Dr Aaron Mujajati’s footpath


OF ALL his siblings, his parents struggled with him the most.
Some of the children he played with were the kind that would rob houses at night.
“It would be a miracle if a week passed without me being spanked,” says the man who today is the Zambia Medical Association (ZMA) president.
Dr Aaron Mujajati, 40, was raised in Lusaka’s Chaisa township. As a third born in a family of 10, he grew up as an adventurous boy and quite naughty. But today, it might seem impossible to imagine that the focused, and quite accomplished ZMA president was a handful in his childhood, as he seemed poised to always get into trouble.
He credits his mother for much of his success, and his teacher in secondary school, who helped him discover that his career path was medicine.
Despite reaching only up to grade eight, his mother taught young Aaron to read, write and count before he went to school. By the time he was going to school, he could write his name and do simple arithmetic. Under her direction, she persuaded her children to study hard and guided Aaron away from trouble.
However, there was nothing that would suggest that Dr Mujajati was going to be a doctor that he is today, as his passion at the time was music and soccer.
At a very young age, he spent his time playing music and soccer, hoping he would one day play professional soccer or forge a career as a musician.
But in his teenage years at Hillcrest Technical Secondary School in Livingstone, he was very sure he was going to be a lawyer until his biology teacher told him to consider studying medicine.
“My teacher counselled me, telling me I had strength in sciences and that if I pursued law, all the science knowledge was going to be wasted. That’s how I was convinced to do medicine,” he says.
When he completed high school in 1995, he was accepted in the School of Natural Sciences at the University of Zambia (UNZA).
When the university was closed in 1997 for a year, following riots that broke out at the institution, he got his first job at a tuition centre called Jollywood in the Lusaka showgrounds where he taught grade nines English and Science.
Thereafter, he got another job at Pinewood School in Olympia where he taught the grades four, five, and seven classes, art (another subject he was good at it in junior secondary) mathematics and science.
When the university reopened, he went back and completed, after which he began working at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) as an intern. And he has been there since then, working as a physician specialised in internal medicine.
In the initial stages of his career, he started off on the wrong foot in as far as handling of ‘problem’ patients is concerned.
As a young doctor, he did not take it kindly when patients or their relatives insulted or spoke harshly to him. He would fly off the handle, putting them in their place.
“It used to affect me when after working so hard attending to many patients, and sometimes even sleeping in the hospital, someone insulted me. I never used to react to that very well,” he says.
“I didn’t know that when you are dealing with people who have brought patients, bear in mind that they are emotionally charged. Don’t lose your temper no matter what has happened just remain calm.”
People would complain to his supervisors that he did not handle them well.
But after investigating the complaints, his supervisors would advise him to be patient and empathetic with patients despite their behaviour.
He struggled with this, attributing it to the environment he grew up in.
There, it was tit-for-tat.
“If someone insulted you, you insulted back, if they punched you, you punched them back. That’s how we resolved issues there because I didn’t know any better,” he says.
But over the years, he has learned that his profession requires endurance and patience.
Dr Mujajati is satisfied with the career path he has chosen although there are some moments, he says, which make any doctor feel at a loss.
He recalls a time when he was new on the job looking after a young patient who died despite all the effort to save his (patient) life.
This experience left him distraught so much that he had to undergo counselling to learn that sometimes, despite ones best efforts, patients may still die.
“No matter how many patients you lose, you never get used to the feeling of losing a patient,” he says.
One of the challenges he has had in his career, he says, is that being raised in a township, he did not have a lot of role models to look up to as he was exposed to crime, drug addiction, and alcohol abuse.
He only got exposed to what he could be much later in life.
And medically, he said personnel in Zambia work in an environment with a lot of limitations in terms of equipment.
“You know what you have to do but you can’t do it, you know the sort of tests you need to do to confirm a patient’s diagnosis, but you can’t run them, you know the intervention you want to make on a patient but it’s just not there.”
Dr Mujajati, who is married to a fellow doctor with whom he has two daughters, has three degrees, a masters and is currently studying for an MBA.
He has been involved in leadership throughout his school life; vice-monitor in class, vice-president of UNZA student union, one of the leaders of the Residents Doctors Association, when he was a junior doctor and president of ZMA among others.
He attributes some of his achievements to his praying mother. Having been raised in a religious home, his mother’s prayers for him and his siblings have enabled Dr Mujajati move past his challenges.
Away from medicine, Dr Mujajati is also an entrepreneur who is running two companies; Cubit Zambia Limited (ltd), a transport business, which has been in operation for the last seven years and Cubit Insurance brokers.
He also runs a community school which he co-owns with his sister. The school, which was his parent’s former house, has been running for over a decade with the grade seven pass rate standing at over 80 percent.
But what about the association he heads?
Dr Mujajati would like to see his association address the issue of the quality doctors that the country is producing, in light of the multiple schools that are churning out doctors.
“With multiplicity of schools in the country, you now begin to wonder what the standard is for Zambia and who is responsible for ensuring that standards are maintained. If there’s anything I want us to achieve as an association, that’s one of them,” he says.
His dream though is to see Zambia turned into a health tourism hub.