Medical expert keen to make a difference

In his fourth week on the job, Dr. Osborne Embiruka Nyandiva is ready to introduce breakthrough medical interventions to help eradicate avoidable disease.

Dr. Nyandiva is a Pathologist, Oncologist and Forensic Pathologist and is the newest professor at the National University of Samoa. He joins the Faculty of Medicine to fill a crucial gap in the clinical stages of the curriculum.

An experienced doctor in his mid-30s, Dr. Nyandiva has experience teaching and practicing medicine in Tanzania, Somalia and Canada and well as his home country of Kenya. He said already, he feels his Samoan students are the best he’s taught.

“They are so ready to learn, and not just… but deep learning,” he said.

As an educator and self-described activist, Dr. Nyandiva likes to go beyond the book, setting challenging assignments for his students and asking them to present their work to the class.

“Something about critical thinking,” he added. 

In his four weeks here so far, the doctor has already identified focal points in the health sector he wants to address, and chief among them are metabolic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.

For Samoa, this issue is “skyrocketing,” he said, with nearly 40 per cent of patients presenting concerning symptoms.

“This really calls for immediate interventions, and it should start at the grassroots,” he said.

“We need a mass media or community mobilisation about lifestyle, because most of these diseases are purely lifestyle conditions.”

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Solving the swell of diabetes, kidney diseases and even cancers means addressing nutrition, Dr. Nyandiva said.

“Most of the foods people are taking are junk, just junk food,” he added. 

Too many quick and easy foods are packed with genetically modified organisms (G.M.O.), that after some time can have physiological impacts on the body, according to the doctor.

The accumulation in the body of the G.M.O’s and processed sugars result in these dangerous metabolic conditions. 

“People are not even observing some of the simple things we need to do, for instance, having vegetables.”

“Greens are very important supplements because they control some of our metabolic processes.”

He said the work of the dialysis unit at the National Kidney Foundation of Samoa, taking down detailed patient histories before dialysis, means he can clearly see the impact of lifestyle on the body.

“It doesn’t require rocket science to understand some of these things,” he said.

“There are a number of parameters that obviously answer my questions.”

Before all else, Dr. Nyandiva’s obligations are to his students. He has spent the past three weeks preparing them for exams, and said he hopes to get to know the community better and win their confidence.

“As a foreigner, Samoan’s should feel I am part of society, and I am of course anticipating to contribute whatever they expect of me as a doctor.”

“My biggest role will actually be alongside other medical specialists, in trying to come up with the mitigations across the board on some of these issues,” he said.

Later, when the students begin their clinical placements, he will be alongside them the whole way in their interactions with patients.

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