What made you decide to become a doctor?
I was born at the Vanga hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and grew up in a village where my father was a director of a primary school. Whilst growing up, I observed that we were facing a lot of health challenges. Some of my friends passed away, probably due to malaria, malnutrition, and other infectious diseases like measles. I also remember stories of pregnant women who died during delivery or before they reached the health centre. In addition to this, I have an aunt and uncle who are nurses and I understood that they were serving the people in the hospital. That is why I wanted to become a doctor with the purpose of saving lives, to help others, especially in this rural region where I grew up.
What are the biggest challenges that you’ve experienced working in healthcare?
Our hospital is in a rural area of DRC, a post-conflict country with many challenging health issues, resulting in a weak health system. For example, there are limited qualified human resources, inadequate or absent infrastructure, geographic factors and poor roads. All add up to difficult access to essential health care for the population. Most hospitals' infrastructure, including ours at Vanga, is in a state of disrepair. The hospital serves a large, rural population without financial resources, as most people are dependent on subsistence agriculture. There is no social security system or health insurance in the region, and everyone must pay for their own healthcare or that of their family members, but at the same time the average income is about $1USD per day. What are you going to do in this situation?
So, every day, you are in front of patients without financial resources, who need healthcare that you must provide with inadequate infrastructure and sometimes they have medical or surgical needs beyond the skill set you have. This is our everyday life, and it is really challenging.
Why did you decide to join the MSc in Global Healthcare Leadership?
The programme that is offered by Oxford Saïd Business School and Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences is a unique opportunity for me in the context of my experience to date, and necessary to provide me with the leadership skills to work on change in our health system to reduce the health inequities for the rural population I serve. It is a very high level of education, that I think world leaders in the field of health should have in this complex world where there is much uncertainty and inequality.
What has been your highlight of the programme so far?
The learning experience here is unique. I have learned a lot in the first two modules about leadership and change in the health sector. We have much to change in DRC, and I will feel better equipped with this high-level education that is offered here.
I also think we have a unique cohort, and we learn from each other. We have so many brilliant people in our cohort coming from everywhere around the world, which makes the learning experience extraordinary.
How do you see the programme benefiting your career in the future?
Much remains to be accomplished in DRC if we aspire to reduce inequity and achieve Universal Health Coverage, especially for those of us willing to serve in rural areas. I hope to use my learnings to focus my career on exploring and promoting, in rural health zones, public health strategies for the control of diseases of poverty. These strategies need to prioritise their impact on the health of rural women and children who have limited access to health care, and to consider the sociocultural background of this sector of the population.
A pioneering surgery in rural DRC
In 2017, Junior Mudji organised the first ever separation of conjoined twins in the DRC.
He spoke to the BBC about this experience in a podcast, Anick and Destin, the miracle conjoined twins of DRC.