Medical practitioner Ntanganedzeni Muambadzi – the only nuclear medicine specialist based in Limpopo – has a vision to develop the field of medicine to serve the people of the province.
It was learnt that nuclear medicine imaging uses small amounts of radioactive material to diagnose, evaluate or treat a variety of diseases. These include many types of cancers, heart disease, gastrointestinal, endocrine or neurological disorders and other abnormalities. It was reported that Muambadzi, who is a member of the Breast Cancer Steering Committee of the Polokwane/Mankweng Hospital Complex (PMHC), has been recognised with the Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) Titanium Young Doctors Achiever Award for 2017/18. Since her return to the province three years ago, Muambadzi has contributed immensely to the development of nuclear medicine to the benefit of the local population and her medical colleagues.
In addition to developing dedicated nuclear medicine departments in the public and private hospitals, she is also actively involved in education, lecturing radiology registrars who are training in specialist or sub-specialist fields at the Mankweng Hospital, and she is also a member of the University of Limpopo’s School of Medicine Board. She is the acting head of the nuclear medicine department at Pietersburg Provincial Hospital and has recently established a part-time nuclear medicine facility, which is regarded as the first of its kind in the private sector in Limpopo, that starting operating at a private health facility in the city in February.
“I grew up in Vhembe district and studied in Gauteng. I returned to the province of my birth in 2017 with the express intention of filling the gap that existed locally in this important area of medicine. It is such a wonderful privilege to have the opportunity to develop dedicated nuclear medicine services within both the public and private sectors and to be able to serve the most vulnerable within the communities of my home province,” Muambadzi explained.
Explaining the role of nuclear medicine, Muambadzi said that nuclear materials are used in many medical technologies and treatments, and that nuclear medicine procedures enable medical practitioners to obtain key health information about a patient’s condition that may otherwise require more invasive diagnostic tests or surgery: “First developed in the 1950s, nuclear medicine essentially involves the use of small amounts of radioactive material for the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of diseases. These include different types of cancers, heart diseases, gastrointestinal conditions, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and many others. Furthermore nuclear medicine is also used for research.”
She added that although nuclear medicine has many applications, it is particularly well-known and important in the detection and ongoing monitoring and treatment of various types of cancers. It is particularly effective for identifying cancers at their earliest stages when cancers tend to be most responsive to treatment. There has been a lack of critical nuclear medicine services for the province’s population of some 5,4 million people, which has resulted in many of them not having had access locally to the diagnostic investigations and treatments that they needed, Muambadzi comments.
The general manager of a private health institution that accommodates Muambadzi’s practice, Fabion Bennett pointed out that Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba announced during her 2017 budget speech that the department would start attracting and recruiting ‘super’ specialists to the Mankweng Hospital Complex and the new medical school at the University of Limpopo. The aim of this was to be in a position to provide medical services within Limpopo that are of sufficiently high standard to ensure that patients do not have to be referred to other centres in South Africa to get the specialist medical care they need, he explained. He added that the health facility was proud to be collaborating with the Department of Health in an initiative to provide the necessary opportunities to attract and retain outstanding young specialists to the province.
Story: ENDY SENYATSI