Zimbabwean medical student finds mentorship in China

Tawanda Mupini
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Top right: Tawanda Mupini (back) participated in a thyroid surgery at Zhongshan Hospital in Shanghai on Aug 18, 2023. Above: Mupini posed for a photo in front of Zhongshan Hospital. CHINA DAILY

I have always known that I wanted to be a doctor. As a young child, I found joy in nursing our sick farm animals back to health, driven not by duty but by a genuine wish to help those in need. My father once told me that the greatest gift I can offer to someone is love, which is demonstrated through empathy, patience, and care.

When I embarked on my medical journey at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, these became the principles that I set for myself. My goal was clear: to become a doctor who not only heals the body but also eases the burdens of the mind.

Upon completing my theoretical studies at Fudan in the spring of 2023, I immediately immersed myself in practical learning at Zhongshan Hospital, where I rotated through various departments, each one offering unique insights into the art of medicine. However, it was during my time in the orthopedics department that I encountered a mentor whose approach to patient care has left an indelible mark on me.

The first time I met my supervising doctor, he took me to his outpatient office where I observed him as he talked to the patients. He listened intently, nodding with understanding, and providing a respectful silence for patients to express themselves. As they left his office, the gratitude and smiles expressed by the patients made me instantly realize that he is the kind of doctor I aspire to become one day.

Although he tends to so many patients every day, my mentor demonstrated an unwavering commitment to understanding and addressing the needs of those under his care. He made me see that one of our biggest jobs as doctors is to make patients feel heard and respected and to know that their well-being is our utmost priority. If he could do it, then I could too.

Every day of my internship brings unexpected moments, each with the potential to profoundly shape my life.

One such moment occurred during a routine morning hospital round with my mentor. We encountered an elderly patient from Anhui province, suffering from a complex leg fracture. It was evident that he was in considerable pain, although he tried to hide it for the sake of his daughter, who was by his bedside.

My mentor's response was both clinical and compassionate. Though he needed to ensure effective management of the patient's pain as soon as possible, he still examined the leg gently, taking the necessary time and not rushing. He also cared enough to provide reassurance and comfort to the patient's daughter, understanding that seeing her father in agonizing pain was distressing for her.

This experience has left a lasting impression on me and reinforced my belief in the importance of treating patients with not only medical expertise but also kindness and compassion.

I came to China with a specific vision of the type of doctor I aspired to be. During my internship, being able to follow and observe skilled and kind doctors, like my mentor, was a privilege. It allowed me to witness both their outstanding work firsthand and their genuine empathy toward patients and their families.

After completing my rotation in orthopedics, I started to apply the knowledge and skills I gained across various departments. Despite my limited fluency in Chinese, I have taken the initiative to engage in conversations with patients while attending to their wound dressing and monitoring their blood sugar and pressure. This simple gesture brought them joy and elicited heartfelt expressions of gratitude, leaving me deeply fulfilled. I have also exerted my efforts to connect with their families, offering support to the best of my ability.

One special encounter in the cardiology department stands out in my memory. A vibrant 95-year-old patient shared her life stories with me as I administered her ECG. Our bond grew over subsequent conversations, and I made it a habit to check on her regularly, even during my night shifts. Despite having four children, she took pride in her energy and zest at 95, sharing the joy of remaining as lively as ever. She even took the time to teach me a bit of Shanghainese, which I was thrilled to learn. When she was discharged, she made a special effort to bid me farewell and express her gratitude, which really made my day.

I deeply appreciate the opportunities that China has provided me to observe exemplary medical practice and to learn from compassionate and skilled doctors. Their guidance has reinforced the values instilled in me by my father — empathy, patience, and care — and shaped my journey as a future doctor.

Written by Tawanda Mupini, a 26-year-old Zimbabwean, who has been residing in China since 2016.He pursued a bachelor's degree in medicine at Fudan University and is now undertaking an internship at Zhongshan Hospital. Beyond his medical duties, he is also an enthusiastic hiker, biker, and long-distance runner.

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