Posted in News
August 3, 2021

ISAAC NKELE: Selfless service in the eye of the COVID-19 storm

This Month’s Spotlight shines on Isaac Nkele, who has led and provided selfless COVID-19 testing within BHP. The quiet yet confident and soft-spoken Nkele has been on the forefront of SARS-CoV-2 sample collection for PCR testing since the inception of a BHP COVID-19 committee and building of BHP capacity for SARS-CoV-2 testing. Despite his busy work schedule and portfolio commitment, Nkele, a Senior Study Coordinator for BHP Malignancy studies, has been selfless in leading the dreaded COVID-19 PCR swabbing.

Nkele is also the Deputy Coordinator for the BHP COVID-19 Committee and Coordinator for Botswana Oncology Global Outreach (BOTSOGO) Tumor Board which discusses management and best practice for the treatment of various cancers through an interactive platform with participating Oncology experts from Boston and Harvard Medical School affiliated institutions in the United States of America.

“I remember very well when Dr Mmalane (BHP Deputy CEO) announced that there will an opportunity for people who want to volunteer to do COVID-19 swabbing, I took it as a great opportunity. Swabbing at the time had been something dedicated to medical doctors and since I have passion to study medicine, for me it was a golden opportunity,” said Nkele who has been admitted to study for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) at Eden University in Zambia starting November 2021.

“We had our training, and from there we were given a task to swab the Princess Marina patients and staff. I would use my free time to be in the wards, and many times I would sacrifice my lunch time to help the people up until today,” he adds. He would later mentor other people including clinicians and research assistants who are doing COVID-19 testing.

Nkele would soon begin to enjoy swabbing and would sacrifice his weekends to do COVID-19 swabbing in the wards, and out-patient department for both patients and staff. The ‘joy’ for swabbing did not last for long as early on the job, the lanky fellow tested positive for COVID-19. While in isolation, he prayed for speedy recovery so that he could go back to continue his part in the fight against the pandemic.

Nkele, a staunch Christian, believes his Christian principles and his passion for medicine are his greatest drive to be always willing to help people even when he is swamped with coordinating the research studies he leads.The main challenge for Nkele is time allocation, as he has to strike a balance between the research duties and COVID-19 swabbing.

“I get numerous calls from patients following their results, at the same time people would call me and share some complimentary messages. One would say we heard you are good in COVID-19 swabbing, please come and assist us and for the love of the job I would go all the way to help. Mind you, don’t forget that this is an absolutely free service and I use my own airtime to call the patients but what brings me satisfaction is helping people and the sole goal of becoming a Medical Doctor one day,” narrated Nkele, cautious not to sound conceited.

Morena Nkele, as he is affectionately called at BHP, would be busy and say “Sorry Morena, I cannot help right now…….” And yet still go ahead to assist you. “I have to do COVID testing and at the same time push my research mandate, my desire is to do both at the same time, but when I have to tell someone to come and test later, I would feel so hurt as though I had neglected them,” he said.

A very courteous man, Nkele would greet you as “Morena” meaning Lord in English, a term synonymous with the disciplined forces in Botswana referring to their seniors and colleagues. Sometimes his “Morena” would be coupled with a little salute, conceivably an indication of the amount of grooming Nkele received when he was still a “Man in Uniform”. 

Morena Nkele is a former Police Officer and former Prison Warder. He also worked as a Facility Manager at Hukuntsi District Health Management Team (DHMT) and as a Nursing Officer at Mahalapye Clinic where he was the Focal person for Tuberculosis Case Management.

He holds a Bachelor of Nursing Sciences (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) , Certificate in Policing (Botswana Police College) and Certificate in Prisons Cadette Course (Botswana Prisons College).

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