Hoping to make the world a better place, Magda Van Hoyweghen has dedicated her life to general surgery. She began her journey by earning a diploma from Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Presentatie in Belgium in 1953 and an MD from Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 1966, and by completing surgical residencies in New York City between 1966 and 1970 and between 1967 and 1971. She then participated in a fellowship with the John L. Madden Surgical Society. These were big achievements because there weren’t too many female surgeons at this time. She was moved by her ability to help others, and in 1972, she decided to go where her skills were needed most: Africa.
During Dr. Van Hoyweghen’s 25-year stay, she worked as a general surgeon and medical mission sister in the referral government hospital of Mwanza, Tanzania; Juba, South Sudan; Attat, Ethiopia; and Serabu, Sierra Leone. In 1981, she obtained a permanent position as a senior surgeon in the Kamuzu Central Hospital of Lilongwe, Malawi, where she remained until 1993. Dr. Van Hoyweghen then became a member of the general government of the Medical Mission Sisters and was stationed in Nairobi, Kenya. While there, she also served the surrounding nations of South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Swaziland.
Dr. Van Hoyweghen returned to her home country, Belgium, in 1998. She remains there to this day as a general surgeon with the government of the Medical Mission Sisters, and as a member of a number of European organizations in her community. Notably, she is a member of the Diocesan Committee for Peace and Justice, the East African College of Surgeons, and the Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network in Belgium, where her international experience is able to be put to good use. Dr. Van Hoyweghen also works to keep updated on developments in the medical field. Since many of her mission sisters aren’t able to keep up with this due to location or a lack of time, she sends a six-page report to the Medical Mission Sisters network four times a year. She furthered her own academic standing with a master’s degree in bio-ethics in 1998.