Getting to know you — Dr. Deogratias Ngoma, Seed Country Representative in Tanzania

Daisy WinnerBlog, Tanzania

When Deogratias Ngoma joined the Seed team as our first Country Representative in Tanzania, it marked another step along a path he has been pursuing since childhood — working to overcome the shortage of health professionals in his country.

Growing up in a family of eight children in rural Tanzania, Dr. Ngoma (known as “Deo” to friends and colleagues) saw firsthand how the shortage of nurses and doctors impaired access and quality of care for patients. And he had decided that he wanted to be part of the solution.

When he was still in high school, Deo recalls, “I made up my mind I wanted to be a doctor, and I started pursuing that dream.” By the time he joined Seed in the summer of 2015, he had not only fulfilled that childhood dream of becoming a doctor. He had leveraged his skills, knowledge, and commitment to have an even bigger impact, by combining clinical care with teaching and taking a leadership role in programs to combat some of Africa’s biggest health challenges, including HIV/AIDS.

“Towards the end of my medical school,” Deo says, “I started seeing that doctors can do more than just see patients.” He was inspired to use “my natural ability of teaching” to help educate the next generation of health care providers. “My desire was to teach, but at the same time to provide some clinical care.” He fulfilled that dream as well, delivering both classroom instruction and bedside teaching in the wards to Assistant Medical Officer (AMO) students and interns at Bugando Medical Center in northern Tanzania.

But Deo’s desire to have a larger impact continued to grow. As a way to improve care far beyond the number of patients he could see in a week, he says, “I started thinking about shifting from just doing clinical work and training into global health or public health.” True to form, he moved quickly from thinking to doing.

When PEPFAR came to Tanzania, Deo was among the first Tanzanian doctors trained in HIV treatment, and he went on to lead HIV programs first in Tanzania and then in Malawi. Then, after obtaining a Master’s in Public Health degree in Belgium, he returned to Tanzania, where he helped establish and lead a program to control neglected tropical diseases like trachoma, onchocerciasis (“river blindness”), schistosomiasis (“bilharzia”), and intestinal parasites.

That is what Deo was doing when he first heard about Seed – and Seed first heard about him. “When I learned about the vision and what Seed does, I was excited about it,” Deo says. “It was just in line with what is really in my heart, like building capacity, human resources and investing in people. Because that is my passion. I want to invest in people’s lives for the betterment of humanity.”

He sees his position as Seed’s Country Representative in Tanzania as an opportunity to do just that.