Read the Conversation

EF: Elaborate on Olympus' presence in Southern and East Africa in more detail. What are your regional priorities?

MH: Our partners, strategically stationed in the diverse areas of South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mauritius, engage in a profoundly collaborative synergy with our organization. This symbiotic relationship extends to the presence of resellers in other nations, such as Uganda, Angola, the Seychelles, Malawi, and Rwanda. The management of these regional alliances is deftly facilitated by our dedicated cadre of area managers, a dynamic duo stationed in Kenya and South Africa, who maintain an active and substantive dialogue with our distributors daily.

Further bolstering our global presence, we have our product managers and technical department, both stationed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who consistently engage in seamless communication with our valued distributors, discerning customers, and esteemed medical practitioners.  

Furthermore, our organizational vision encompasses the localized introduction of educational courses, enhancing our outreach within the domestic sphere. Concurrently, our partners invest in the advancement of our region by spearheading workshops and training sessions, with an unwavering focus on elevating the health, safety, and overall quality of life for the patient populace. This invaluable contribution is rendered both independently and in harmonious conjunction with our active support.

EF: Regarding the partnership you are forming in Kenya and the expertise that you are bringing. What are your expectations of the partnership, and how will it influence the likelihood of new collaborations in other countries?

MH: Within the medical landscape of Kenya, gastrointestinal endoscopy plays a vital role in diagnosing and treating various conditions. To address the shortage of highly skilled physicians in this field, our cooperative partnership has initiated a development support program. In collaboration with the International Medical Department of Japan’s Kyushu University Hospital, Olympus is conducting training in gastrointestinal endoscopy to enhance early disease detection and treatment.

Funded by the Japanese government's Projects for Global Growth of Medical Technologies, in 2023 Olympus is honored to be a participant. In two weeks, three doctors from our team will travel to Kenya to train approximately 10 to 15 participants. Subsequently, Kenyan doctors will journey to Japan for advanced training. This exchange fosters international cooperation and strengthens Kenya's medical landscape.

EF: You have worked at Olympus for eight years. What changes do you expect to occur at Olympus over the next two years, and where do you want Olympus to be with regard to the activities that fall within your purview?

MH: In my perspective, our overarching ambition resides in elevating Olympus within the realm of the medical sales industry, characterized by an unassailable reputation and ubiquitous acclaim for the provision of superlative goods and services.

We recognize the great significance of fostering robust and enduring affiliations with preeminent entities within the expansive tapestry of the healthcare sector, encompassing the likes of esteemed hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations. These strategic alliances serve as the cornerstone of our mission, as we endeavor to enhance patient outcomes and the overall efficacy of healthcare delivery. Our dedication manifests through the provision of innovative solutions that enhance diagnostic precision and treatment effectiveness, thereby solidifying Olympus' pivotal role in the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

EF: What do stakeholders, hospitals, clinics, and healthcare organizations, in your opinion, look for in long-term collaborations with companies like Olympus or perhaps other competitors?

MH: I believe it varies from country to country for doctors and hospitals, but they are searching for a dependable partner who can offer them solutions as well as education, training, and after-sales support. Therefore, for us, after-sales assistance is crucial; you do not want medical equipment to be used by doctors and nurses who have not been properly trained for it.

Moreover, it is pertinent to highlight the under-discussed yet paramount role of nurses within the healthcare paradigm. Recognizing that their competence directly impacts patient safety, we have implemented targeted programs aimed at equipping nurses with the requisite knowledge and skills for the proper and effective utilization and maintenance of our equipment. Our engagement extends beyond the medical fraternity's purview, underscoring our commitment to the broader healthcare ecosystem. Personally, with a nursing background that informs my perspective, I place profound emphasis on the holistic integration of nurses alongside their esteemed physician counterparts within the healthcare landscape.

EF: Given the continual advancement of this type of technology, it is crucial to keep nurses trained right?

MH: Nurse turnover remains a persistent challenge within our healthcare context. Nurses often find themselves redirected to gastrointestinal or surgical departments, even if they are initially assigned elsewhere. Given their pivotal role in scope maintenance and cleanliness, their collaboration with technicians constitutes a vital line of defense for ensuring patient safety. Hence, it is imperative that they receive continuous and comprehensive training, particularly in the context of safeguarding the integrity and safety of our scopes.

EF: You've shifted your attention to surgery and optical solutions, but in South Africa and Southern Africa, access is a problem due to inequality. How can you strike a balance between providing cutting-edge technology and meeting everyone's needs?

MH: We conduct separate evaluations for each country in our region, recognizing that South Africa stands apart from the rest due to its unique dynamics. South Africa serves as an exemplar where every facet of our technology finds comprehensive application, spanning diverse medical domains such as ear, nose, and throat (ENT), urology, surgical procedures, and gastroenterology.

Indeed, South Africa distinguishes itself as a hub of advanced medical expertise, attracting patients from neighboring nations seeking specialized care, particularly in fields like ENT where other countries may lack the requisite proficiency. Across the broader African landscape, there exists a notable emphasis on gastrointestinal, urological, and respiratory care. Many physicians, having undergone training abroad, return to their home countries to channel their focus into these three specialized domains. It's noteworthy that, regardless of a country's size, these medical specializations consistently remain integral components of healthcare provision.

EF: You mentioned Mozambique, Mauritius, Kenya, and South Africa, correct? Because the demands and dynamics of each country vary greatly from one another, how are you balancing all those different countries?

MH: We make use of our country-specific area managers. Both of my area managers have backgrounds in medicine, and one of them began their career as an application specialist. When it comes to much smaller nations like Mozambique and Mauritius, for instance, an area manager will travel there to provide installations and educational support, educating either the distributor staff or the nursing staff in the process. You examine each nation separately, evaluate their needs, and provide assistance where it is required. Having someone with a background in medicine is incredibly advantageous since they truly understand everything.

EF: Olympus puts a lot of effort into fostering innovation. Regarding regulatory considerations and national receptiveness, how do you see countries in Southern and Eastern Africa adopting technology? Do you observe variations in adoption amongst the various nations?

MH: In my regions, which encompass South Africa and Kenya, there exists a notable receptivity to innovative medical technologies, characterized by a swift and enthusiastic adoption. The propensity of healthcare practitioners and the international scope of their training play pivotal roles in this phenomenon. Many of our esteemed medical professionals undergo training abroad, frequently in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, or Germany. Upon their return to their home countries, they engage in collaborative efforts with both their international counterparts and Olympus to introduce these cutting-edge technologies, with the overarching goals of enhancing patient safety and elevating the standard of care.

It's worth noting that the seeming size or global prominence of a country can be misleading. One of its most significant advantages may well be the presence of a cadre of doctors who have received their training abroad, subsequently returning to their native lands to contribute their enriched expertise to the betterment of their fellow citizens' health and well-being.

EF: Are you taking any steps to accelerate access in places with unequal access?

MH: In the context of training, our collaborative efforts extend to multiple organizations that offer a spectrum of educational resources, encompassing virtual, peer-to-peer, and self-administered training programs. Notably, the advent of the COVID pandemic has acted as a catalyst in propelling the online training paradigm forward, rendering vital information readily accessible worldwide.

Within this framework, we have developed a comprehensive platform known as "Olympus Continuum" hosted on our website. This platform serves as an invaluable resource, enabling medical professionals to seamlessly register for training sessions. Moreover, it provides convenient access to an extensive archive of training videos from prior sessions, ensuring that knowledge dissemination remains accessible and uninterrupted.

EF: What would you like to do to commemorate, perhaps, 5 years with the company?

MH: That relates to the question I addressed earlier. It involves a lot of teamwork; success is not only about your personal achievements but also about what you accomplish as a group and as a business as a whole. For me, it's also the introduction of innovative products that address urgent medical needs and progress in healthcare. I believe that being a nurse, I have a passion for healthcare and education in Africa. That, in my opinion, is something crucial, along with making sure that we improve the health and safety of the patient's life.

EF: Do you have any final comments for our audience, which will include people from all of Africa, from the perspective of your region?

MH: I like the global brand message called “True to Life” from Olympus that I think fits in with everybody. It expresses that “we believe everybody should have the opportunity to live life to the full. Every day we are advancing medical technologies and solutions to help people everywhere fulfill their desires, their curiosities, and their dreams, as well as their ambitions and lives.”

This message strikes a chord with me personally and, in my opinion, really connects to a personal goal that I believe we all share: to guarantee that everyone has the opportunity to fully live out their dreams. Olympus can help make it happen by providing solutions for better healthcare.

September 2023