Another significant milestone has been reached in the establishment of Malawi’s first Dental School with the appointment, by the College of Medicine, of Dr James Maurice Mchenga as its first Academic Head.
Dr Mchenga was born in Nchenga Village, T/A Kuntaja, next to Chileka International Airport, Blantyre, Malawi. He attended Lirangwe Primary School and then completed his secondary education at Blantyre Secondary School, leaving for University in 1976.
Initially, James studied for and obtained a Bachelor of Education degree (majoring in mathematics and physical sciences) at the University of Malawi Chancellor College, graduating in 1981. He taught at Salima Secondary School from 1981 – 1984 then moved to teach at Malamulo Adventist Secondary School in Thyolo. Whilst there, in 1986, he suffered serious toothache on a Friday evening and needed to travel 80 kilometers to receive treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital Dental Department in Blantyre. The relief of pain he experienced following extraction of the offending tooth stimulated him to do some research about dentistry and he then realised what a drastic shortage of dentists existed in Malawi.
James subsequently secured a place at the Medical University of Southern Africa (MEDUNSA) and obtained his Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree in 1995. He completed specialist training in Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, gaining the MDent (MFOS) degree in 2005.
Dr Mchenga has been involved in the teaching of both undergraduate and postgraduate dental students at Medunsa Campus of the University of Limpopo as well as the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University for the last 15 years. He has also served as an External Examiner at the University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria and the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.
In addition to the appointment of Dr Mchenga, a number of other staff members have been appointed recently. Two very experienced Malawian dental surgeons, Dr Jessie Mlotha-Namarika and Dr Wiston Mukiwa, have taken up their roles as part-time Clinical Lecturers. Both Jessie and Wiston have been closely involved with the MalDent Project since its inception. In addition, four young dentists have been appointed as Assistant Lecturers – Dr Don Chiwaya, Dr Shiloh Bonya, Dr Tasneen Chikwatu and Dr Mirriam Chipinga. These Assistant Lecturers will be spending some time at Wits University Dental School, preparing them for their future roles as clinical academics.
Recently, the team had its first staff meeting, chaired by Dr Felix Manboya, the Acting Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Dr Peter Chimimba (Dental School Project Coordinator) and Ms Annie Mwapasa (Dental School Project Administrator) also participated. It was an extremely positive and productive meeting, towards the end of which the group was joined by the Principal of the College of Medicine, Dr Mwapatsa Mipando.
After their meeting, the staff team posed for a photograph. This photo will be one for the history books when the story of establishing Malawi’s first Dental School is recounted in future years.
Back row left to right: Dr James Mchenga (Academic lead in Dentistry), Dr Wiston Mukiwa (Clinical Lecturer in Dentistry), Dr Peter Chimimba (Dental School Project Coordinator), Dr Don Chiwaya (Assistant Lecturer in Dentistry), Dr Felix Namboya (Senior Lecturer in Anesthesiology and Acting Deputy Dean of Medicine)
Front row right to left: Dr Jessie Mlotha-Namarika (Clinical Lecturer in Dentistry), Dr Shiloh Bonya (Assistant Lecturer in Dentistry), Dr Tasneem Chikwatu (Assistant Lecturer in Dentistry), Annie Mwapasa (Dental School Project Administrator), Dr Mirriam Chipinga (Assistant Lecturer in Dentistry)