Chido Mpofu ’20 spent the summer of 2018 back in her home country, shadowing doctors and working in different departments at a hospital in Masvingo, a city in southwestern Zimbabwe. She noticed that most of the medical equipment was imported and often outdated. If anything broke down, the hospital had to bring in a foreigner to fix it.
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“[That] is not sustainable,” said Mpofu, who wished Zimbabwe had a company that could produce medical devices using local resources to address local needs.
She decided to make that happen. And as a Colby sophomore going into her junior year, she was on her way to acquiring the necessary skills.
Ever since high school, Mpofu had an interest in medicine as well as in engineering. She didn’t want to become a doctor, so she eyed engineering. Needing time to determine what kind was right for her, she was drawn to Colby’s engineering dual-degree program. “At Colby, I had enough time to think about what I wanted to do, explore, and make sure I really wanted to do engineering,” she said.
On Mayflower Hill, she took full advantage of Colby’s wide-ranging courses, from computer science to music to mathematics, as well as its extracurricular offerings, to identify her interests. She tried new activities: dancing and choreographing for Vuvuzela, Colby’s African dance group, and for Colby Dancers; joining the crew team as a coxswain; and becoming a two-time COOT leader and COOT committee member. In the end, she decided on a mathematical sciences major for her academics.
“I really like the applied side of it,” she said. “It’s relevant to my engineering goals, and it is relevant to other things in life in general, … even the crisis we’re having right now, viruses and outbreaks.”
As a junior, she went to Dartmouth College to start her engineering degree. Taking classes in the biomedical field, she realized that was her passion. “I was always passionate about just what doctors do, the instruments they use,” she said.
Last January Mpofu worked at a hospital in Zimbabwe, researching medical devices and trying to understand, for example, which diseases are more prevalent in different provinces and what devices are important in their treatment. To start a biomedical equipment company in Zimbabwe in the future, she wants “to be involved in the scientific side of things,” she said.
At the same time, she wants to be able to steer the business.
“I want to do math, I want to do engineering, but I still need the business side to be able to understand how to run a business,” she said. Toward that end, she attended Harvard Business School’s online HBX CORe program and took business courses through the Tuck Business Bridge Program at Dartmouth.
With her Colby bachelor’s degree under her belt, she is interning at GE Healthcare in Wisconsin this summer. “Working with healthcare companies helps me to really understand and think about what I want my own company to look like,” she said.
To learn about healthcare systems in other countries, in December 2018 she joined a service-learning trip to Peru, where she volunteered with a local healthcare nonprofit. Last summer she helped develop a business plan for the same Peruvian nonprofit as a consulting intern through Dartmouth’s Paganucci Fellowship Program and learned about the organization’s model of keeping all its profits within the country. “Models like that, I think, would be useful for my future plans, which is why I really wanted to do this internship,” she said.
In the fall she will return to Dartmouth College to complete her last year in the engineering program.
With that, she will be a step closer to her dream that took root two years earlier as she rotated through different departments as an intern at a Zimbabwean hospital. “What really made me realize I need to do this was feeling that I need to help my own country,” she said. “That’s what pushes me to do this [kind of] engineering.”