Ohio University

Alumni Spotlight: Matilda Dijeng

Alumni Spotlight: Matilda Dijeng
Matilda Dijeng, pictured next to her graduation photo (bottom row second from the left) hanging in the hallway of the Department of Physical Therapy. Photo courtesy of Dept. of Physical Therapy

Matilda Dijeng completed her degree in physical therapy at Ohio University in 1990. She returned to practice in her hometown of Francistown, Botswana, where she established and now runs her own outpatient clinic. She hosts OHIO physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and audiology students in the Botswana rehabilitation study abroad program.

Matilda recently visited OHIO to attend continuing education courses and participate in International Education Week. During her time here, we had the opportunity to catch up and ask her a few questions.

PT: What brought you to Ohio University for PT school?

DIJENG: I was sponsored by my government. They actually apply for you and then find a school for you. I was very lucky. I was the only one in my group who was sent here. Others were sent to Howard and Florida State and Tennessee. I remember I came here all by myself, and I was so warmly received. Honestly, once I got into the PT program it was so great.

PT: What have you been up to since graduation?

DIJENG:: After graduation I spent time working in both Botswana and the U.S. Currently I am back in Botswana with my two children. I own my own clinic, which we have moved into a larger facility that we recently built. It is the first purposely built physical therapy clinic in Francistown. We are very excited.

PT: How is physical therapy different in Botswana?

DIJENG: I wouldn't say there are very many differences, but there is much less paperwork and there are some challenges. We have very few physiotherapists because we do not have a physiotherapy program. We rely on physiotherapists who have been trained in other countries. If a patient is referred within the government system and does not have private insurance, it can take a long time to be seen. Also it may be that the patient needs a walker but it might be difficult to find a source for the walker. You don't have things like splints at your disposal, so you may need to order one from another country. To get those things is a little more challenging, unlike here where you can just put an order in and they can UPS it and get it here in the next few days. It doesn't quite work that way in Botswana.

PT: When speaking about Botswana, I can tell you are very proud of your country. What makes Botswana special?

DIJENG: It is a very peaceful country. A democratically stable country. We are a very peaceful people. No wars, very little corruption and great leadership. We have been lucky as a country to have natural resources that have been used to benefit the population at large as can be seen in the infrastructure, in the schools, the hospitals, the roads. This is unlike many other African countries where there is a lot of corruption, and the money from natural resources goes right into the pockets of those in power. It is not used for developing the country at large. The fact that I was able to come here being sponsored by the government shows how the government supports the people. I was here for four years, and I had a tuition stipend and health insurance all paid for by my government.

PT: What are your favorite memories at OHIO?

DIJENG: Oh, so many, I loved it here. I remember Gary Chleboun and Dennis Cade taught our ortho and would always call a patient “Jim Bob” in questions during exams, you know, “Jim Bob presents with this and this and this...what would you do?” And then there was Clyde Killian who taught neuro. He would do this dance for Horner's syndrome, signing mi-osis, p-tosis, and an-hi-drosis. I also loved cultural week at OHIO.