Dr Unami Mulale: the childcare pacesetter

27th October 2017
Dr Unami Mulale Source:The Midweek Sun

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By Sun Reporter - Reporter


For Dr Unami Mulale, the definition of a good day is relative to the condition of her patients, and a bad day is usually too hard to describe. She chats with Rachel Raditsebe about her passion for life, medicine and caring for critically ill children. Tell us a little about yourself;

My name is Unami Mulale and I love children. I want to be a child when I grow up, actually. I was born in Mahalapye to a Kalanga dad and a Ngwato mom who have not only been the best parents to me, but are also the reason I am who I’ve become. My father preached education as a path to a better life and my mother modeled grace and humility. At my father’s insistence, I became a doctor and eventually a Pediatrician. I am also a writer and dabble in the creative.

What does your job entail?

I am a Pediatric Intensivist, or Pediatric Critical Care Specialist (the only one in Botswana) and a lecturer at the University of Botswana. What that means is I treat critically ill children, and I am often a bridge back to life or a transition to death. I am the doctor for the sickest children in the hospital. As a lecturer, I teach young doctors and students how to doctor.

What is your typical day like?

I wake up early and drop the kids off at school. They read in the car on our way, which is a treat. After that I head straight to Princess Marina Hospital and I head to the ICU to examine my patients and intervene accordingly.

I attend the morning departmental meeting where we discuss all admissions from the night shift and have a lecture. Then I teach and care for all sick children say till knockoff time. I often cook with the kids and run around playing mom. You are the only Paediatric Critical Care Specialist in Botswana. How is it?

Pediatric Critical Care can be the most rewarding and most depressing work. It is rewarding because when children live, we all live. It is an incredible feeling to reunite a child with their family when they are healthier.

It’s the most horrible feeling to lose a child. I cannot begin to describe the sheer gravity of the burden that it is to treat these kids, and be the only person in the country trained to treat children at this capacity.

Why did you choose this specialty? I chose Pediatric Critical Care because I felt as though too many Batswana children live and die by chance. It shouldn’t be so. The vast majority of pediatric deaths in Botswana occur from communicable disease or preventable causes, and we should do all we can at every level of medicine to address this.

How do you handle workload stress and emergency situations?

I’m not sure I am handling anything. I simply breathe through the moments when it’s hard and remember that I am doing my best. I pray a lot and vent with loved ones who are able to lend me an ear and a shoulder to lean on. Oh, and wine.

What would you say are your weaknesses and strengths?

My weakness and my strength are the same: I care. The work consumes me and it’s a double-edged sword. I want parents to know that their child was cared for regardless of the outcome, but there must be some emotional separation to achieve professionalism. I suck at maintaining balance. I can’t help but care.

Describe your successful accomplishments.

Hmmm… What is success? If I get to have a clear conscience and smile every day then I am successful. That’s it. But some will say my successes are being the first Motswana Pediatric Intensivist, studying Pediatric Global Health at Harvard, and living on four different continents. 

What has been your biggest challenge in the medical field?

My biggest challenge in medicine is that lives are not viewed as equal. Where you are born, who you are born to, how you are born, and a multitude of other factors often dictate whether you have access to healthcare, and the quality of that access. This is true all across the world, and it is the greatest barrier to medical treatment.

What would you say are the major challenges in our health system?

I am not sure what the major challenges are to our healthcare, but I know that for as long as some people are ‘more equal than others’, there will always be someone left out from accessing services that are available.

What drives you?

My faith drives me. I have a deep seated belief that I was created to do what I do on a daily basis. I am purposed for this work at this time, so for now I am settling for being a Pediatric Intensivist. It’s the season my life is in.

What advice would you give young women who want to join medicine?

If you know why you want to work in the healthcare field, you will do great things. Certainly, there will be death and all manner of emotional turmoil, but if you know WHY you started in the first place, that will be your anchor and you will weather it all and make a great contribution to society.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Motherhood is what I enjoy the most about my work. I view every patient as my child, and what I do for them is what I would want done for my own children. I get to partner with mothers and parents in general in making children better. Bana ba rona. Our children matter. What are your future plans? To keep smiling and living my best life.

 

 




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