Changing the World, One Person at a Time

Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06, general and bariatric surgeon at Specialists in General Surgery in Minneapolis, received one of Bethel’s 2021 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Awards for his ability to make his patients feel known and supported through surgery.

By Katie Johnson ’19, content specialist

August 19, 2021 | 9:15 a.m.

General and bariatric surgeon Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06 received one of Bethel’s 2021 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Awards for his holistic approach to healthcare.

General and bariatric surgeon Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06 received one of Bethel’s 2021 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Awards for his holistic approach to healthcare.

“When I take care of patients, I recognize them as fellow human beings in need rather than their conditions,” says surgeon Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06. “To an extent, it kind of backfires because my wife says, ‘Being with you and seeing how you interact with your patients has made it very difficult for me to find a good doctor because I expect every doctor to act like you.’” 

Although Chimukangara laughs with his wife about her biased perspective, there really is something that sets him apart from other surgeons in the Twin Cities. He’s intentional about listening to and developing personal relationships with his patients at every point of their medical journeys: from setting aside appropriate time during their initial appointments to seeing them as people with families who love and are concerned for them during surgery. Some of the relationships even transcend their time at a hospital when patients ask “Dr. Chim” to play a round of golf or share a meal. “They just become family,” Chimukangara says. “It's really amazing how just being there for somebody and helping them at their point of dire need and their point of lows—it opens a new relational dimension. We were strangers a minute ago, and after all this, it's as if we knew each other from childhood.”

Chimukangara is a general surgeon with a subspecialty in bariatric and advanced gastrointestinal (GI) surgery at Specialists in General Surgery in Minneapolis. He also covers emergency general surgery and trauma surgery at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. The Mpls.St.Paul Magazine recognized Chimukangara as a Minnesota Top Doctor, Rising Star in both 2020 and 2021, and most recently, he has received one of Bethel University’s 4 Under 40 Alumni Award for his holistic approach to healthcare.

Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06 with his wife, Nichole '06, GS'09, and their three children.

Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06 with his wife, Nichole '06, GS'09, and their three children.

Holistic healthcare has always been important to Chimukangara. Born in Zimbabwe, he was raised by nurses and lived next to a general surgeon. He was surrounded by medicine, and—inspired by that expression of care for others—he set out to become a surgeon as well. He shadowed doctors in high school, and when he came to the United States, he noticed that life moved at a faster pace and that some people didn’t prioritize spending time with others, even in a professional setting.

As a Christian, Chimukangara sees that his patients have inherent value as human beings and does his best to treat them as he would want to be treated. This was also true of his experience with Bethel professors, who got to know him as a human being rather than a student in their biology classes. “You actually have a name at Bethel,” Chimukangara says. “People know you and actually invest in you. I felt that with those interactions, I got more out of those classes, which helped me be better prepared to be more successful as I went beyond with my training.” The environment filled with fellow Christ-followers also helped strengthen his faith and even reminded him of home, since his parents are Christians involved with a missionary institution in Zimbabwe.

His desire to become a minimally invasive specialized surgeon grew in residency, where he experienced his “aha moment.” When he was on call as a resident in a hospital, a man presented to the emergency department was found to have a perforation of the esophagus. Chimukangara assisted a surgeon who employed a minimally invasive approach to repair the perforation instead of opening up the patient with a large incision. Impressed by how the advanced knowledge in technology and skill benefitted the patient, Chimukangara decided he would specialize in advanced GI surgery with the intention of learning more about the weight loss field and bariatric surgery. He realized that those struggling with obesity were often marginalized by society and depicted negatively through the media. He wanted to be an advocate for his patients and properly educate them on the variety of options they could use to reach their goals and pursue a healthy lifestyle—whatever that means for each individual.

“Many times, when patients come to follow up with me, they tell me, ‘Doctor Chim, you gave me my life back.’ Even though I know it's Somebody working through me to restore life, I get to be a part of that. It's a higher calling. This is how medicine should be. We should be serving others and I always tell people, ‘One person at a time.’ That's how we are going to change the world.”

— Munyaradzi Chimukangara ’06

For the patients who opt for surgery, Chimukangara works with a team of health professionals to support them every step of the way—from psychologists who help determine if patients have the right mindset for this kind of surgery to nurses, primary care providers, and everyone in between. He knows he’s meeting people at some of their most vulnerable moments as they struggle with anxiety, fear, and pain, and he does his best to counsel them and give them the care they deserve, just because they’re human beings.

Chimukangara is still motivated by Bethel’s core values as he cares for others in the medical field. He remembers carrying around a card of these values throughout medical school in his wallet, drawn specifically to being a “world-changer” and “reconciler,” and wondering how they were going to play out in his life. Now he knows. “By providing for my patient's tangible needs, their physical needs, I'm impacting their lives—one person at a time. When you provide for these physical needs, they open up their soul to you, and you can reach out to people even more beyond the medicine they need, the surgery they need. They open up their lives to you, and that is a wonderful privilege to be a part of.”

Nominate someone for a 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award.

Bethel University’s National Alumni Board annually seeks and accepts nominations for the 4 Under 40 Alumni Achievement Award. The selection is made from Bethel University graduates 40 years of age or younger who have had outstanding achievements in their career, public service, or volunteer activities.

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