Second runner-up in this category, Diana Chapoterera-Bulle is a podiatrist based in Harare, Zimbabwe where she runs a private clinic offering discounted rates for the elderly. She also works voluntarily at Parirenyatwa Hospital, one of the country’s biggest hospitals based in Harare where she is in the process of setting up a high-risk foot clinic, supported by donations of equipment and assistance from their endocrinology department.
The clinic mainly caters to diabetic patients, but they are hoping to expand the service to cater for all foot and ankle complaints. There is a limited number of podiatrists in the country, so Diana is involved in training programs in basic foot care for healthcare professionals.
She also does presentations to increase awareness on foot health and has run outreach programs in rural areas in Zimbabwe, offering free consultations, treatment and patient education on feet care to people who would not ordinarily have access to podiatry services.
She says the satisfaction she gets from her work and seeing the relief people get after treatment makes it worthwhile to do her work and contribute towards the health and wellness of the elderly; along with the feedback they always give later on about the improvements in their quality of life after receiving treatment.
Diana shares that, she became a podiatrist by accident. She was accepted to study radiography at the University of Johannesburg but could not get a hospital attachment, so she had to change programs, with the intention of going back to radiography the following year. But she fell in love with podiatry and has never looked back.
On her return to Zimbabwe and seeing how people were suffering from foot problems with no access to podiatry services, she took it upon herself to do something to improve the quality of care that people were receiving.
The team of doctors, nurses and volunteers she works with who give up weekends and billable hours to assist the under-privileged, along with her faith, keeps her grounded and motivated.
She says her biggest challenge has been getting podiatry integrated into the Zimbabwean healthcare system. There are no government posts for the profession and doctors in private practice don’t know the role of podiatrists and how best to work together.
She has had to engage with healthcare providers to educate them on podiatry services, and to knock on doors at the ministry of health and write letters asking for permission to be given access to state hospitals.
Her vision is to make healthcare, particularly foot care, accessible to all in her country, regardless of location or social standing. Her future plans are to set up a high-risk foot and wound clinic in every major hospital in the country, to have more outreach programs in remote areas, and to train their healthcare providers on basic foot care to prevent as many diabetic foot amputations as possible. She aspires to be a podiatric surgeon within the next few years.
Diana says that one of her biggest life-lessons has learning to be patient, because things do not happen overnight, but that doesn’t mean you should give up, but rather keep your focus on the goal. If you fail, change your strategy until you get it done.
She says that despite all that is happening in her country, she is still inspired by the people around her, their kindness and caring nature.