Posted on 3 May, 2016

As a young boy growing up in Moshi, Kilimanjaro, Godwin Sharau wanted to become a doctor like his dad.


Now, he is Tanzania’s first paediatric cardiac surgeon, a key part of a team developing the first cardiac service in Tanzania, a country that currently boasts 45 million people.

“I haven’t had time to think about it (developing the service), because things are moving so fast and to be honest we are stressed with the amount of patients we have,” Dr Sharau says.

“I cannot sit down and wonder if we are happy with what we are doing, because every day it feels like we are managing crisis’.

“Maybe a few years laterI can look back and say it was a great experience, I did something remarkable.

“At the moment it does feels stressful … but the fact I am doing something I love is motivation enough.”

The Open Heart International team dedicated its third trip to Tanzania to advance the training of Dr Sharau, as well as anaesthetist Onesmo Mhewa, and cardiologist Naizihiiwa Mnong’one- and their large team of nurses and other support staff.

This talented team has already independently done 90 paediatric cardiac cases in the last year, in addition to operating with other visiting teams. Their results have been very impressive.


Dr Sharau says the week at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute, exceeded their expectations.

“We were looking into improving our service, especially with patients withTetralogy of Fallot as well as AV canal repairs and what turned out was that we did just that and a little bit more,” he says.

“The technique I was taught by Dr David Andrews this week on how to open the obstructed right ventricle is a technique, to be honest, in my training I have never seen before.”

Dr Sharau admits he was having difficulties with these types of procedures before, but feels better trained and more confident he can better help patients with these conditions.

“That was a little bit worrying for me because I wanted to do it well,” he says.

“But now we are better equipped to handle that procedure.”

The current cardiology service at the Muhimbili National Hospital, which opened in 2015, corrects about three to four patients’ hearts a week.

“The most important thing is we have already started (a service), and once you start it is the little things that you can change to make it better,” he says.

“We have learnt a few differences from Open Heart International in terms of surgery, anaesthesia, and the ICU.

“In my opinion they are the small things that will make the big difference in the future and for every mission that you are here, I get something new.

Dr Sharau hopes the program continues to travel to Tanzania for years to continue to add to his service training.

“When you think you know something well and you continue to practice yourself, then five years down the road you find out you are five years behind the rest of the world,” he says.

“Not only are we gaining skills, but also in the future a very nice platform for us to exchange ideas and ask; ‘How are you doing this in Australia?’

“We still have a long way to go before I could say ok we can do these things ourselves, but even after that I don’t think it is safe to be closed out of the loop so I want to continue to collaborate.

“When are you coming back?”

Open Heart International will return to Tanzania, Dar es Salaam in November this year.


Tags:  East Africa,