International Women’s Day – 8 March 2019

Dr Rachel Mlotha-Mitole was one of the first fellows to complete her training with the African Paediatric Fellowship Programme (APFP), a specialist training programme at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.

Dr Mlotha-Mitole became the first specialist paediatrician at the Kazumu Central Hospital in Malawi and subsequently re-joined the APFP team to complete sub-specialty training in Paediatric Gastroenterology – a course that would see her become Malawi’s first-ever paediatric gastroenterologist.  She spent a further two years with the APFP, working under the supervision of Dr Elizabeth Goddard and Dr Ronalda De Lacy, caring for patients with Cystic Fibrosis at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.  These patients included Malawian children, at a time when this condition was thought to be non-existent in Malawi.

‘In Malawi, we may be missing children with Cystic Fibrosis. Throughout my training and practise, I have not seen nor heard of this diagnosis being made in Malawian children.  It was a disease for the Caucasian population.  However, there are now a significant number of children in our Cystic Fibrosis clinic of the Black African Race.

Cystic Fibrosis is an inherited condition in which the lungs and digestive system become clogged with a thick, sticky mucus – a state that causes chronic lung infections, reduced lung function, and serious metabolic complications (including diabetes). Symptoms tend to start in early childhood, but some develop soon after birth, whilst other cases do not present until early adulthood.

‘Returning home, as a paediatric gastroenterologist is a great achievement for me.  A dream realised.  For my community, it is a story of hope as I am now an advocate for child health. “

Graduating in October 2018, Dr Mlotha-Mitole is now Malawi’s first in-country Paediatric GI specialist. It is thanks to specialists like her, that we can help make sure that when cases do present, that their diagnosis is clear – and that little patients are given the best-possible care for the best-possible outcome.