Posted on 26 April, 2016

As a child growing up in Iringa, Tanzania, Onesmo Mhewa spent most of his time in hospital sick with malaria.


Spending a lot of time in hospital meant he became close friends with the doctors and soon wanted to become one of them.

“That is the only thing I thought of; I wanted to be a doctor,” Dr Mhewa said.

“My elder siblings were in school and I would ask them what should I study to be a doctor and they said I had to be good in science and in maths and so I made sure I was.”

Dr Mhewa was one of three medical professionals from Tanzania who travelled to Rwanda to join Open Heart International’s surgical mission.

He and his colleagues, paediatric Surgeon Godwin Sharau, and cardiologist Naizihiiwa Mnong’one, will host the team for their second East African mission in Tanzania this week.


The Tanzanians work at Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute at the Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam.

“I found out about Open Heart International through Dr Godwin who was interested in working with me so he introduced me to them,” Dr Mhewa, who is also a paediatric Anaesthetist and Intensivist, said.

“I think a lot of things about Open Heart International; they are easy to work with, they train us, they are friends with us and I only have good words about them.”

The main reason the Tanzanian doctors travelled to Rwanda was to gain further medical experience as well as learn from the other volunteers.

“Open Heart International listen to our problems and look at where our weaknesses are and try to rectify them,” Dr Mhewa said.

“We have weaknesses in intensive care where we do not have a dedicated person who is in charge.

“(Open Heart International) have been very helpful and I am looking forward to working with them more in Tanzania.”

Dr Mhewa explained some of the other issues with the Tanzanian healthcare system includes having adequate trained staff.

“Right now we have only a few Anaesthetists, which means for me I have to cover the operation room as well as the Intensive Care Unit, which is a big challenge,” he said.

“We have other challenges such as postponed surgeries because we do not have enough blood or consumables.”

Dr Mhewa said the reward of working with children was what continued to motivate him.

“I enjoy working with kids because you spend time with them when they are sick and when they get better it is inspiring,” he said.

His personal long-term goal is to become an expert in his field.

“I want to be comfortable with whatever comes to me,” he said.

“I hope we can become sustainable so we do not rely too much on outside help.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity.”


Tags:  East Africa,