Pioneering consultant retiring after career spanning three decades

A pioneering consultant who set up the MRI service at Grimsby hospital is retiring after nearly three decades.

Dr Nawa Sumbwanyambe, consultant radiologist, has served the people of North East Lincolnshire for 27 years.

Dr Nawa Sumbwanyambe (centre) pictured with colleagues in CT

The 62-year-old trained as a doctor in Zambia, then came to the UK in the eighties to complete his specialist training in Edinburgh. After completing his fellowship he worked at York and Hull hospitals before moving to Grimsby hospital in 1992. He was tasked with setting up a new MRI service from scratch – people in the area had previously had to travel to Hull for a scan – and helped the community raise £1 million towards the project.

He credits this as being one of his proudest moments of his career which began in his home country of Zambia where he had the privilege of working for President Kaunda for two years, as his personal physician, looking after visiting heads of state, including Prince Charles.

He’s very proud to be the first Zambian to complete the Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists. Other achievements include sourcing the first colour flow doppler ultrasound machine for Grimsby hospital and holding numerous international conferences and training sessions – attracting doctors from all over the world to Grimsby. He was also involved in the merger of the hospital with Scunthorpe and Goole hospitals.

Dr Sumbwanyambe said: “It’s been a wonderful journey and I’ve had an amazing and very fulfilling career. When I joined I was the only African consultant at the hospital and as such helped other overseas doctors to settle in. I feel I have been very lucky to get where I am – many people have helped me along the way, not forgetting the staff who have been amazing to work with.”

He has spent much of his career trying to give something back to the profession and has personally recruited many of the staff who have worked in the radiology department over the years and has spent time supporting and helping many others with their careers and progression.

Dr Sumbwanyambe and his wife Mary, a retired paediatric diabetes nurse specialist who also worked at the town’s hospital, have four children and live in New Waltham. He said: “We’ve had a great life here, we’ve been very happy in the area. One of my children attended Caistor Grammar school and I was a governor there for five years.”

Much of his work in recent years has been as lead radiologist for Lung Cancer Multidisciplinary team meeting (MDT). He has seen many developments in cancer diagnosis and treatment over the years but he’s also battled through the disease twice himself and feels it has made him a better radiologist. He said: “I know what cancer patients have been through and I think it gives them hope that I can sit there and say I’ve been through this and I survived.”

Dr Sumbwanyambe, who is believed to be the longest serving consultant at the hospital, says there was a time when he was reporting around 30,000 scans year-on-year.

Dr Steven Griffin, divisional clinical director for clinical support services, said: “Dr Sumbwanyambe has been an integral part of the department and was instrumental in setting up the services which thousands of local patients have benefitted from. He will be sorely missed and we wish him an enjoyable retirement.”

Dr Sumbwanyambe has worked part time for the past few years and plans to continue with his private work when he retires at the end of September. One thing he would like to do in his retirement is set up a system whereby doctors in his native country and other third world countries can upload scans to the ‘cloud’ for radiologists across the globe to report from their own homes.

He’ll still be keeping his hand in with the radiology community as he is a member of numerous professional associations including Radiological Society of North America, Global Radiology CME and International Cancer Imaging Society and travels the world to attend international conferences.

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