Lives of the fellows

Jens Karl-Heinrich Mielke

b.21 August 1960 d.12 March 2008
MB ChB Cape Town(1984) DA(1987) MRCP(1992) MHSc Toronto(2002) FRCP(2007)

A neurologist and epilepsy specialist, Jens Mielke devoted his life to caring for patients in Zimbabwe, under very difficult political and economic conditions. He was born in Norderney, Germany, the son of Karl-Heinz, a paediatrician, and Gisela Mielke, a pharmacist. At the age of 12 Jens and his family relocated to Rhodesia, of which state he gained permanent residence status. He was educated at Churchill Boys High School, in what was then Salisbury. He went on to study medicine at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, graduating in 1984.

Back in Zimbabwe, he became a registrar in internal medicine at the Harare and Parirenyatwa hospitals. From 1991 to 1993, he went to the UK for specialist training in internal medicine and neurology, serving in posts at King’s College and Maudsley hospitals in London, Gloucester Royal Infirmary and Bristol’s Southmead Hospital. In 1992 he gained his membership of the College.

On his return to Harare, he became a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe Medical School and a specialist physician at the Parirenyatwa hospital. In 2000 he became a senior lecturer and, from 2002, an associate professor. Also in 2002 he formalised his interest in bio-ethics (he was, among other roles, coordinator of the joint research ethics committee of the Parirenyatwa Hospital and College of Health Sciences) with an MHSc in bio-ethics from the University of Toronto, Canada.

His first paper on epilepsy, published in 1997, reflected his interest on the social impact of the disease, dealing in particular with the knowledge and attitudes of teachers towards epilepsy in Zimbabwe. When the International League Against Epilepsy/International Bureau for Epilepsy/Word Health Organization Global Campaign Against Epilepsy called for demonstration projects to show how best to organise epilepsy care in rural areas of Africa, two projects were selected, one in francophone Senegal and the other in anglophone Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding the rapidly changing political and economical conditions in Zimbabwe, Mielke persisted and in 2005 he was able to have a final report presented at the Congress of the World Federation of Neurological Societies in Sydney and at the 26th International Epilepsy Congress in Paris.

Jens Mielke’s promising career was abruptly ended by a plane crash at Harare airport. He leaves his wife, Sheila, a physiotherapist, whom he married in 1984, two sons (Dieter and Alexander) and a daughter, Hanna. He will be missed by his family, patients and the wider scientific community.

Harry Meinardi

[The Lancet,2008,372,286]

(Volume XII, page web)

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