Department of Family Medicinedecorative-line


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The Department of Family Medicine is one of three departments within the School of Public Health & Family Medicine (SPHFM) alongside the Departments of Health Systems & Policy, and Public Health. The School of Public Health & Family Medicine is one of three deaneries, including Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Biomedical Sciences, comprising the University of Malawi College of Medicine.

The vision for Family Medicine department is to contribute towards well-trained professionals providing leadership to improve holistic community and district level healthcare. To achieve that Vision, the department is guided by the following Mission: Achieve quality primary health care through provision of inter professional education, research, clinical and health systems leadership, advocacy and delivery of health care service to individuals, families and communities.

A Family Physician is a clinical leader and works as a consultant in the primary health care team to ensure primary, continuing, comprehensive, holistic and personalized care of high-quality to individuals, families, and communities. The Department teaches learners how to provide comprehensive person-centred care, with a family and community orientation, in which the family physician responds to undifferentiated illness, and acts as a consultant to the primary health care team.(Reference)

The department started its first educational activity in 2011 with the launch of a 6-week undergraduate rotation in Family Medicine as part of the 4th year medical school curriculum. During the six-week rotation, future Malawian doctors are exposed to the key principles of Family Medicine in the Malawi district context. Through lecture and a practical attachment at a District Hospital teaching site, the students learn context-specific care for the whole-person.

The department partners with a variety of district-level hospitals to achieve our educational objectives. Wonderful partner sites for district medical student placements include: Mangochi District Hospital, Nkhoma HospitalMalamulo HospitalMulanje Mission Hospital, Malamulo Mission Hospital, and Partners in Health Malawi working at Neno district hospital in southwest Malawi. Several organizations also partner with us to ensure high-quality student supervision. These include: Contra Costa Global Health Fellows, Swedish Family Medicine program, and the NGO Seed Global health (see links for their respective websites in the partner logo section below)

In January 2015, the Department started the first postgraduate program for training Family Medicine doctors in Malawi. Upon completion of the 4-year curriculum, trainees are awarded a Masters in Medicine (MMED) in Family Medicine. Currently (January 2018) we have 7 postgraduate trainees across 3 cohorts of entrants based out of two rural hospitals; Mangochi District Hospital and Nkhoma Mission Hospital. We anticipate our first graduates in 2019!

We welcome you to explore our site and check-out our newsletter for recent updates. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or would like to partner with us in pursuit of our vision.

Warm Regards, John Parks, MD

Head of Department

History of Family Medicine in Malawi

Group Photo from First Consultation on Development of Family Medicine in Malawi, 2008The idea of “Family Medicine” or “General Practitioner” (GP) as a unique type of doctor, with its own differentiated postgraduate training, has been around for a long time. The first professional associations of Family Doctors or GPs were formed in the 1940s and 1950s in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.A. Family Medicine or General Practitioner postgraduate training in some form exits in 65% of the worlds’ countries.

Inception of the idea of Family Medicine in Malawi and how it has evolved 

The Malawi College of Medicine (COM) was founded in 1991 as a constituent college of the University of Malawi. The first postgraduate programs at COM in the form of Masters in Medicine Degrees (MMED) were started in 2005.

2008 – 2011

The Family medicine concept started as inspiration to improve the practice in rural medicine by Dr Jonny Kumwenda in early 2001. This came from the understanding that doctors sent for district attachment lacked skills to meet the challenges of the district hospital, hence most medical officers sent for community service in district hospitals became frustrated and did not remain there to work. Those who wished to remain and serve in the district hospitals lacked support and mentorship, and their career path looked bleak.

In 2008 a team comprising of academics from Edinburgh Scotland, Witwatersrand University, and Stellenbosch University from South Africa, as well as stakeholders from Malawi (see picture above) met in Blantyre, Malawi. The aim was to discuss introducing family medicine and engaging with stakeholders to start Family medicine in Malawi. The discussion was fruitful and it came up with the following realizations: the need for FM was recognised and envisaged as a vehicle for improving the primary health needs of poor Malawians. Furthermore, the role of the other key players in primary health care