Zambia has a population of 16 million people and until recently did not have a single locally-trained, full-time neurologist - despite there being a need for every aspect of neurology.

But that is about to change, thanks to The Neurology Training Program which began in October 2018, with its first five students and which the Encephalitis Society is proud to be supporting.

We spoke to Stanley Zimba about her experiences so far.

(Read the Q&A with trainee Nfwama Kawatu-Mulenga

Stanley Zimba is a consultant physician with a Masters of Medicine in Internal Medicine.

Tell me a little bit about who you are and things you enjoy doing

I am married with three kids (two boys and a girl) and I enjoy watching soccer, movies and exercising in my spare time

How did you become interested in neurology?

I became interested in neurology almost seven years ago when I was a resident in internal medicine. What attracted me to neurology was that we had a huge burden of neurological diseases, but had no specialities to attend to them. 

Neurology was always perceived to be a difficult discipline and no-one seemed to be interested in our department. So, I wanted to make a difference for patients and also stimulate interest in others.

How did you learn or hear about this neurology training?

I learnt about the training program from Professor Masharip Atadzhanov and Dr Omar Sidiqqi on my way back from South Africa where I had gone to train in neurology, but I had to abandon my program to come back home.

How have you found your training so far?

It has been a great experience as I get to learn in the setting where I will practice neurology for many years to come.

What has surprised you or impressed you the most about your training so far?

The burden of neurological diseases is way more than I could imagine and the overwhelming response from patients and doctors in other fields since the program started has really been encouraging.

Why is there a need for neurologists in Zambia?

The magnitude of neurological diseases is enormous and the need for speciality care to improve outcome of patients with these diseases cannot be overemphasised.

Do you think your learning to date has made any difference for patients?

It has made a significant difference. All across the country patients are sent to us for a diagnosis and treatment. I have looked after a patient with narcolepsy and cataplexy who had spent many years bouncing from one hospital to another, was unable to hold a job and eventually was being seen by psychiatry with no diagnosis. Now, she’s held on to a job for more than three months and she’s doing remarkably well.

What difference or impact do you think this training will have for patients with neurological conditions in Zambia?

The impact has almost been immediate as there are more people on the ground to provide neurological care with an improvement in the quality of care and in a few years time, our influence will spread to the different parts of the country as more people get trained.

What are your hopes for the future?

I envision an expansion of the number of neurologists in the country in the coming years to also have an impact in our region and to contribute to global neurological research. On a personal note, I hope to complete my PhD work on HIV stroke genetics in the next few years and to continue contributing to research and training of other neurologists once I complete my program

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Thank you for giving me an opportunity to express my thoughts.