‘The sky is no limit, reach out for the moon!’

Gilbert Munetsi —
Professor Hilda Tendisa Marima-Matarira comes across as an ordinary person due to her humility. But after having a little chat with the founding Vice Chancellor of the Great Zimbabwe University, her charm and intelligent wit becomes apparent.

She is an academic par excellence, a personality whose mind oozes unfathomable depths of intellect and is proudly African. She is also a devout Christian who believes God is the ultimate answer to all the world’s problems.

“Everyone must analyse the strengths, opportunities and weaknesses around their own situation. It is imperative to know what God wants you to do, to dream and to have a vision and then go for it.

“My best opportunities were being able to get an education and skills which I used to develop myself, my family, Zimbabwe, Africa and indirectly contributed to the world for God’s glory with love, especially for the youths,” remarked Prof Marima-Matarira.

Through verbal engagement, you also realise that she has seen and done it all. She is a researcher of international repute, academician, consultant, publisher, trainer, examiner, administrator, mother, grandmother and many other things, all rolled in one.

Brought up in a family of 11 with a solid Christian foundation, she is an astute subscriber to both physical and spiritual hygiene noting that, “The former keeps us healthy while the latter ensures we remain sinless.”

True to the teachings of her missionary parents who brought her and her siblings under the guidance of the holy scriptures, they will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

A much younger Hilda never disappointed when she left her country of birth in pursuit of tertiary education in the United Kingdom. It is there, while studying, that she was to meet the love of her life and now husband, Henry. Through the course of the marriage that spans many decades, the couple was blessed with four children and they are now grandparents to two grandchildren.

One is of Japanese descent while the other is American. A Vasco Da Gama in the making, Professor Matarira has been to 36 countries inside 44 years of her work.

She preaches tirelessly to her audiences on assertiveness, focus, determination and discipline. Very recently, she delivered an inspiring speech at a graduation ceremony for nurses at a local health institution, closing by saying, “No, the sky is not the limit, you can even reach out for the moon!”

While it is evident that her pay cheques from her numerous professional portfolios, she can afford to drive the latest vehicles but the professor opted for something more down-to-earth — a Vitz!

Prof Marima-Matarira’s humility is a top-most attribute on her character’s checklist. As she strolled to the car after the graduation ceremony, portfolio clad under the arm, several young nurses mobbed her seeking a few tips on life and career development.

It was evident that her delivery had pricked a few nerves, ignited some internal emotions from deep inside the much younger lives. The learned professor is armed with a bio-sketch that is as long as the arm.

With university education spanning 15 years and work experience acquired in four decades of her life, Professor Marima-Matarira has dedicated more of her life to the well-being of humanity in the field of health sciences.

Beginning with a BSc at the University of Zambia, she quickly advanced to the Msc (Warwick) and PhD in Chemical Biochemistry and Laboratory Medicine.

She then complemented the knowledge acquired with an MMdPath at the University of Zimbabwe, MRCPath in the United Kingdom and an FZimCPath.

She landed her first job a year after Zimbabwe’s independence as a Consultant Chemical Pathologist in the National Health Laboratories at both Harare and Parirenyatwa referral hospitals and in private laboratories.

Wishing to give back to the profession that had made her an expert, she spent some time as Professor of Chemical Pathology at the UZ College of Health Sciences (UZCHS) and was co-ordinator of Development in the Immunology Unit at the same institution.

This is the same unit that gave birth to the Zimbabwe External Quality Assurance programme and, subsequently, transformed into the Zimbabwe National Quality Assurance programme with an affiliation of 140 public and private clinical laboratories that were regularly monitored by it.

“Shortly after, I participated in the development of a Msc degree in Clinical Biochemistry in the UZCHS and a BMLS degree at Africa University in Mutare.

“During the course of my career, I have written 75 publications in the form of referred journals, chapters in books and handbooks mainly focusing on Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory medicine and my main area of focus is cancer research, liver disease, quality assurance in laboratory medicine and biochemical reference values,” she said.

To date, she has trained around 7 000 doctors (MBchB), more than 100 lab technologists and scientists at Masters and PhD level who are now scattered around the world.

She created a diaspora network which founded the official journal of the Zimbabwe Association of Clinical Biochemistry and lab medicine (ZACB). But it does not end there.

“I have supervised 30 post-grad research theses at Masters and PhD levels and been an external examiner in colleges of Health Sciences at the University of Nairobi, Muhibili, University of Dar Es Salaam, Charles Sturt University in Australia, in Egypt, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA.

“This, by the way, is outside the workshops, symposia, congresses and meetings I have been invited to participate in,” she said.

The academician has held and continues to serve in numerous positions of responsibility, among them chairperson in the Department of Chemical Pathology (UZCHS), founding Dean of Studies (Bulawayo College of Health Sciences), Executive Secretary (Clinical Quality Assurance Board), found ing president (Association of Clinical Biochemistry and Lab Medicine), president (Association of Pathologists for East, Central and Southern Africa), founding Vice-Chancellor(Great Zimbabwe University), founding president (Zimbabwe College of Pathology), Fellow (ZCP) and Executive Board member (ZPHA).

Prof Marima-Matarira is Editor-in-Chief of the Biomedical Sciences and Public Health journal and occupies the same position in the Zimbabwe Journal of Lab Medicine.

She sits as an editorial board member of the Journal of Thymology at Harzburg (Germany) and is the Zimbabwean representative as secretary-general of the African Federation of Clinical Chemistry.

The AFCC is a think tank comprising seven other academicians of repute drawn from the world “with a mission to advance the science and practice of clinical chemistry and lab medicine through quality leadership and innovation, excellence in professional training, research, standard of patient care and improved communication and understanding of disease.”

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