Health

Share their story

Alexander Abedian-Rawhani, 34

Cosmetic and community dentist
The Thinc Clinic & Wits University

Alexander Abedian-Rawhani is known to his patients and social media followers as Dr Smile. Thanks to his slew of celebrity clients, the Wits University alumnus has built a name beyond the health sector. He holds a top student graduate award for restorative dentistry, prosthetic dentistry and public oral health, and completed his master’s in science of dentistry (prosthodontics) at Wits in 2016. Abedian-Rawhani is also a lecturer and entrepreneur, making custom jewellery and music (as “LEXLEO”) in addition to brightening up his patients’ smiles on a daily basis. Driven by the idea that helping others also helps him grow, he runs the Project Smile Foundation, offering free dental healthcare to those who need it most. Of his varied interests, he says he gets to use his interests, talents and resources to contribute to the betterment of the world while serving humanity.

Trust in your capacity to be of service to humanity, and be confident in the fact that each soul goes through crisis and victory.

Author - Sandiso Ngubane
Zolani Metu, 28

Zolani Metu, 28

Mental health consultant and senior manager
Decolonial Mental Health and Jakes Gerwel Fellowship

Zolani Metu is the founder and director of Decolonial Mental Health (DMH). Established after Metu completed his master’s in social work at the University of Cape Town, DMH provides Afro-inspired solutions to psychosocial challenges in South Africa. Metu distinguishes DMH by offering counselling that’s queer-friendly and relatable. “To date, we have served over 1 000 clients through one of South Africa’s major insurance companies,” he says. His proudest moment came two years ago, when he presented the DMH model of mental health consultancy at the World Congress on Public Health, Epidemiology and Nutrition, and at the Africa Forum at Georgetown University. These opportunities were key for DMH’s development. Outside of his organisation, Metu also works as a senior manager for the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship, a university scholarship that provides mentoring and leadership development. “I help in the development of educational entrepreneurs, educational leaders and expert teachers,” he says.

Nabeel Allie | mg.co.za
Nelisiwe Mzili, 26

Nelisiwe Mzili, 26

Paramedic
ER24

Nelisiwe Mzili, a paramedic and first responder to car accidents and other emergencies, says that she’s driven to excel by the honour and the responsibility that she has been given to care for other human beings. The necessary and difficult work undertaken by Mzili saves lives and is a vital part of our health system. The dedication she has for her work is apparent when she reveals her proudest moment is qualifying as a paramedic and finally getting to be a first responder on a scene to treat a patient in need. She considers her biggest mistake to be not doing her best in matric. The advice she would give herself 10 years ago is “to not doubt myself and do more research on becoming a paramedic because dreams do become a reality”. Mzili hopes to inspire young people to drive change by helping to preserve life.

I feel strongly that if one nurtures a positive attitude and enthusiasm towards problem solving then one will have the potential to succeed in any domain.

Oratile Mashazi | mg.co.za
Nicholas Pereira, 32

Nicholas Pereira, 32

Physiotherapist
Enhanced Physiotherapy

Nicholas Pereira is a physiotherapist based in KwaZulu-Natal and the founder of Enhanced Physiotherapy, which he runs out of three locations: Hilton, Maritzburg College and Maritzburg United Football Club. Together with his partners, he teaches his philosophy of preventative healthcare to the youth and professional athletes. Pereira also believes in creating resources that many people can access. To that end, he has created a vlog and a YouTube channel where he regularly hosts classes on a number of topics, including rehabilitation, stretching and ways for other entrepreneurs to start and grow their own healthcare businesses. Like any business owner, Pereira has experienced setbacks in his career, but he has continued to make strides in improving the health of his clients and community.

I see myself adding great value to revealing the true potential of Africa and being part of the generation that will see it as a leading powerhouse continent.

Tshiamo Seape | mg.co.za
Avis Anya Nowbuth, 28

Avis Anya Nowbuth, 28

Medical researcher and founder
Pan-African Organisation for Health Education and Research, I_AMResponsible_Africa

Medical researcher Avis Anya Nowbuth is inspiring a new generation of health workers to tackle the issue of antimicrobial resistance. After studying medicine in Lusaka, Nowbuth joined the Pan-African Organisation for Health, Education and Research, and her “entire life changed”. Nowbuth has since created a programme that engages with students from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa. She attributes her success to being fearless: “Don’t allow insecurities about age or experience prevent you from making a big demand,” she says. Her programme, I_AMResponsible_Africa, empowers students to be leaders in the field of drug resistance research, which is particularly important in South Africa, where multidrug-resistant organisms are rife. Nowbuth doesn’t shy away from aiming high, her ultimate goal being to improve health on a global scale. “I want to be able to direct and coordinate health for nations, provide leadership and determine paths for research,” she says.

I am driven by an unshaken desire to see African countries such as South Africa become the “Wakanda” we know it can be.

 

 

Andie Reeves | mg.co.za
Lethabo Sekele, 31

Lethabo Sekele, 31

Founder and chief executive
WorkWell Workplace Mental Health

Lethabo Sekele founded WorkWell in 2019 to address mental health stigma in the workplace and educate companies about how to create psychologically healthy workplaces. “While a lot of progress has been made in encouraging open dialogue around mental health in various spheres of society, much work still needs to be done in the workplace, particularly in terms of educating senior leaders and line managers on how to support the mental wellbeing of employees,” Sekele says. The WorkWell programme focuses on prevention, early intervention and ongoing support through proactive strategies that identify, understand and respond to employee mental health needs and challenges. Through her work and that of WorkWell, Sekele hopes to increase mental health understanding and contribute to policy reform on mental health in South Africa. “I hope that through this reform, quality mental health facilities and treatment will be available to all South Africans and not just the few who are able to afford private healthcare.”

Ask a lot of questions and always follow your heart.

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Lucy Khofi, 27

Lucy Khofi, 27

Academic and women’s health activist
Wits Anthropology Department and Study Trust

It was her studies and research in medical anthropology that set Lucy Khofi, a master’s candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand, on the path of women’s health advocacy. Her desire to address issues of social inequality is indelibly bound to her academic career. She envisions a PhD in the field only as a means to better equip herself to understand and respond to the needs of women in her community. The mission of #RealTalkWithLucyKhofi, her non-profit organisation, is menstrual education and the distribution of sanitary products to disadvantaged schools. In 2020 Khofi founded Adopt a Student During the Pandemic, an initiative that provided academic and general support to more than 300 university-goers left stricken due to the effects of Covid-19. She has also hosted webinars featuring people living with endometriosis to raise awareness about the condition.

It’s not all work. Make time for the people and things that matter in your life, and set positive boundaries so you can achieve fulfilment, not only professionally but in all aspects of life.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Candice Langford, 31

Candice Langford, 31

Physiotherapist, practice owner, course author and public speaker
Nurture Pelvic Health

It’s never too late to change direction as long as you are still moving forward, and physiotherapist, author and public speaker Candice Langford is an example of that. She started off as a marine biologist and ecologist, but later answered her “calling” to pursue a career in the medical industry. With a special interest in pelvic and sexual health, Langford is gratified by her creation of an online self-guided course for people in sexual pain. Langford has completed many courses in her field and wants to work with her colleagues to reduce the impact of period poverty, continue educating people about pelvic and sexual health, and increase awareness about gender-based violence. “I have gone from being a very shy and reserved woman to being confident and comfortable with presenting on taboo topics to hundreds of people,” she says, thanks to her growing passion for her work.

Take charge of your career without waiting on the world to come and discover or surprise you.

Lineo Leteba | mg.co.za
Jill Ryan, 31

Jill Ryan, 31

Co-ordinator: Gender non-violence
Equality Unit, Centre for Student Counselling and Development, Stellenbosch University

Jill Ryan has one ultimate goal: a violence-free South Africa. “This is a big dream, but every journey starts with a single step,” she says. Since obtaining her PhD in child and family studies at the University of the Western Cape, Ryan has contributed to the field with her research on family violence and gender-based violence. She has served on expert committees at provincial and national level, advising on policy and implementation plans concerning the issue of violence against women and children. Being considered an expert in her field at age 31 feels “surreal” for Ryan, who encourages others to not be demotivated by failure. “Your ‘good enough’ efforts are more impactful than waiting for the unattainable ‘perfect’ time,” she says. She was recently appointed the gender nonviolence coordinator at Stellenbosch University’s Equality Unit, where she will strive to ensure vulnerable members of society are protected.

Credibility is everything and your name is all you have.

Andie Reeves | mg.co.za
Dylan Benyon, 33

Dylan Benyon, 33

Founder and managing director
Cognition & Co

Dylan Benyon founded Cognition & Co in 2018 as a means to advocate for mental health in South Africa and give those wanting to study in the field of psychology a place to find information and networking opportunities. His goal has always been to close the gap between students and professionals by creating mentorship initiatives and hosting conferences that allow the professionals to share their experience and insight with aspiring young students. Benyon is committed to doing all that he can to make mental healthcare accessible and available to anyone who needs it, and hopes to see massive strides taken towards the destigmatisation of mental illness in all societies and cultures in South Africa. Earlier this year, Benyon had his first paper published, and has also been selected to present one of his abstracts at the International Congress of Psychology 2020+ in Prague.

Do not let anyone bully you into thinking you are not capable.

Shai Rama | mg.co.za
Amanda Brewer, 32

Amanda Brewer, 32

Health systems strengthening and policy specialist
Guidehouse International

Health systems and policy specialist Amanda Brewer has had her hands especially full during the fight against Covid-19. While the pandemic has been a challenge, Brewer highlights the positives: “In the face of crisis, South Africans can come together for a common goal in the most outstanding and impactful way.” Brewer works with the national health department, developing health policy and working on decision-making structures. Her time is spent improving South Africa’s health sector, making quality, affordable medicines more accessible. Brewer’s strength lies in her experience working in public, private as well as non-governmental healthcare systems. Creating a better healthcare system for every person, regardless of socioeconomic status, is what motivates her. “I have seen that we have incredible scientific and healthcare talent and resources in this country,” she says. “We have the ability to provide equitable healthcare to all through universal healthcare.”

Hold onto whatever it is that ignites passion in you, explore it with curiosity but don’t hold on too tight — allow that same passion to change and grow with you.

Andie Reeves | mg.co.za
Cameron Joseph, 23

Cameron Joseph, 23

Medical student
University of Cape Town

Cameron Joseph is a medical student in his fifth year at the University of Cape Town. Despite his youth, Joseph is ambitious and outgoing, already making a significant impression on all those who encounter him. As a clinical student, he rotates through various specialties and their respective clinical teams, helping to manage the care of patients every step of the way. Over the course of his undergraduate studies, Joseph has taken every opportunity to invest his time where it counts. “The biggest surprise of my career thus far was the opportunity to collaborate with world-leading specialists such as paediatric cardiology professor Liesl Zuhlke at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital,” says. “It’s inspiring to work alongside doctors who embody the best qualities of a healthcare professional.” When not on duty, Joseph has also found the time to write for publications both locally and internationally on healthcare-related topics.

Who you build with is more important than what you are building.

James Nash | mg.co.za
Raikane Seretlo, 33

Raikane Seretlo, 33

Clinical applications specialists, lecturer and research assistant
Philips (META) & University of Pretoria

Changing the status quo of healthcare in Africa requires the efforts of people such as Raikane Seretlo — a clinical applications specialist for Philips, whose work entails leading obstetrics projects at hospitals and conducting training on medical software and equipment. He’s also a lecturer and research assistant at the University of Pretoria, where he teaches community healthcare nursing and assists new master’s students with writing their research proposals. An advocate for the sexual and reproductive health of the most vulnerable in our population, such as the LGBTIQ+ community, prisoners, sex workers, and survivors of gender-based violence and rape, he’s also busy with his dissertation for a master’s degree, and plans to commence a PhD immediately after that. Seretlo hopes that the people looking up to him see that anything is possible as long as you keep your eyes on the crown.

Oratile Mashazi | mg.co.za
Muhammed Vally, 33

Muhammed Vally, 33

Lecturer and pharmacist
University of Witwatersrand

Clinical pharmacy lecturer Muhammed Vally is one of the brains behind a project at Wits University to create a clinic where students can practice their skills on staff and fellow students. The Screening Testing Programme for pharmacy students lets them check blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and offers diabetes and HIV tests. It gives his students practical experience and provides a useful free service, especially for students without medical aid. Vally lectures in pharmacology and is a specialist in diabetes and preventive cardiovascular medicine. He hopes his work will help to train pharmacists to manage the hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol of their patients. “I would love to be the one who pioneers the change. Patients will be the ones to benefit from it, and since hypertension is such a big problem in South Africa, I would like that to be part of the solution,” he says.

Value yourself and be confident enough to take risks. Never fear failure.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Neziswa Titi, 35

Neziswa Titi, 35

Research psychologist
Children’s Institute of the University of Cape Town

Describing herself as a “child-centric methodologist”, Neziswa Titi conducts research that prioritises children’s voices. How they make meaning of experiences of sexual violence and trauma was the topic of the studies for which she was recently awarded her PhD at the University of South Africa. Titi is driven to see better representation of black children in academia. Her work is contextualised by a decolonial, Africa-centred outlook. Last year she was invited to be a guest speaker by the International and Canadian Child Rights Partnership to shed light on her approach. More broadly, her work is aimed at law reform and child rights advocacy through youth participatory mechanisms and community engagement. Titi is a committee member of the South African National Child Rights Coalition, and serves as the vice-chairperson of the research and methodologies division of the Psychological Association of South Africa. She also mentors young academics through the Ibali storytelling network.

Take a chance on yourself. You are worth it.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Bongs Mswane, 28

Bongs Mswane, 28

Community health promoter and researcher
Lenasia Community Health Centre

Bongani Mswane is a health professional who has recently entered the media industry through radio and presenting. “This background in media has helped me communicate better with others. My biggest surprise is that people actually recognise me at the hospital,” he says. Mswane works as a community health researcher at the Lenasia Community Health Centre and is studying for a postgraduate diploma in public health. “I want to see South Africa growing in communication and technology in health facilities,” he says. Mswane’s focus remains on healthcare, despite his recent entry into media, and he hopes to bring these two worlds together to better serve his community. “I assist patients and health workers with common communication because of language barriers that may occur within the interracial space,” Mswane says. Language and access to technology have been among his priorities. “Who knows? I might even develop health communication apps.”

I want to see a generation of level-headed artists who are grounded in morals and values and fully committed to their work. Children who are gifted with creativity deserve the same level of respect and recognition as academically gifted children.

Nabeel Allie | mg.co.za
Dina-Ruth Lulua, 34

Dina-Ruth Lulua, 34

Head of the graduate entry medical programme year I&II
Wits University

As Head of the graduate entry medical programme year I&II at Wits University’s Medical School, Dina-Ruth Lulua was involved in the education and graduation of more than 300 new medical students in the past year – a significant accomplishment against the backdrop of the current pandemic. For her efforts, Lulua was invited to join the board of the Adler Museum of Medicine, which focuses on the history of health sciences in South Africa and supplements educational activities at the university by means of collections, research, teaching, exhibitions and publications. This appointment aligns perfectly with Lulua’s career trajectory, as one of her biggest goals involves creating a holistic environment for black African students where they can create a sense of belonging and ownership within the medical fraternity. Her faith is her greatest source of strength, and she has a few words of wisdom for those feeling lost: “Your life will change, ask for help, it will be okay.”

Your life will change, ask for help, it will be okay.

Tshiamo Seape | mg.co.za
Mutshidzi Abigail Mulondo, 30

Mutshidzi Abigail Mulondo, 30

Lecturer
University of the Free State

“My biggest mistake was back in my first year of university when I chose to study medicine, not because I wanted to, but because I succumbed to peer and family pressure. I knew I wanted to serve humanity in a healthcare space, but that was not the right path.” Mutshidzi Mulondo is now a public health lecturer. Her role involves the promotion of health education and prevention of diseases through various forms of awareness in communities. Mulondo values mentors and believes she is the woman she is today because of other women who worked hard to guide her. Today she mentors and supervises students. “I hope at the end of my journey I have done absolutely everything in my power to make sure every single person has the opportunity to receive the best healthcare and treatment, whatever their financial or social standing,” she says.

Stand up for the voiceless and live wholeheartedly. Things might not always be comfortable but they will always be worth it in the end.

Maikeleng Ledimo, 26

Maikeleng Ledimo, 26

Professional nurse
Wildebeesfontein Clinic

“Win the morning, win the day,” is Maikeleng Ledimo’s motto. Waking up and putting one’s best foot forward, she says, sets the tone for a successful 24 hours. Early mornings seem inevitable with a schedule as busy as hers, but various accolades suggest that she benefits from her own advice. Ledimo calls Sharpeville home and works as a nurse at Wildebeesfontein Clinic. She is concurrently completing a master’s programme in nursing at the University of Pretoria, after graduating from there with an honours degree in the discipline. She also serves as the rapporteur of the SADC youth parliament — a role that allows her to engage her keen interest in the politics of healthcare. Her proudest achievement in that capacity was the health committee’s #EndNTDs campaign, which shone a light on the lack of resources and injustices surrounding neglected tropical diseases.

I want to give hope to those who were previously disadvantaged and marginalised.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Brandon Ferlito, 25

Brandon Ferlito, 25

Bioethicist
The South African Medical Association

A distinguished academic record preceded Brandon Ferlito’s present enrollment at the University of the Witwatersrand’s PhD programme in bioethics and health law. His tumultuous childhood as an openly gay youngster in Westbury — an area in Johannesburg that is better known for gang violence and substance abuse than its championing of LGBTIQ+ rights — attests to his gravity-defying upward mobility. He admits that, at one stage, even his prospects of completing matric seemed dubious. Today, alongside his doctoral studies, Ferlito works as a bioethicist with the South African Medical Association. His day job involves advising the association on various ethical quandaries on a case-by-case basis, and providing research support to its internal departments and committees. Ferlito is candid about his struggles with depression and anxiety, counterweighted by the strength and self-belief that he derives from his work. His message to healthcare workers is to always conduct themselves in a morally and ethically sound manner.

The biggest surprise to me is that you can do good and get paid for it.

Zia Haffejee | mg.co.za
Lerato Solomon, 30

Lerato Solomon, 30

Founder and mental health advocate
Mental Matters with Lerato Solomon

“Everything I do is embedded in the values of community and humanity,” says Lerato Solomon, the founder of Mental Matters who is also currently completing her BA community development studies at Unisa. After seven years of studying law for financial gain, she realised her purpose is to serve. “I am born to be a community servant – to motivate, inspire and empower individuals.” Solomon is an advocate for mental health. She addresses the stigma that prevents society from identifying and discussing mental health challenges, but adjusting her own mind-set first helped her to learn from mistakes. “For the most part of my life, I never recognised my worth or value as a person.We are all valid and we should be taking up space because there is enough room for all of us to do so.”

You can never run away from your true “calling” no matter how great you are at your job.

Eunice Stoltz | mg.co.za