She loved being with children from a tender and she seems to have made up her mind to live her whole life for them. Her love for children is actually the reason she took up a career that puts her in frequent contact with them, especially when they are unwell. That is the secret behind Dr Ethwako Phiri’s medical career, who currently serves as registrar in Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Paediatrics Department. EW had a chat with her. Excerpts:
Who is Dr Ethwako Phiri?
Ethwako Phiri (née Mlia) was born on June 25 1985 to late Gerald and Verah Mlia. I am the third and last born child. I come from Ntaja Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Kawinga, in Machinga. I am married to Aonenji Phiri, with whom I have a son, Tsidkenu. Currently, I work as a registrar in the Paedriatrics Department at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
What sort of upbringing did you have?
I grew up in Blantyre. As we were growing up, my parents always told us to put God first in everything we do and to always work hard in everything. They also taught us to always value family.
Share with me your education background
I started my primary school education at Dharap (now Namiwawa) Primary School till Standard 4 when I went to Mount View Primary School. After that, I went to Kamuzu Academy where I did up to A Level. For tertiary education, I went to University of Malawi’s College of Medicine and graduated with a bachelor of medicine bachelor of surgery (MBBS) in 2008. I am currently pursuing a masters of medicine in paediatrics.
Your career progression?
After my graduation, I did my internship for two years at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (Qech) before going to Mangochi where after a few months I became the district medical officer for a year and later became the District Health Officer from December 2011 to May 2014.
What does it entail to be registrar in paediatrics?
Well, it is working while doing school. We are responsible for seeing patients; both inpatients and outpatients. Apart from that, we also have teachings. To give an example of my day, we have a handover meeting between 8am to 9am. After that, we do ward rounds where we see and discuss patients’ cases with consultants. In the afternoon, we review cases of serious patients and hand them over to the team on call for night shift.
You graduated at 23. What is it like being a doctor at such a young age?
The most challenging part is just that after graduation, when we go to the district where we are given big responsibilities. So, it sometimes becomes overwhelming, but at the same time enjoyable. You learn a lot of interesting medical and non-medical things. You also learn to work with people in other fields.
What do you like about your job?
Everything! Just being able to help the children brings so much joy.
Have you always wanted a career in medicine?
Yes. College of Medicine was the only college I applied to.
Why did you opt for a career in paediatric medicine?
I am good with children and I love being around them. So, that and my passion to help the needy influenced my career choice.
Who is your source of inspiration?
My family—my husband, my mother and my siblings.
What would you advise girls who want to venture into medicine?
To everyone out there who wants to study medicine, my advice is simple: Do it because you want to, not because someone is telling you to do it. If it is really what you want, then go for it.
What challenges do you face in your daily duties?
Well, the usual lack of resources. Working in a hospital with limited resources can be frustrating at times, but knowing you did the best you could with few resources keeps me going.
I am hoping that after doing my masters degree, I will sub-specialise. It will probably be in paediatric neonatology.
One of the best days of my life is November 14 2014, when my son, Tsidkenu, was born. The saddest is when my father died, on September 3 2011.
How do you spend your free time?
Chatting with family and friends.
Spare ribs served with chips
I would like others to a grab a tip from what my parents taught me that when you put God first in everything you do, everything falls in line.