Leaders in Medical Education

Dr. Kasonde Bowa, Founding Dean of the Copperbelt University School of Medicine in Ndola

Thasin Jaigirdar
Jul 16, 2015

Through our partnership with the Consortium of New Southern African Medical Schools (CONSAMs), Osmosis has had the opportunity to get in touch with leaders of member schools. Our first profile is with Dr. Kasonde Bowa, the Founding Dean of the Copperbelt University School of Medicine in Ndola, Zambia. Dr. Bowa has worked for 21 years at the University of Zambia’s School of Medicine where he also served as Assistant Dean of Postgraduate Studies. His primary focus is on Urology.

How did you first become interested in medicine? Medical education?
My first interest in a career was science (being a scientist) in junior school, this moved to writing (being an Author of books) and eventually to Architecture in Secondary School. I became aware of the career of Medicine quite by accident, and always say, that I became a Doctor by accident. One of my friends in junior school was very keen on being a Surgeon. So I became aware of the field but, I was a little frightened of blood. Somewhere between High school and University I had an unusual experience. This experience, which I can only describe in the rather lame words of Christian conversion, resulted in a complete change of my interests in life as well as in my career. I realized that all my previous career interests could be achieved through a career in Medicine. I learned later that a Doctor is a scientist, a writer, and an architect. Later quite by accident again, and in fact exactly 10 years later, I had completed medical training and was thinking of a career in Surgery. So keen was I that I wanted to become the best surgeon I could ever become. The best and quickest way was to join my University on the staff as a staff trainee. So quite by accident I joined the field of medical education, so quite by accident I became a Doctor and eventually a trainer of Doctors. I have written this interesting story of my career at the request of my students. The book is called Making the Cut.

Can you share your background on how you got to where you are right now?
Well, I grew up in the country of Zambia, in a semi rural part of the country. My parents were of modest means, and initially they were both teachers. My father was ambitious about educating all of his children well and took us to the local private school, in the provincial capital of Mansa. This laid a good foundation for me and I was eventually one of the top students in my class through junior school, up till high school. I was selected to one of the top schools in my country at high school, which was called Munali secondary school. This is where the first president of Zambia had attended secondary school. I was one of the top students at matriculation and was selected to enter University at the only University in Zambia then the University of Zambia. I competed for very few medical places out of a total of 1,000 students and was one of 35 students selected to study medicine. When I completed Medical school in 1990, I was one of the top students in my class, and I was selected to join the teaching staff of the Medical school. Through this program I went for training in the United Kingdom and in the US, finally obtaining 7 degrees in Medicine and Medical specialties. In 2011 I was appointed as Associate Professor of Urology and also asked to establish the second Public Medical School in Zambia on the Copperbelt Province, which is where I work now. I am currently Professor of Urology and founding Dean of the Copperbelt University School of Medicine.

What are your goals as Dean of the Copperbelt School of Medicine? Can you describe how the school is organized and how many students & faculty you have?
My goals initially were to set up the administrative office of the Dean, to create the key departments and recruit key staff, to establish the key infrastructure and to set up the Medical training programs. Within the space of 4 years we have over 400 students, 75 staff, 3 undergraduate programs and 6 postgraduate programs. We have built key Medical school infrastructure to house 1,000 students. The School has a Dean who has administrative and academic leadership over the school. He is assisted by an Assistant Dean and other administrative staff. The School has 3 key departments of Basic Science, Dental science and Clinical Sciences. The teaching is systems based and has early exposure to clinical training.

What are 2-3 changes you would like to see in the current medical education system? Healthcare system?

Medical Education System
1. I would like to see integration between basic science training and clinical science training (vertical integration)

  1. I would like to see the basic medical sciences integrated to each other so students see more the relevance of clinical medicine rather than each specific medical science as separate field (horizontal integration)

  2. I would like student to start clinical science training (Hospital Training) immediately when they enter Medical school, without the need for a long period of Basic Science teaching (this is usually 2 years in our medical school).

  3. I would like students to spend more time in preventive health and understanding the health needs of their communities better.

Healthcare System
1. I would like to see more integration of the various professionals in the health system eg nurses, doctors, physiotherapists etc. They should work together more and learn together more.

  1. I would like the health care system to be managed more by health care professionals rather than businessmen and politicians.

  2. I would like the health care system performance to be measure more and assessed regularly.

  3. I would like to see more high quality health care monitoring and improvement based on the end user rather than other interested parties.

Do you have any final thoughts regarding the medical profession as a whole?
The medical career is a great service career. It needs a lot of young people, first of all with good minds, to tackle many emerging health problems. However over and above this it needs, young people with good hearts in order to do this well. In my experience it is easier to get people with good minds, it is less easy to get people with good hearts. The combination of the two is rare still.  If you have a good mind and a good heart, then maybe the career of medicine is looking for someone like you.