This is no ordinary story. It is one with a rather hard beginning, tough choices, hard work, and determination, which culminates into a success story.
He was only 12 when he lost his mother and had to quickly learn how to live without her constant love and care. While this was heartbreaking, it did not keep him down. He was busy making money through his small initiatives. From fetching water and selling it to locals, to baking cakes and brewing local banana wine- he was a budding businessman.
Thirty-six-year-old Dr Willfredius Mugishagwe Rutahoile is a Tanzanian with a desire to help the community to embrace healthy lifestyles to keep diseases at bay.
At one time, Dr Mugishagwe aspired to be a Catholic Priest and was at the Seminary- a formation institution that prepares students to be priests. Today, however, he is a medical student pursuing a Masters Degree (Cardiology), and a determined businessman.
Though not serving as a priest, Dr Mugishagwe said in an interview with the African Exponent that he still serves his community the best way he knows how.
“I have no money to help millions of poor Tanzanians who cannot read or write but can hear or see and understand, yet still lose their beloved ones because of ignorance about diseases,” said the founding Managing Director of Health Media Tanzania Company Limited which owns Maisha Radio.
He added that his drive comes from the need to provide quality health information for all and improve the life of Tanzanians who fall sick and cannot afford to get to a health facility in time for early diagnosis and treatment.
“I hope through health radio and television they will be able to understand the causes, symptoms, and signs of common diseases in their surroundings hence help them in the prevention of such health problems.”
Prevention is better than cure
In his quest to empower the community Dr Mugishagwe’s Radio Maisha broadcasts on 100.1MHz (Stereo), covering Dodoma region and the neighboring areas of Singida, Manyara, Morogoro, Iringa, and Tanga.
According to him, the station is the first commercial health radio, providing solid health insights and creative expressions of preventive measures that help listeners to take the next step in knowing themselves better, the state of their well-being, and staying healthy.
When he speaks about the vision for his health initiative, the doctor is full of a positive outlook.
In future, “Health Media Tanzania Limited will be one of the first leading commercial health broadcast company in the country by establishing health programs for television as well as broadcast materials to be displayed on screens in all hospitals in the country,” said the one-time Semi-Finalist of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). He added: “We also look forward to establishing health newspapers.”
But the road has not been all rosy for the doctor. In fact, it has been rocky since he was a teenager. From a tender age, he had to deal with the loss of his mother and two of his siblings. As he grew older, he realized his challenges changed. He now had to deal with the fact that he couldn’t get adequate financial support to pursue medicine and later on to invest in the company.
Keeping the spirit
Together with his wife and well-wishers, Dr Mugishagwe rolled out his project and on June 1, 2011, Radio Maisha went on air for the very first time.
Full programming started on September 19, 2016, with informative, educational, and entertainment programs. In future, Radio Maisha plans to extend its transmission range beyond its current borders.
Currently, the radio only generates the little income from advertisements. But once the audience grows to a reasonable number, the station hopes to acquire more adverts and sponsorship programs- all geared towards increasing earnings.
The radio airs health programs that touch on reproductive and sexual health, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, drug abuse, and non-communicable and infectious diseases, as well as environmental health.
Making the right choice
Commenting on whether he regrets leaving priesthood, he admitted that he is happy he didn’t end up as a priest.
“I think it was not my calling,” he said of his priesthood vocation.
“Since I was taught to pray and ask God for guidance on how and where I could serve Him, His people, my family and myself very well; I therefore accepted that I could only serve Him through the institution of marriage and as a doctor.”
“I help to relieve pain and sufferings from the sick people. I don't know how my life would be,” he said, “if I would have become a priest.”
The father of two is set to complete his Master's program from China by July this year. His plan is to go back to Tanzania after the training to continue his development agenda through his company.
“I hope to go back to my country to work as a physician cardiologist and cardiology intervention specialist. I want to practice internal medicine with a heavy emphasis on cardiology and cardiac catheterization management.” The doctor added that his goal is to “standardize cardiac catheterization plan that is evidence-based through educating my patients and providing proven solutions that work.”
He believes in giving back to the community that supported and sustained him when he was growing up.
“I received immense support from different people to reach where I am. I’m indebted to each and every one of them.” Giving back to the society is one way that Dr Mugishagwe employs to ensure that they too benefit from his education.
When he is not practicing medicine, you will find the doctor listening to music, reading a captivating book, going out and having fun with family and friends. He also enjoys watching the news to remain updated with current events.
On his advice to young people, the doctor calls on them to remain strong and determined to their business ideas despite the challenges they may be facing. He urged them to save towards their ventures and be patient with their businesses.
“They shouldn't expect things to work overnight,” he said adding that they should approach challenges positively.
In the near future, the doctor will release a motivational book targeting young people. He hopes that the book will change their lives.
Cover image: Dr Mugishagwe during a visit to BBC Bristol Radio, UK. Image credit: Courtesy.