Doctor and Family Find Home in BC

Doctor and Family Find Home in BC

November 29, 2016

Dr. Bbandama Makwati took a very unique route to arrive at the medical clinic in Castlegar, British Columbia (BC): from Zambia, to China, the USA, and South Africa before settling in Castlegar. One might ask, of all the choices available to his family, why did Castlegar top the list?
"My family is the most important thing to me," said Dr. Makwati. "We love nature and we wanted a place that had lots of opportunities for the whole family. We looked at many places but when we thought about Castlegar, my wife and I both had the same feeling: Castlegar feels like home. And for my career, I was looking for a place where I could do both general practice and emergency medicine that had lots of continuing professional development opportunities – Castlegar has it all." 

Journey to BC begins in China
In 1998, Dr. Makwati was 15,000 kilometres away from Castlegar and had just finished high school. He'd been accepted to study medicine at the University of Zambia when a friend told him about an opportunity to study overseas in China. "I was immediately interested, but when I heard about it, the application deadline had already passed and the successful applicants were about to sit an exam as part of the next stage in the process."
Together with his friend, he decided to go to the exam centre anyway and check it out. Fortuitously, the examiner had some extra exams and allowed both Dr. Makwati and his friend to sit the exam. With many hundreds applying, not a minute of study and only seven applicants chosen, neither thought they were likely to succeed.
Five days later, friends stopped Bbandama on the street to say they had heard his name mentioned on the radio as one of the few chosen for a full scholarship to study in China. "I was shocked! I went with my Dad to check and they confirmed that I was one of the top students. Then it all happened so fast: within 3 months I had to get a passport, get everything organized, and the next thing I knew we were at the Chinese embassy having a farewell banquet."
Dr. Makwati then spent the next year intensively studying the Chinese language. At the end of the year, he successfully completed the language proficiency exam and was accepted to the China Medical University in Shenyang City where he completed the four year medical degree entirely in Chinese. "It's seems kind of crazy when I think about it now," said Dr. Makwati.

Colleague Recommended Canada
In 2006, during his residency in China, Dr. Makwati married his wife Olive. Shortly after completing residency, they moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Dr. Makwati's objectives there were to complete bible school and the US medical board exams, both of which he accomplished by 2010.
While in the US, Canada came onto Dr. Makwati's radar. "One of my mentors, Dr. Mampuya, now a cardiologist and university professor in Canada, advised me and encouraged me to look at practising in Canada. He knows how important family is to me and really felt we'd love Canada, both as a great place to practise medicine and to bring up children."
A year or so later, Dr. Makwati and his family were in South Africa and he applied via Health Match BC for the Practice Ready Assessment program. "Health Match BC was great and the process moved quickly with their support. A short while later, I received news that my application had been accepted."

Navigating the PRA-BC
Dr. Makwati enlisted the support of his wife Olive, a teacher with amazing research skills. Within months, they were in Castlegar and Dr. Makwati was seeing patients. Here again, Health Match BC supported the process: "They helped us with all the documentation needed, for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, visas for the whole family, etc. I would strongly encourage anyone wanting to practise here in BC to go through Health Match BC. If we had to navigate the process ourselves, I'm sure we wouldn't be here today!"
"It's been a great transition for the whole family," added Dr. Makwati. "We've met lots of friends, found a good church and my wife Olive is getting very involved with the church and school. My son is going to French immersion school and my daughter will follow him there. They're very involved in activities in the community, including taking piano lessons, doing ballet, playing soccer, etc. We love biking, hiking, swimming, the nearby hot springs, and of course, skating and playing in the snow in the winter!"