In memoriam: Dr Rodney MH Kalanda (1969-2021)

Adamson S. Muula 1, Isaac NK Chirwa 2

  1. Department of Public Health, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Malawi
  2. Asmala Health Services, Lilongwe, Malawi

We were saddened by the death of Dr. Rodney Mwaiwathu Havilland Kalanda on 24th January 2021. Rodney was a highly respected clinician, mentor, clinical educator, and philanthropist who importantly contributed to advancing clinical care of patients in Malawi. Dr Kalanda’s death was all the more bitter to his family and friends as he passed away exactly one week after the death of his older brother Aleksandr. Another brother, Samson, died a week after Rodney’s demise.


Rodney was among the final group of Malawians who, late Professor Adelola Adeloye described as “hybrid students”1, meaning there were medical graduates of the College of Medicine, then of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) who graduated within the country (Malawi) but having been partly trained and educated elsewhere. Rodney had attended the Flinders University of South Australia 2 at Bedford Park in Adelaide from 1993 to 1995 (first to third years of medical school). His Malawian compatriots at Flinders Medical School were Cecilia Chibwana, Alice Maida, Joe Alex Theu, Haldon Njikho, Frank Mtolamawele Chimbwandira, Adamson Sinjani Muula, Daniel Chakhumbila Chipeta, Dalitso Godfrey Kangaude, and late Frank Bweya Dick Mwaungulu.

Prior to attending Flinders (as was the university was fondly called), he had studied for a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, taking what was at the time referred to as the first combination (English, Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics and Biology) at Chancellor College (1990-1993) which he left in his third year. After three years of medical education from 1993 to the end of 1995, Rodney returned to Malawi to join the four-year old medical school where he was until 1998. His “Flinders” cohort joined with another Malawi “hybrid” cohort which had itself returned from the University of Cape Town, South Africa comprising: Andrew Gonani, Paul Frivosky Daza, James Chipwete, Thomas Dacruz, Tilera Dzingomvera, Chimwemwe Kalumbi, Isaac Chirwa, late Renovas Bonga, George Chithope-Mwale, Martias Chimeteleni Joshua and Edgar Peter Kuchingale.

Rodney graduated with his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degrees of the University of Malawi in 1998. Between 1997 and 98, student Rodney served as the students’ union transport liaison officer. Safety and high quality standards once got him in trouble when he advised students not to ride an open truck in lieu of a proper student bus. The college administration was not pleased by this gesture despite the fact that Malawi’s road traffic injury statistics have always been among the worst in the world.

 From 1998 to 2000, he was an intern at the largest teaching hospital in Malawi, the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH).  In 2000 when he completed his internship and during the period earlier to this, one’s completion of the mandatory 18 months internship (3 months each in Internal Medicine, and Paediatrics and five months each in General Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology and two months of public sector management education and training) automatically led to one assume the office of a District Health Officer (DHO) in the country’s Ministry of Health. Malawi has 30 health districts. While the majority of his compatriots picked up the DHO post which at the time constituted largely administrative (as head of the district health services) and some clinical responsibilities, Dr Kalanda was very clear as to what he wanted: pure clinical medicine with minimal administrative responsibilities. We were not surprised when, immediately following the completion of his internship, he moved on to join the Blantyre Adventist Hospital (BAH), a private religious institution. Rodney served largely in the adult internal medicine area. His desire not to be in administration could not be sustained as he later on became the hospital’s medical director, thus in charge of both the technical and administrative arms of the facility. He would often end up disagreeing with his colleagues in finance when he would not allow the hospital to take up consultation fees when he as the attending physician had consulted fellow physicians or their close families. His Australian education and training had taught him that it was wrong to earn from one’s professional colleagues.

In 2003, Dr Kalanda moved to Adventist Health Center (AHC) in the Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi. His diligence in clinical services resulted in the expansion of services at this facility which included the establishment of off main hospital campus facilities. Rodney later moved on with with his colleagues to establish Asamala Health Services Ltd, trading as Area 18 Medi Clinic, a general and specialist facility. Although Dr Kalanda served only briefly as a civil servant, those of us who knew his work also knew that he served as the informal presidential physician for several of Malawi’s State Presidents and Vice Presidents. Rodney was a quite giant and will be sorely missed by family, thousands of his patients and ourselves who count ourselves fortunate to have been privileged to be mentored by him. Dr Kalanda is survived by his wife, Maggie, two children (a daughter and a son), his mother and siblings.


  1. Adeloye A. The Malawi “hybrid” medical graduates (1992-1998). Malawi Med J 2016 Sep;28(3):87-91.
  2. Muula AS, Broadhead RL. The Australian contribution towards medical training in Malawi. Med J Aust. 2001 Jul 2;175(1):42-7. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2001.tb143513.x.

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