Thirty-four-year-old Dr Selina Mruma was able to graduate in ophthalmology from Muhimbili University thanks to the support of the NGO Light for the World. She can now treat most eye diseases at the St Joseph’s Mission Hospital in Songea, in the region of Ruvuma, Tanzania.
Until recently, only primary eye care was provided in the Ruvuma region which has a population of 2.3 millions. Patients needing surgery had to travel as far as Dar es Salam, which proved to be an insurmountable obstacle for many of them. This is why Light for the World decided to strengthen the regional hospital’s eye care unit. Dr Selina tells us more about her work and the support she received during her career.
Why did you want to become an ophthalmologist?
I have always believed that ophthalmology brings hope and happiness to blind people as it allows many of them to recover their eyesight. It gives them another chance to continue living their life normally when they thought it was over due to blindness.
In rural areas, many people are blind due to treatable diseases such as cataract. Because of the scarcity of ophthalmologists, they have to travel long distances in order to get treatment and most of them cannot afford the transportation and treatment costs. So I thought I could be part of the solution by working at St Joseph’s, so that the people of Ruvuma could get treatment in their own region.
What is your career path like?
Before specializing, I didn’t have much experience in ophthalmology. I only did a two week rotation at the Mwanza Eye Care Unit and then around two months at the same unit at St Joseph’s hospital. Finally, I did a one-year internship at St. Joseph’s and then worked for two years as a doctor in the department of pediatrics.
What kind of support did Light for the World grant?
The NGO supported me throughout my specialization as they paid for my school fees, stipend, food, accommodation, etc. They really made my dream come true. They also supported our eye care unit by supplying it with quality equipment, instruments and medications.
What do you like the most and least in your work?
The big reward I get from this job is seeing my patients getting improved sight or regaining their sight back treatment with medications or surgery. It really makes me happy to see people with severe eye pain (corneal ulcer or intraocular hypertension) tell me they can now sleep at night because their pain is gone.
But no work well done goes without challenges and difficulties. For me, the most difficult part is having to tell people they will never recover their eyesight even after receiving treatment. It can be because they went to the hospital too late or because they suffer from an incurable eye disease.
Do you have dreams for the future?
My dream for the future is to become the best ophthalmologist there is, to master as many surgeries as possible, with the best outcomes. This will come with more practice and exposure, even if it means to go for short training courses and get counselling from more experienced doctors. Becoming a pediatric ophthalmologist is one of my plans, but I really don’t want to limit myself. I’m the only one here and I need to help everyone who comes to me. I also hope that our eye care unit will grow and become the biggest eye center in the south of Tanzania, with many more and better specialized ophthalmologists and other staff members.
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