At 34 years of age, Florence Umurangwa Ngarambe has a résumé many would be envious of. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in general medicine and later, a Master’s in Urology from the University of Rwanda in the Department of Surgery, she not only remains one of the few female surgeons in the country, but is also the only female urologist in the country. She spoke to Women Today’s Donah Mbabazi about her job and the need to have more women in the field.
Who is a urologist and what do they do specifically?
Urologists specialise in diseases of the male reproductive system and the urinary tract. It basically deals with diseases of the kidney, diseases of the pipes from the kidney to the bladder which are called ureters, and the male genitalia in general.
Why urology and not gynaecology?
When I was in year four of my medicine course, I was inspired by my lecturer, he was a urologist and so passionate about what he did. This really inspired me and I had that feeling that I would actually be like him and since I always wanted to go for something unique, I decided to major in this field. I have always dreamt of being what I am today, a urologist.
Take us through your schedule.
I work from Monday to Sunday, and once every two weeks, I am on call, that is if there is an emergency and I am the one to be called. I do clinics (seeing patients in open consultation) on Mondays, Tuesday, and Friday. I operate on Wednesdays and Thursday, then on Saturday and Sunday, I have to come and see the patients that have been operated on.
What kind of procedures do you handle?
I treat all parts of the male reproductive system, I deal with prostate cancer, kidney problems, kidney stones, prostatitis (the inflammation of the prostate gland), urinary tract infections and, I carry out surgeries.
Women have to go to the doctor at least once in a year for tests like pap smears, are there such requirements for men?
Yes, men above 45 years are required to go for a test every year for conditions like prostate cancer where a blood test and physical examinations are done. If everything is normal, they come every year for a check-up but, when we get some abnormal findings in the test, we take biopsies and if we are lucky enough to diagnose the cancer at an early stage, we can operate.
Men also have infections and theirs are intense in that if they are not treated at the right time, they can result into disabilities, so it’s advisable for them to see a doctor like once a year or when they are experiencing any kind of pain.
Is it a hard profession?
I don’t think it’s hard because when you do something you like, even when you find it hard, you always get ways of overcoming that situation. I am really satisfied with what I do and I really like it.
Doesn’t it feel awkward having to deal with male genitalia or don’t the patients feel uncomfortable?
I can say it’s hard when I am dealing with men above 40 but for the young ones, they are completely free and we always interact. For the elderly, they find it hard at first because they look at me like a daughter and that makes them uncomfortable, telling me how they feel really about their particular condition and more so, being naked in front of me. However, this is starting to change and they are getting used.
Urology is one speciality which is still dominated by men; does this pose any challenges for you as a woman?
The biggest challenge is to be accepted as a woman treating male genital parts. In the start it was really tough as I had to have a male colleague with me to help explain and to make the patient comfortable, however, this is changing and the patients are adjusting.
Why do you think there are still few women in this field?
Well, I can say it’s a field that requires a lot of courage so I think some are just scared of what is required. I also think that dealing with male private parts is kind of hard and uncomfortable for them, but this shouldn’t be a challenge, more women should be brave and hop on board so that we venture into this highly male-dominated field.
What should be done to encourage more women to take on this field?
Increasing women in this field is a good idea but I think we should first focus on increasing the number of women in surgery in general because like right now, we are five women in surgery.
Any message for aspiring urologists?
They need to be encouraged and mentored because it’s a good field and we are only five female urologists in the country, so I would really encourage them. Urology is a field that still needs to be explored.
I want to master paediatric urology, I want to focus more on children because it’s kind of a neglected area, there is no specific urologist that is focusing on that. My plans are to see that it’s ventured into but I will also continue with adult urology.