACH's cause is noble and commendable. It is an organization that brings about life-changing opportunities, not only for the children but also for the families who are given a second chance at life.
The impact of SACH reaches far and wide, influencing the future leaders and medical professionals of nations. Its effects span across various categories and will continue to be seen in the years to come. It has become a song on the lips of many - SACH, SACH, SACH - a testament to the gratitude felt by countless individuals. Words alone cannot adequately express the magnitude of what this organization accomplishes. It deserves recognition on the highest scale, like putting their logo on the moon!