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Are Doctors Weird People?

This week’s article is the first offering of the new year and I have decided to give you a welcome gift by letting you into our professional lives. “Doctors are weird people”, “so you don’t have a life?”, “how do you cope with death”, “…but you don’t look like a doctor”, I have heard people remark. When asked how doctors are supposed to be like, people mostly give a grossed out face.

Surely you all don’t expect us to walk around in our scrubs, soiled with blood and other bodily fluids, having no time for proper grooming, with poor etiquette and no social awareness whatsoever.

There is no personality known as ‘doctor’. We are all individuals and we differ in our personalities, outlook on life and preferences but definitely there are qualities that doctors have in common. Some are instilled during the medical training and perhaps most are inborn and they are the ones that eventually determine who responds to this calling.

Knowledgeable – A doctor needs to know how the whole body functions as a unit and what should be done to maintain an overall health. To be able to stay informed at all times requires keenness, focus, sharp memory etc. Most importantly doctors are expected to keep up to date with the latest breakthroughs in the field. Like culture, medicine is evolving and there is always more to learn.

We are OK with this, this is not torture, but rather a part of our lifestyles that gives enjoyment and fulfilment. A physician's education does not end with the completion of a medical degree. Unfortunately most people are not aware of this fact. Next time you catch your doctor swamped in a book/journal or on the internet during breaks, be glad because this does not mean they know nothing contrary to the belief.

Good communication skills – A doctor's knowledge is nothing if they are unable to communicate it effectively with  patients and fellow colleaques. Doctors should be like good detectives and be able to extract relevant information from the patient (or other sources of information), and read both verbal and non-verbal cues. It is a well-known fact in the world of medicine that at least 80% of the diagnosis is got from the patient’s history.

Unfortunately most patients are unkeen or impatient on volunteering information but unlike prophets or traditional doctors, medical professionals need to hear your story (and see, feel and test you) for them to make an accurate diagnosis and eventually treatment.

Professional – Doctors have the highest ideals and standards to uphold. 

There is a certain study which reported that most people are not able to differentiate between a doctor's professional and social  life hence the need for doctors  to always be cautious of their conduct in the society e.g social media postings which could easily be mistaken for professional information/advice. Doctors are well trained on the universal medico-legal and ethical issues.

They know the issue of doctor-patient confidentiality like the back of their hand. They should be respectful at all times and give patients autonomy to contribute towards or accept their treatment.

As doctors we understand that we are not police officers or any other law enforcers, our job is to treat patients, equally, and not accuse or judge them.  A professional distance should always be maintained between doctors and patients so that at every point in time patients feel safe under the doctors care. However, these can only be possible if our patients remember their duty to us too. 

Thorough – Doctors are always putting puzzles together trying to come up with diagnoses and best management plans for their patients so they need to take their time and pay attention to detail. Doctors hate failing! And a mistake in the medical field can yield disastrous results. So this huge fear of failure or 'neglect' turns doctors into ‘perfectionists’ and they are always trying to do everything right and delicately. This may also be influenced by the fact that there are a lot of ethical and legal issues involved in the medical field. The rate of litigation is very high, and reasonably so because human life is involved.

Optimistic – The medical field privileges doctors to trust their judgment, thoughts and actions. Doctors need to believe in themselves and their contribution to act timely and save a life. Though some people may mistake this high self esteem for arrogance ,many patients report that the Doctor's confidence (and optimism) gives them confidence too and they find it easier to trust them.This is not to say doctors should act like Gods and pretend they know it all or can perform miracles. We are expected to remain honest and realistic in cases where we do not know, we need help or we simply cannot make a difference.

Critical decision makers –Doctors are faced with making critical decisions on a daily basis including unpopular ones surrounding death. Doctors have been forced to abort babies to save the mother’s life, respect a patients decision not to take life-sustaining treatment, discontinue ineffective treatments or stop the resuscitation procedure after a certain period of time with no response or chances of recovery. Doctors understand their limitations as humans and accept the fact that it is not all patients that can be kept alive. A situation that family members may struggle to come to terms with when faced with (death).

Patient – This is the most important quality that make doctors special. Think about this; for starters doctors are willing to undergo the longest degree ever. This prepares them for the professional life that  awaits them. All the attributes of a good doctor of being able to acquire knowledge for a lifetime, take time to listen attentively, to communicate clearly and educate, and to think about the proper decision comes with an abundance of patience.

Composure – Medical professionals work with the human body everyday and see things that are not so pleasant. Many people think that we undergo training to be heartless, less grossed, less fearful, less phobic etc. But NO, we are humans and go through all the emotions and fears that other people experience. The only difference is we can’t afford to compromise that one goal every doctor has at the back of their mind; saving a life! Somebody has got to do it hence the need to stay calm and collected.

Hardworking – People always need medical care no matter what time of the day or what day of the year. Doctors understand this long before they could even join this honorable profession.

Working in the medical field often means working long and unusual hours and still managing to maintain interest and focus through it all. A weekend, holiday, goodnight sleep does not mean much to a doctor if a human life is involved. That does not mean there is no free time in a doctor's life. It’s just that given their nature of work, time management is very important. Despite these not-so-favorable working hours if you ask many medical professionals what degree they will choose after being in practice for some time, most if not all of them will still say medicine! The job satisfaction is worth it!

Humane – Above all the clinician's  high regard for human life is the secret in managing to be kind, compassionate and caring about the patient all the time. For centuries medicine has depended on the age-old principle of 'first, do no harm'. No matter the situation the doctor finds him/herself in, they would never cause damage or death deliberately. No doctor feels happy if their patient is in pain, or they lose a patient under their watch or care. We do hurt, feel for and think about our patients even outside work. 

Understanding doctors will definitely make it easier for patients to work with their doctors effectively and improve on their relations in the year 2016.

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Botswana to Become a Vaccinated Nation: Pandemic Anxiety Over?

30th March 2021


This is a question that should seriously exercise the mind of every Botswana citizen and every science researcher, every health worker and every political leader political.

The Covid-19 currently defines our lives and poses a direct threat to every aspect and every part of national safety, security and general well-being. This disease has become a normative part of human life throughout the world.

The first part of the struggle against the murderous depredation of this disease was to protect personal life through restrictive health injunctions and protocols; the worst possibly being human isolation and masks that hid our sorrows and lamentations through thin veils. We suffered that humiliation with grace and I believe as a nation we did a great job.

Now the vaccines are here, ushering us into the second phase of this war against the plague; and we are asking ourselves, is this science-driven fight against Covid-19 spell the end of pandemic anxiety? Is the health nightmare coming to an end? What happy lives lie ahead? Is this the time for celebration or caution? As the Non State Actors, we have being struggling with these questions for months.

We have published our thoughts and feelings, and our research reviews and thorough reading of both the local and international impacts of this rampaging viral invasion in local newspapers and social media platforms.

More significantly, we have successfully organised workshops about the impact of the pandemic on society and the economy and the last workshop invited a panel of health experts, professionals, and public administers to advance this social dialogue as part of our commitment to the tripartite engagement we enjoy working with Government of Botswana, Civil Society and Development partners. These workshops are virtual and open to all Batswana, foreign diplomatic missions based in Gaborone, UN agencies located in Gaborone and international academic researchers and professional health experts and specialists.

The mark of Covid-19 on our nation is a painful one, a tragedy shared by the entire human race, but still a contextually painful experience. Our response is fraught with grave difficulties; limited resources, limited time, and the urgency to not only save lives but also avert economic ruin and a bleak future for all who survive. Several vaccines are already in the  market.

Parts of the world are already doing the best they can to trunk the pestilential march of this disease by rolling out mass-vaccinations campaigns that promise to evict this health menace and nightmare from their public lives. Botswana, like much of Africa, is still up in the disreputable, and, unenviable, preventative social melee of masked interactions, metered distances, contactless commerce.

We remain very much at the mercy of a marauding virus that daily runs amuck with earth shattering implications for the economy and human lives. And the battle against both infections and transmissions is proving to be difficult, in terms of finance, institutional capacities and resource mobilization. How are we prepared as government, and as citizens, to embrace the impending mass-vaccinations? What are the chances of us  succeeding at this last-ditch effort to defeat the virus? What are the most pressing obstacles?

Does the work of vaccines spell an end to the pandemic anxieties?

Our panellists addressed the current state of mass-vaccination preparedness at the Botswana national level. What resources are available? What are the financial, institutional and administrative operational challenges (costs and supply chains, delivery, distribution, administering the vaccine on time, surveillance and security of vaccines?) What is being done to overcome them, or what can be done to overcome them? What do public assessments of preparedness tell us at the local community levels? How strong is the political will and direction? How long can we expect the whole exercise to last? At what point should we start seeing tangible results of the mass-vaccination campaign?

They also addressed the challenges of the anticipated emerging Vaccinated Society. How to fight the myths of vaccines and the superstitions about histories of human immunizations? What exactly is being done to grow robust local confidence in the science of vaccinations and the vaccines themselves? More significantly, how to square these campaigns vis-vis personal rights, moral/religious obligations?

What messages are being sent out in these regards and how are Batswana responding? What about issues of justice and equality? Will we get the necessary vaccines to everyone who wants them? What is being done to ensure no deserving person is left behind?

They also addressed issues of health data. To accomplish this mass-vaccination campaign and do everything right we need accurate and complete data. Poor data already makes it very hard to just cope with the disease. What is being done to improve data for the mass-vaccination campaign? How is this data being collected, aggregated and prepared for real life situation/applications throughout Botswana in the coming campaign?

We know in America, for example, general reporting and treatment of health data at the beginning of vaccinations was so poor, so chaotic and so scattered mainstream newspapers like The Atlantic, Washington Post and the New York Times had to step in, working very closely with civil society organizations, to rescue the situation. What data-related issues are still problematic in Botswana?

To be specific, what kind of Covid-19 data is being taken now to ready the whole country for an effective and efficient mass-vaccination program?

Batswana must be made aware that the  end part of vaccination will just mark the beginning of a long journey to health recovery and national redemption; that in many ways Covid-19 vaccination is just another step toward the many efforts in abeyance to fight this health pandemic, the road ahead is still long and painful.

For this purpose, and to highlight the significance of this observation we tasked our panellists with  the arduous imperative of  analysing the impact of mass-vaccination on society and the economy alongside the pressing issues of post-Covid-19 national health surveillance and rehabilitation programs.

Research suggests the aftermath of Covid-19 vaccination is going to be just as difficult and uncertain world as the present reality in many ways, and that caution should prevail over celebration, at least for a long time. The disease itself is projected to linger around for some time after all these mass-vaccination campaigns unless an effort is made to vaccinate everyone to the last reported case, every nation succeeds beyond herd immunity, and cure is found for Covid-19 disease. Many people are going to continue in need of medications, psychological and psychiatric services and therapy.

Is Botswana ready for this long holdout? If not, what path should we take going into the future? The Second concern is , are we going to have a single, trusted national agency charged with the  mandate to set standards for our national health data system, now that we know how real bad pandemics can be, and the value of data in quickly responding to them and mitigating impact? Finally, what is being done to curate a short history of this pandemic? A national museum of health and medicine or a Public Health Institute  in Botswana is overdue.

If we are to create strong sets of data policies and data quality standards for fighting future health pandemics it is critical that they find ideological and moral foundations in the artistic imagery and photography of the present human experience…context is essential to fighting such diseases, and to be prepared we must learn from every tragic health incident.

Our panellists answered most of these questions with distinguished intellectual clarity. We wish Batswana to join us in our second Mass-vaccination workshop.

*Oscar Motsumi:

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The women you see in the news matter. Here’s why

9th March 2021
Jane Godia

Jane Godia

Today is International Women’s Day – it’s a moment to think about how much better our news diet could be if inequities were eliminated. In 1995, when the curtains fell in one of the largest meetings that have ever brought women together to discuss women in development, it was noted that women and media remain key to development.

Twenty-six years later, the relevant “Article J” of the Beijing Platform for Action, remains unfulfilled. Its two strategic objectives with regard to Women and Media have not been met. They are
Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication

Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Today, as we mark International Women’s Day, it’s an indictment on both media owners and civil society that women remain on the periphery of news-making. They cannot claim equal space in either the structures of newsrooms or in the content produced, be that as sources of news or as the subjects of reports. Indeed, the latest figures from WAN-IFRA’s Women in News Programme show just one in five voices in news belong to women*, be they as sources, as the author or as the main character of the news report.

Some progress was evident several years back, with stand-out women being named as chief executive officers, editors in chief, managing editors and executive editors. But these gains appear short lived in most media organisations. Excitement has turned to frustration as one-step forward has been replaced with three steps backwards. In Africa, the problem is acute. The decision-making tables of media organisations remain deprived of women and where there are women, they are surrounded by men.

Few women have followed in the footsteps of Esther Kamweru, the first woman managing editor in Kenya, and indeed sub-Saharan Africa. Today’s standout women editors include Pamela Makotsi-Sittoni (Nation Media Group, Kenya), Barbara Kaija (New Vision, Uganda), Mary Mbewe (Daily Nation, Zambia), Margaret Vuchiri (The Monitor, Uganda), Joyce Shebe (Clouds, Tanzania), Tryphinah Dongwana (Weekend Post, Botswana), Joyce Mhaville (Independent Television -ITV, Tanzania) and Tuma Abdallah (Standard Newspapers,Tanzania). But they remain an exception.

The lack of balance between women and men at the table of decision making has a rollback effect on the content that is produced. A table dominated by men typically makes decisions that benefit men.

So today, International Women’s Day is a grim reminder that things are not rosy in the news business. Achieving gender balance in news and in the structure of media organisations remains a challenge. Unmet, it sees more than half of the population in our countries suffer the consequences of bias, discrimination and sexism.

The business of ignoring the other half of the population can no longer be treated as normal. It’s time that media leaders grasp the challenge, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it also makes a whole lot of business sense: start covering women, give them space and a voice in news-making and propel them to all levels of decision making within your organisation.

We can no longer afford to imagine that it’s only men who make and sell the news and bring in the shillings to fund the media business. Women too are worthy newsmakers. In all of our societies, there are women holding decision making positions and who are now experts in once male-only domains such as engineers, doctors, scientists and researchers.

They can be deliberately picked out to share their perspectives and expertise and bring balance to the profile of experts quoted on our news pages. Media is the prism through which society sees itself and women are an untapped audience. So, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us embrace diversity, which yields better news content and business products, and in so doing eliminate sexism. We know that actions and attitudes that discriminate against people based on their gender is bad for business.

As media, the challenge is ours. We need to consciously embrace and reach the commitments made 26 years ago when the Beijing Platform for Action was signed globally. As the news consuming public, you have a role to play too. Hold your news organization to account and make sure they deliver balanced news that reflects the voices of all of society.

Jane Godia is a gender development and media expert who serves as the Africa Director of Women in News programme.  
WOMEN IN NEWS is WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

Jane Godia, Director, Africa, Women in News

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Why is the media so afraid to talk about sexual harassment?

9th March 2021


The eve of International Women’s Day presents an opportunity for us to think about gender equality and the long and often frustrating march toward societies that are truly equal.

As media, we are uniquely placed to drive forward this reflection and discussion. But while focusing on the challenges of gender in society, we owe it to our staff and the communities we serve to also take a hard look at the obstacles within our own organisations.

I’m talking specifically about the scourge of sexual harassment. It’s likely to have happened in your newsroom. It has likely happened to a member of your team. It happens to all genders but is disproportionately directed at women. It happens in every industry, regardless of country, culture or context. This is because sexual harassment is driven by power, not sex. Wherever you have imbalances in power, you have individuals who are at risk of sexual harassment, and those who abuse this power.

I’ve been sexually harassed. The many journalists and editors, friends and family members who I have spoken to over the years on this subject have also been harassed. Yet it is still hard for leaders to recognize that this could be happening within their newsrooms and boardrooms. Why does it continue to be such a taboo?

Counting the cost of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is, simply put, bad for business. It can harm your corporate reputation. It is a drain on the productivity of staff and managers. Maintaining and building trust in your brand is an absolute imperative for media organisations globally. If and when a case gets out of control or is badly handled – this can directly impact your bottom line.

It is for this reason that WAN-IFRA Women in News has put eliminating sexual harassment as a top priority in our work around gender equality in the media sector. This might seem at odds with the current climate where social interactions are fewer and remote work scenarios are in place in many newsrooms and businesses. But one only needs to tune into the news to know that the abuse of power, manifested as verbal, physical or online harassment, is alive and well.

Preliminary results from an ongoing Women in News research study into the issue of sexual harassment polling hundreds of journalists in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia indicate that more than 1 in 3 women media professionals have been physically harassed, and just under 50% have been verbally harassed. Just over 15% of men in African newsrooms reported being physically harassed, and slightly less than 1 in 4 reports being verbally harassed. The numbers for male media professionals in Southeast Asia are slightly higher than a quarter on both forms of harassment.

The first step in confronting sexual harassment is to talk about it. We need to strip away the stigma and discomfort around having open conversations about what sexual harassment is and isn’t. Media managers, it is entirely in your power to create dynamics in your own teams that are free from sexual harassment.

Publishers and CEOs, you set the organisational culture in your media company.

By being vocal in recognising that it happens everywhere, and communicating to your employees that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, you send a powerful message to your teams, and publicly. With these actions, you will help us overcome the legacy of silence around this topic, and in doing so take an important first step to create media environments that truly embrace equality.

Melanie Walker is Executive Director of Media Development of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). She is a creator of Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s ground-breaking programme to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media.

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