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Merck foundation empowers young doctor

Merck Foundation Alumni, Dr Sofia Jarombwereni Natshikare Nepembe is a 28-year-old medical doctor, born in Epyenene- Okatana constituency in the Oshana region. She was born on 05 May 1991 and since her early childhood, it was evident that Dr Nepembe was filled with potential and a willingness to help others. 

Starting her academic journey attending first and second grade at a northern school, she moved to the southern mining town of Oranjemund to attend school at Oranjemund Private School, where she completed her primary education and later moved to Windhoek to pursue her secondary education at Jan Mohr Secondary School. 

In 2015 she obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) at the UNAM School of Medicine, forming part of the pioneering graduates for the school.

In 2018 her former Dean, Prof. Peter Nyarango, forwarded her an email from The Merck Foundation. The email stated that the foundation was looking to sponsor about four to five pioneering graduates from the School of Medicine in post-graduate diploma programmes in Diabetes and preservative cardiovascular medicine, through the University of South Wales.  

“I feel highly blessed to have come into contact with the Merck program. Non- communicable disease prevention and management is an area that has been largely neglected in our country as the focus has been on communicable/infectious diseases and rightly so,” the doctor said.

She believes that as life expectancy increases, there is an absence of national guidelines on the governance of these kinds of diseases so the management of these patients is left in the care of the treating doctor, which most times is hazardous. 

“Doing the post-graduate diploma in preventive cardiovascular medicine greatly enhanced my knowledge of preventative cardiovascular medicine and put me in a position to offer better care for my patients and the opportunity to impart this knowledge to the students, interns and fellow colleagues,” she said.

When asked about how she will use her squired knowledge to give back to her country, she said, “I approach my patients who are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and those with established CVD differently now. “ 

She added that she will make sure her patients are properly worked up, causes in the appropriate age group have been investigated, that the patients have been initiated on the appropriate treatment and a proper and appropriate follow up on the investigations planned. 

“I also try to educate my patients as much as possible as the foundation of the management of non-communicable diseases is lifestyle changes.”

At the time SYM spoke to the doctor she had just successfully completed the course in February 2020 and was waiting to graduate. “I have a proposal I’m working on and plan to propose it to the hospital in the upcoming months which will hopefully give back greatly to the community. I would also like to further my studies first in order to maximally give back to the Namibian community.”

Dr. Nepembe believes that the infertility project is a step in the right direction. 

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“Infertility still remains a sensitive topic in our community and there is still a lot of stigma around infertility.”

She said that the blame is often cast on the woman, while men equally contribute to infertility rate and that the project will be the perfect platform to educate and raise awareness. 

Currently the doctor resides in her birthplace, Epyenene, where she dreams of a Namibia where the health of the people is the highest law. 

In her life, Dr Nepembe is most proud of being put in a position to help others, but she is not yet content as there is still so much, she wants to achieve. 

She wants to improve on starting her mornings and ending her days with prayer, and says that she is grateful that God is within her. 

“I’m not one who believes in chance/coincidences, everything that happens, happens for a reason and it’s upon the individual to see the positive even in the negative situations. Everything that happened thus far in my life led me here and I’m grateful,” the doctor said. 

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