After completing high school in Zimbabwe, Mufudzi Chihambakwe had 9 months of downtime before the beginning of an undergraduate science program at a college in Pennsylvania. He had plans to become a medical doctor. To pass the time, he visited various healthcare clinics in his hometown of Harare. His career plans changed after volunteering in a chiropractic clinic. “This was some of the most amazing patient care I had ever seen,” he shared with Rebekah Wilks, host of the World of Chiropractic podcast in June. “Seeing how patients were being taken care of, seeing people’s stories and their lives being changed–it was something I had never encountered before.”
Dr. Mufudzi Chihambakwe is the Clinical Coordinator for the recently opened BH3 World Spine Care Clinic in Gaborone, Botswana. He was featured as a guest on the World Federation of Chiropractic podcast, where he shared his story of practicing chiropractic in southern Africa.
“Dr. Richard Brown approached me earlier this year and asked if I would be interested in talking about the profession in my part of the world,” he explained. “Richard Brown and the WFC have been big supporters of the work done in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa which are spaces I’ve been involved in as well. So I believe he invited me to the podcast to share a bit about the ongoing work happening here with the rest of the chiropractic world.”
The WFC podcast and YouTube series, launched in January 2021, is a tour of the chiropractic profession around the world. Past episodes have included guests from Brazil, Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, and North America. Dr. Wilks engages each interviewee to uncover insights on contemporary issues facing the profession.
Whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to practice, make it about somebody or something else.Mufudzi Chihambakwe, DC
After volunteering in that chiropractic clinic, Mufudzi left Zimbabwe to enroll in the Durban University of Technology. In the wide-ranging interview, he shared how his introduction to World Spine Care at the WFC Biennial Conference in 2013 led to volunteering at their clinics in Gaborone and Mahalapye, and how he later co-founded another nonprofit organization, Spine Health Africa.
Mufudzi’s experience in Africa has helped him recognize the need for conservative spine care in under-served communities of the continent. While most chiropractors generally see healthy, wealthy, and well-educated patients, the greatest burden of spinal disorders falls on the people who have lower income and lower levels of education, particularly those working in manual labor. The question we should be asking ourselves, says Dr. Chihambakwe, is “How can we bring such an amazing tool, chiropractic, into spaces where the burden is the greatest?”
The systems and frameworks that are developed while focusing on this under-served population, can then be expanded and reproduced to improve the lives of others throughout the world.
“Wheelchair users have those curb cuts where they can roll off the curb onto the street. That was initially developed for people that are wheelchair users, but if you’ve ever had a heavy trolley or you’re pushing a pram or you are skateboarding, you’d prefer to use the curb cut. Even though it wasn’t specifically designed for you, it ended up benefiting a larger part of the population.”
This focus on serving patients is also a way to better integrate with other healthcare professionals. As part of his master’s dissertation, Dr. Chihambakwe conducted a qualitative analysis of the understanding that healthcare professionals in a Botswana hospital had about what World Spine Care was and could offer their patients. Interprofessional interaction and education are important aspects of finding clear referral pathways between chiropractors and other healthcare providers.
On what advice he would give to young practitioners, Mufudzi suggested, “Whatever you decide to do, wherever you decide to practice, make it about somebody or something else.” He feels that chiropractors are fortunate to carry the gift of service in their hands wherever they travel.
Mufudzi also shared his daily habit of writing, usually in the form of poetry on his blog. He also published his first book, Twenty 20, a reflection on life from the perspective of 20-something-year-olds during the pandemic of 2020, which he co-wrote with two friends.
To wrap up the interview, Mufudzi shared his admiration for the beauty of Botswana–a Wakanda, of sorts. ”There is a beauty that, the longer you stay, the clearer it is.”
“I would like to thank Rebekah and the World of Chiropractic production team for the opportunity to be on their podcast and shed a bit of light on the work being done in this region,” said Dr. Chihambakwe.
To hear more of Mufudzi’s story, watch the full interview above or listen to World of Chiropractic on Apple Podcasts.