GAMECHANGERS : MALONE MUKWENDE

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Malone Mukwende is a Zimbabwean-born medical student at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London; he recently completed his second year.

This month he made national and international headlines after releasing the clinical handbook Mind The Gap with his co-authors. He penned the manual after recognising that there was no clinical teaching on signs of illness in black or brown skins. The publication has been lauded as one that ‘decolonizes the medical curriculum’ and Baroness Thornton paid tribute to his ground-breaking move in the House of Lords on 14 July 2020 as they debated ethnic diversity in medical education and learning.

Outside of medicine, Malone is a keen fashion enthusiast and photographer, and some of his images have even been published in Vogue Italia.

by
Rhoda Molife
rhoda@houseofmutapa.com

Malone, we were so excited to see the news about how you are literally changing the face of medicine. Welcome to House of Mutapa!

Hi! Thank you for featuring me in this brilliant magazine.

Tell us about Mind the Gap – how did you land on the idea?

So I’ve created this hand book about the signs and symptoms of diseases as they appear on black and brown skin. I’m hoping that this resource can shift the culture of medical education here in the UK.

When I started medical school, I noticed the lack of teaching about darker skins. We were often being taught to look for symptoms such as red rashes. I knew that I would never see a red rash on my own skin. When I flagged this to my tutors it was clear that they didn’t know of any other way to describe these conditions and I knew then that I had to make a
change to that. After extensive discussions with peer tutors and lecturers, it was clear there was a major gap in medical education and a lot of the time I was being told to go and look for the answers myself.

I then undertook a staff-student partnership at my university with two lecturers, Margot Turner and Peter Tamony, who helped me to create Mind the Gap.

How long did it take to get here?

So we started production of the work in October 2019.

And is it a textbook?

Yes, it is. We are currently working on publishing and how to distribute it.

How do you want to see it used?

I’d like to see it in all medical institutions, worldwide, from GP practices, hospitals and healthcare libraries around the world. Mind the Gap should be the staple go-to resource to help clinicians educate themselves on how things may appear in people with darker skins.

The reception as been…

Incredible! My social media posts have amassed over three million views and I have featured on news platforms such as Sky News, ITV News, BBC World, the British Medical Journal and Medscape in the US. I’m constantly bombarded with messages and notifications on my phone. It truly is a blessing to know this many people care about the work that I’m doing.

“It is important that we as future healthcare professional are aware of these differences so that we don’t compromise our care for certain groups.”

Let’s talk a bit more about the mind and the person behind this great initiative! So, you were born in Zimbabwe? Where?

Yes, I was, in Harare. I came to the UK after my 2nd birthday but we visit Zimbabwe from time to time

And a bit about your family?

I come from a big family. I mean really big and I honestly don’t know exactly how many we are. We definitely exceed 100. In my immediate family it’s two of us and my parents… and none are doctors.

Would you say there is something unique about a young British-Zimbabwean’s experience that’s different to that of other British Africans? Any similarities?

I don’t think I can say that we are part of the Black British generation. There is almost a sense of estrangement because we are too ‘Zim’ for the British and too British for the Zims. We occupy this unique space, but I cannot yet put a name to that space.

I hear you are a keen photographer and a mad fashion lover! And your photography has been published?

Yes so, my work has been featured in Vogue Italia’s online submission form Photo Vogue. I’ve now had five pictures featured on the service and for me that’s incredible because I’ve only been doing photography for about seven months. I hope to get more features in the future though.

The medical school experience so far has been…

… An interesting experience… an interesting love and hate journey! There are aspects of the course which I really enjoy and others that are not so great. Overall though it’s been good. It has helped me to develop as a person. The complexities of the course have taught me some very important life lessons, especially resilience.

What was the inspiration to do medicine?

Just knowing I could be in a position where I could change people’s lives is powerful. I want to help as many people as possible with my knowledge.

What are you enjoying the most right now?

Well I’m enjoying the reception the work has received. It’s been so necessary to address this issue and it’s great to see that the world is waking up to some of the cracks in the system. I want to continue to enjoy this work for many more years to come as we drive a shift in medical education systems.

What future do you see for yourself?

I have a wide range of goals that I would like to fulfil. However what’s most imperative – the most important goal of mine is to remain happy. A happy mind is where great things stem from and with this foundation in place, I believe I can achieve the unachievable.

Some words of advice to anyone who wants to be the change they want to see?

You are never too small to make a change. The best time to start was yesterday!

Follow Malone here:
Twitter: @Malone_mk
LinkedIn: Malone Mukwende

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