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Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele (28)

Medical Doctor, Department of Health

Dedicated, dynamic and multi-talented is how colleagues describe Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele, a medical doctor in the public sector, working in the department of anaesthetics at Leratong Hospital in Gauteng. Currently pursuing her postgraduate studies in pharmaceutical medicine, she has a strong interest in the socioeconomics of health, and dreams of making pharmaceuticals more orientated towards the disease burden that most affects African populations, by making them more accessible and affordable.

Cele is one of 700 young leaders chosen from sub-Saharan Africa to participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young South African Leaders in the United States during 2019.

She has also been invited to take part in this year’s Vedica’s global programme for women’s leadership in India. This programme will bring together 100 young women leaders from India, Africa and the Bay of Bengal community to host conversations, working sessions, field trips, and cultural immersion activities to provide authentic exposure to young women and prepare them for impactful leadership positions.

An entrepreneur at heart, she started her own tutoring and au pairing company during her studies at Wits Medical School. She also served on the executive for the Wits Surgical Society and the South African Medical Students Association.

An avid bibliophile who has been reading since the age of four, Cele is, in addition, cofounder of a popular South African literary podcast, the Cheeky Natives, which focuses on the review, curatorship and archiving of Black African literature, and aims to provide critical engagement about the work of Black authors. The podcast, which as an ever-growing reach into Africa, is not only playing a critical role in archiving Black literary voices, it is also creating interest in reading and critical thinking across diverse communities.

Together with the podcast’s cofounder Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane, Cele has been invited to participate in the second regional seminar of the International Publishers Association in Nairobi on a panel entitled ‘Developing Africa’s next generation of publishers, writers and artists.’ – Linda Doke

LinkedIn: Alma-Nalisha-Cele

Author -
Xanthe Hunt (27)

Xanthe Hunt (27)


Xanthe Hunt has dedicated her career to health research, specifically the effects of social dynamics on sexual, mental and reproductive health.
With postgraduate degrees in journalism and psychology and her doctorate in psychology behind her, Hunt is now affiliated with California University and is studying clinical research training through Harvard University while working as a researcher at the Institute for Life Course Health Research at Stellenbosch University’s department of global health.

The focus of Hunt’s work is on two primary areas. The first is maternal and child health, where she works on a portfolio of projects that all have the aim of improving services for young children affected by HIV and their caregivers, in Kenya, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania. This work centres on finding out how to optimally support local governments, as well as community-based organisations, to deliver the best kinds of services to those children and families who most need them.

The other focus of her work researches sexual and reproductive health among people with disabilities. Together with a group of South Africans with disabilities, she is writing a book which showcases individuals’ experiences of accessing sexual and reproductive health services as a person with a disability. The book provides a platform to educate lay people, not just academics, about some of the social, economic and practical barriers that people with disabilities encounter in trying to achieve optimal health. It also explores what is needed to make sexual and reproductive health, and sexual wellbeing attainable for people with disabilities in South Africa.

In both areas, her work focuses on using research data to drive practical, important changes in the ways that health and social systems operate, to optimally benefit their users.

“As somewhat of an outsider, and because I recognise that a lot of where we end up in life is due to social forces, I am curious about the drivers of social inequality and exclusion. I am fascinated by social dynamics, and I want answer questions about how to make social marginality liveable and valuable. For me, health research is about addressing the dynamics in society which make life difficult for some people, and not others,” explains Xanthe.

Dr Viwe Mtwesi (34)

Dr Viwe Mtwesi (34)


Dr Viwe Mtwesi is a cardiologist who specialised at the University of Witswatersrand, after she completed her undergraduate studies in medicine at Walter Sisiulu University. She is now in Canada doing a clinical fellowship in electrophysiology and plans to return to South Africa to provide this much needed service.

Mtwesi had not initially planned for a career in the healthcare sector. She found herself in medicine after not getting into mechanical engineering. However, she sees this as the unravelling of a perfect plan, because she loves what she does and cannot imagine herself doing anything else; she describes medicine as her calling. While studying she fell in love with the cardiovascular system and distinctly recalls that moment being when she started learning about and doing electrocardiograms.

Through collaboration with other organisations and community groups she has been able to implement several projects. One such project has allowed for free specialist services to be provided to those who are unable to afford them. She has also initiated and facilitated a mentorship program. “Mine is a goal of being better, and knowing that each day takes me closer to my dream, of creating change around me, of contributing towards producing leaders that are way better than me, African leaders that stand on global platforms to contribute towards making the world a better place.”

As the founder of Reeega medical tourism she is able to fulfil the need for medical tourism and innovation in our country, connecting both local and international clients to good healthcare services. Reeega also send patients abroad for services that are not offered in our country.

Mtwesi envisions vibrant minds from different sectors in Africa coming together to identify gaps in the healthcare system and finding innovative solutions that are currently lacking. She is passionate about innovation and plans to become a clinical entrepreneur as “the productivity of any nation depends on excellent health care, and for me being part of healthcare providers means I have a role to play in ensuring that we improve our economy and productivity as a nation”.

Instagram: @vieezee

Thato Mabudusha (28)

Thato Mabudusha (28)

Group Lead: Strategy and Business Development, Life Healthcare

Starting off as a managing consultant, Thato Mabudusha now uses her skills to help with health innovation on the African continent. Since she was a child she has been inspired to help others and give back to the community.

“Most of the family on my mother’s side are into healthcare and public service, so it’s kind of always been in our blood since we were young that we were here to make a difference and do something with what we’ve received,” she says.

“I feel like I’ve been given these incredible opportunities and education and networks, and if I’m not using it to benefit other people who need it, then I feel like my life isn’t being used to its full potential.”

She started off her career in the financial aid sector, working mostly in East Africa. While the company was doing a lot of incredible work, Mabudusha says she felt like she wasn’t really making an impact herself, so she left and joined Discovery Vitality.

“That’s where my journey into health really kicked off,” she said. After Discovery, she moved onto Life Healthcare, where she helped develop a technology which she calls “Capitec for healthcare, so it’s low cost, high quality”.

Along with a team she has developed a fully digital primary health clinic. At the clinic, people can get access to healthcare for R250, medication and a doctor’s consultation.

Her work relies heavily on technology, and Mabudusha says the fourth industrial revolution is fundamental for increasing access to healthcare. “In Africa it can be used to deliver medicine faster to people who don’t have access. Technology isn’t the only answer. We also need to have empathy and care about people, but I think it’s a tool that can help us,” she said.

She is working towards an MA at the Wits Business School. In the future Mabudusha says she wants to work in a space to solve social problems using technology. Along with that, she wants to help create a network that helps to develop entrepreneurs. “I want to bring out the best in people.” — Fatima Moosa

LinkedIn: thato-mabudusha

Angel Nefuri (32)

Angel Nefuri (32)

Advanced life support paramedic, HALO Aviation

You know you’ll be okay if you find yourself in the care of advanced life support paramedic Angel Nefuri, who refused to allow obstacles get in his way to achieve his dream career.

Having nurtured a desire to be a medic for as long as he can remember, Nefuri, who hails from the Limpopo village of Tshakhuma, joined the South African National Defence Force as a paratrooper, volunteering as an ambulance assistant, after finishing school.

After his time in the army, he enrolled for a health sciences emergency medical care degree at the University of Johannesburg. Using all available funds to pay for his studies, he could not afford residence fees, so for the three years of his studies he slept in his car, using the campus sports facilities to wash and do laundry.

In an effort to pay his tuition fees for his final year so that he could complete his degree, he begged for money on a street corner. A member of the public posted a photograph of him on social media, which went viral: making his cause public knowledge.

The award of a bursary from the Gauteng City Region Academy enabled him to complete his studies. Today he is an advanced life support emergency care practitioner – a flight paramedic with a helicopter emergency medical service company.

Nefuri’s inspiration for his tireless work comes simply from wanting to help others: “Even as a young child growing up, it was my dream to be a heath care provider, so I could help my grandmother who suffers from arthritis. Little did I know it would become a dream I would have to sacrifice so much to achieve and persevere for so long to see realised.

“I get tremendous satisfaction from helping people. Knowing that I have contributed to improving someone’s health is just priceless. Helping children and the elderly, is a part of my job I find really rewarding. For me, caring for someone else’s life is both a privilege and an honour.” – Linda Doke

LinkedIn: Angel Nefuri

Charles Maphanga (32)

Charles Maphanga (32)

Research Scientist, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

Dedicated research scientist Charles Maphanga believes that being a responsible role model and transferring knowledge and life experience are some of the most effective ways to empower learners.

Schooled in Steelpoort in Limpopo Province, he knows first-hand the pressures of a disadvantaged learning environment, and has made it his life mission to help develop young learners, particularly in the sciences.

A biophotonics scientist at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) national laser centre (NLC) in Pretoria, Maphanga is reading towards his PhD in physics. His research project focuses on the development of point-of-care diagnostic devices that can be used for patients in resource-limited healthcare facilities to improve the diagnosis, treatment initiation and monitoring of diseases in the healthcare system.

Awarded best masters studentship at the CSIR’s NLC 2017 excellence awards, and acknowledged as a finalist at the organisation’s wide excellence awards in 2018, Maphanga’s research work has been presented numerous times at local and international conferences.

As a product of mentorship himself, he is passionate about developing young people in science. He is the founder and executive director of Lesedi Academy for Science Advancement, a registered non-profit organisation that aims to educationally empower high school learners from grades 10 to 12 by offering monthly educational workshops in physical sciences, mathematics, life sciences and English. The academy also conducts annual job-shadowing, career days, mentorships and innovation camps in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) to empower pupils.

“I established the academy to help improve the pass rate of grade 12 rural learners so that they have a better chance to qualify for bursaries at universities to pursue careers in Stem fields. I also tackle the number of academic drop-outs at high school level which results in economic and social burden to the local communities and the country at large,” he says, explaining that part of his goal is to establish science centres in the villages.

Maphanga is the current president of the CSIR optics student chapter, having served as the outreach coordinator and secretary for the same organisation, which comprises postgraduate students registered in any light-related degrees at any South African university. It promotes awareness for careers in the Stem fields through outreach projects in rural areas and previously disadvantages townships. – Linda Doke


Azola Mzekandaba (28)

Azola Mzekandaba (28)

Programme Manager, Property Point

Twenty-eight-year-old programme manager and health strategist in the public health space Azola Mzekandaba believes in doing what it takes to light up the world for the good. Hailing from Springs, east of Johannesburg, this University of the Witwatersrand graduate has consulted for the directorate and senior management in the Department of Health for the alignment of strategic and operational plans.

One of his notable achievements was as project manager for an organisation working on the provision of mobile health care services for former mine workers in rural and remote areas in South Africa. The decentralised model was aimed at increasing the distribution and access to health care services for underserved populations.

In this role, he was instrumental in the design and implementation of a mobile solution for the examination of former mine workers for the purposes of compensation as a result of occupational lung disease. He was responsible for leading a team of occupational health nurses, radiographers, technicians and drivers in order to deliver medical benefit examinations to these former mine workers.

The programme was so well-received that in 2016 and 2017 it was scaled up to include other SADC regions, specifically Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. As a result of the project, Mzekandaba has been intimately involved in the silicosis and tuberculosis class action settlement and hopes that the lives of the families affected by the disease are improved once payouts are rolled out.

Mzekandaba’s life goal is to create workspaces that boldly and openly apply the enlightened shareholder with value. He also aspires to be a thought leader on public health policy and social programmes aimed at vulnerable and underserved populations.

“I believe it’s important not to lead by title or position, but rather by the integrity of our words and actions,” he says.

“We need to acknowledge that the work we do is bigger than us, and our involvement is our little way of lighting up the world in a positive manner. I do my best to live by that in everything I do.”—Linda Doke

LinkedIn: Azola Mzekandaba 

Diantha Pillay (32)

Diantha Pillay (32)

Programme Manager, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute

Scientist and humanitarian Diantha Pillay (32) has dedicated her research in public health to improving the health and wellbeing of the most marginalised members of society, including sex workers, adolescent girls and young women. Her passions and her personality enable her to continuously seek out ways in which research can inform practice and policy for the betterment of society.

Having studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, she holds a BSc, majoring in biomedical science, an honours degree in medical science, majoring in medical biochemistry with a focus on environmental toxicology, and a masters in public health focusing on epidemiology and biostatistics. She is currently reading towards her PhD in public health at the University of Cape Town, looking at the intersections between environmental health and adolescent sexual development.

Pillay has 10 years of experience in research (on topics such as biomedical, clinical, operational and social science research on HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, female and reproductive health and safer conception).

In addition, she is a programme manager in the implementation science portfolio of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, managing the Optimising Prevention Technologies Introduction on Schedule programme which focuses on providing technical support to the government and other stakeholders for the roll-out of new HIV/Aids prevention methods, with a particular focus on adolescent girls and young women.

The programme provides the Department of Health with technical assistance for the provision of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to populations most in need such as sex workers, adolescent girls and young women.

High on her priorities, Pillay believes in translating research into action, and has led two key pieces of research on the implant contraceptive and oral PrEP, that has had impact on a national level. Furthermore, she led another key research focusing on factors associated with initiation, continuation and discontinuation of oral PrEP in South Africa amongst sex workers and men who have sex with men.

Through her engagement with the national Department of Health’s PrEP technical working group, Pillay communicated research findings which resulted in changes in national programming. She also presented the research findings during an oral presentation at the 2018 Aids Conference in Amsterdam, as well as the South African HIV Clinicians Society Conference of that year, which was the second international workshop on HIV and adolescents.

In December 2018, she won the executive director’s leadership award from the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV in recognition of her work.

Beyond her formal work commitments, Pillay belongs to a faith-based group that focuses on safeguarding children in religious environments. She works actively with the group to develop policies and educate parents, children and other members of society on how to protect children from harm. — Linda Doke    

Dr Tebatso Tebeila (34)

Dr Tebatso Tebeila (34)

Head of Medical Affairs, Adcock Ingram

Dr Tebatso Tebeila has established herself as an authority on how pharmaceutical companies can ensure that they make responsible, universally beneficial use of the resources at their disposal. She has extensive experience in the areas of medical marketing, compliance, governance, pharma-covigilance, stakeholder engagements and research – including her time spent as a sub-investigator in the areas of HIV/Aids and tuberculosis clinical research at The Aurum Institute, a non-profit organisation in Johannesburg.

Having earned her medical degree at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2008, Tebeila began her career as a medical intern at Leratong Hospital in Krugersdorp, spent a year as a community medical officer at South African military health, worked as a medical officer in paediatrics at Tembisa Hospital and an emergency medical officer at Mamelodi Day Hospital.

She now also holds a qualification in management of advanced programmes from Wits Business School and a masters in health economics from the UPF Barcelona school of management in Spain.

Furthermore, she is a board member of the South African Medical Technology Industry Association, an organisation working to promote and safeguard responsible and ethical technological innovation for the healthcare field.

Her career took her to the role of medical advisor for British multinational pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, and she is currently head of medical affairs at Adcock Ingram, a position she has held since 2015. She has long been interested in pharmaceutical industry regulatory frameworks and health economics, but in her current role, she has been particularly well-placed to reach a wide audience of the general public to address the harmful false medical information that’s unfortunately all too common.

Tebeila has been a vocal advocate for the improvement of reproductive and sexual education, adamant that misinformation must be actively dispelled,and she is particularly concerned with women’s health. In a brand collaboration by Adcock Ingram, Tebeila lent her expertise to an activation called The Vagina Shop, which aimed to empower young women to speak openly about health concerns previously regarded as taboo.

In 2017 she was invited, with key stakeholders to be a panellist at the first South African responsible business forum to debate the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good health and wellbeing.

“I believe that South Africans deserve the very best in health care,” she says, “and I hope to be a key player, directly or indirectly, and in whichever role, in making this a reality in the future. ‘The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones,’ is a quote by William Faulkner that always reminds me that our daily efforts, though they may seem insignificant, will always lead us to great victories.”—Cayleigh Bright

LinkedIn: Tebatso Tebeila

Estelle Prinsloo (34)

Estelle Prinsloo (34)

Medico-legal researcher, Psychosynthesis

Thirty-four-year-old medico-legal researcher Estelle Prinsloo is on a mission to destigmatise mental health, working towards a future where there is greater access to mental health services, but also a more personal awareness of mental health issues. Diagnosed with inattentive-type attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when she was struggling to complete her honours degree, she believes that being open about one’s mental health is fundamental to healing.

With a master’s degree in political and international studies from Rhodes University, this Pretoria-based scholar is currently studying psychology part-time, whilst working as a medico-legal researcher at Pretoria’s medico-legal psychology practice, Psychosynthesis. She is also a trained volunteer counsellor at LifeLine.

In collaboration with Motlatsi Khosi, Prinsloo cofounded CtrlADD, an ADHD-positive lifestyle blog for people living with ADHD, written by people living with ADHD in South Africa. Replete with informative posts, creative contributions, and a question and answer section organised around monthly themes, the blog aims to assist people living with ADHD to live, work and thrive.

“Often blogs or websites on ADHD are run by medical experts or industry representatives, and while they offer valuable information, you rarely hear directly from people living with ADHD,” she says. “The blog aims to put a human face to the disorder and reflect the positive, fun and creative side of ADHD.”

She is convinced that the understanding and treatment of mental health requires a multidisciplinary approach. Since 2014 she has been running the South African humanities and social sciences info page on social media, which shares employment and funding opportunities as well as information on seminars and events across universities and industries.—Linda Doke

Twitter: @ctrl_add

Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala (31)

Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala (31)

Occupational Medicine Registrar, Western Cape Department of Health

Occupational medicine registror Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala epitomises the kind of doctor South Africa needs: energetic, dynamic, selfless and dedicated. He has focused his work on the occupational side of the health sector, aiming to improve the quality of care provided to patients accessing public health services and to develop his interest in how work and life intersect.

As a rural doctor in Limpopo Province prior to moving to the Western Cape, Ntatamala who was born and raised in Polokwane and studied medicine at the University of Cape Town, championed children’s health rights, and was awarded the premier’s silver prize for innovation in the public sector for his work in transforming the paediatric ward in Limpopo Province’s Mokopane Hospital into a child-friendly environment.

As executive member of the Junior Doctor Association of South Africa in Limpopo, he was actively involved in advocating for improvements in the working conditions of junior doctors, a role he has continued as Western Cape representative for the South African Registrars Association.

During his time as a shop steward and labour representative in the health sector, he witnessed the poor attention paid to the prevention of exposure of health workers to hazardous conditions, which resulted in his special interest in improving healthcare conditions for patients and health workers alike.

Ntatamala’s passion in this area was recently recognised through his appointment by the Western Cape Member of the Executive Council for Health in 2018, as one of the youngest members on the board of Groote Schuur hospital. As a doctor training to become a specialist, he is involved in diagnosing and preventing work-related illnesses, and providing technical support to the Western Cape department of health. He is also involved in assisting former mine workers affected by silicosis, a lung disease caused by the inhalation of dust, with claiming for occupational compensation.

As a medical registrar, he is responsible for training medical students on work and health, and supervising public health projects.

As a youngster, Ntatamala was fascinated by the role of work in society, and how it not only provided an income but allowed people to play an integral part in society and contribute to the country’s development.

“However, as a medical student, I was dismayed to discover the other side of work: that it can expose workers to hazards that may be harmful to their health and cause injuries on duty, cancers, respiratory diseases and even death. I made it my life’s mission to better understand the connection between work and health, and to use this understanding to help advocate for more just and favourable working conditions for all.” – Linda Doke

LinkedIn: Itumeleng Ntatamala

Eugene Makhavhu (28)

Eugene Makhavhu (28)

Lecturer, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Being a man in a vocation dominated by women has never deterred 28-year-old Eugene Makhavhu from wanting to be the best nurse he could be. With specific interests in the fields of antenatal care and nephrology, he also teaches nursing at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria.

He qualified as a nurse in 2012, but his ability to lead and his passion for his work makes him a devoted teacher.

“As a young man entering nursing, I had no idea what to expect, and whether I would ever grow in a female-dominated profession.”

But the death of a patient during his first class practical in his first year of nursing, was a life-changing experience for him, in which he realised “Although I may not be able to prevent the death of a patient, I learned how to help those who are critical and in palliative care to die with dignity and in comfort around their loved ones,” he says.

As a newly qualified nurse in a community burdened with teen pregnancy, Makhavhu was inspired to work in the antenatal and maternity section. Learning how to deliver babies into the world saw his passion for his work deepen, and he began to see his profession not just as a job but more “as a task from above”.

“The complaints in the media about nurses, and my interaction with student nurses in practice, prompted me to pursue a career in nursing education where I could take a part in grooming a new cadre of nurse that meets the needs of the South African public and is able to attend to the burden of disease that our country faces,” he continues.

In early 2019, Makhavhu was appointed by the Forum of University Nursing Deans in South Africa as a programme manager, involved in securing donor funding for the organisation as well as project planning and management. He is also currently studying towards a PhD in nursing at the Tshwane University of Technology.

“I believe that although I may not change everyone in the world, I can make an impact on my students by inspiring them to become better practitioners to serve the health needs of our communities. I also believe that our aim should not be to prove ourselves to others, but to provide our people with the best possible care, in a safe, empathetic and caring manner.

“The thought of being a man in a female-dominated profession makes me to be more willing to go the extra mile. My profession gives me joy.” – Linda Doke

Twitter: @EMakhavhu

Kerry Mangold (33)

Kerry Mangold (33)

Technical Lead: HIV Prevention Services

Technical lead for HIV prevention in the South African National Aids Council Trust (Sanac), Kerry Mangold is passionate about leading and responding in a multi-sectoral way to the plight of HIV/Aids in South Africa.

“I recognise the importance of engaging youth in co-creating a fresh response to their epidemic – where youth account for one third of all new HIV/Aids infections in the country. I know that unless we really listen to our communities and address the multifaceted lives of people vulnerable to, and living with HIV/Aids, we will not achieve the public health goals of the country.”

Sanac is a voluntary association of institutions established by the national Cabinet of the South African Government to unite government, civil society and other national stakeholders in their response to HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). She represents Sanac on the topic of HIV/Aids prevention on various national advisory boards, expert think tanks and technical bodies, representing the country at regional and global meetings on HIV prevention, and in 2018 was the driving force in the development of SANAC’s oral submission on the decriminalisation of sex work to the Parliamentary multi-party women’s caucus. She led the consultative development of the ground-breaking South African national sex worker HIV plan.

Mangold contributed significantly to the National strategic plan for HIV/Aids, TB and STIs, particularly on the issues of prevention, social and structural drivers, and key and vulnerable populations, proposing a prevention roadmap for the country. She continues to work with a team reporting globally on the country’s progress in the Prevention revolution.

With an academic background in business, science and arts, along with her experience and exposure in the public health space from field research conducted, mentoring and playing the role of technical lead have allowed her unique insights into the public health sphere.

“We are not (yet) on track to end the HIV/Aids epidemic by 2030 and it is time that space is provided for young women leaders with fresh perspective to take the reins,” she says, reinforcing her conviction that she is well-placed to tackle this challenge.

“I believe in a public health, gendered and human rights approach to HIV/Aids and I stand up for the rights of all people – especially those who are stigmatised, marginalised and moralised by our society.” – Cayleigh Bright

Twitter: @kerry_mangold

Qhayiya Mudau (Née Magaqa) (27)

Qhayiya Mudau (Née Magaqa) (27)

DPhil candidate, University of Oxford

‘I will know that my work has had an impact when people with disabilities can confidently say that they can do the things that are important to them,” explains 27-year-old doctoral candidate Qhayiya Mudau (née Magapa) of her professional purpose.

She is dedicating her efforts to ensuring that no-one is left behind when it comes to accessing quality health rehabilitation services. Throughout her undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town, Mudau was actively involved in improving access to health rehabilitation services in rural areas in South Africa – she herself grew up in Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape before training as a physiotherapist in Cape Town.

Having developed her passion for the promotion of inclusive healthcare, she completed her community service year at Zithulele Hospital, near Mqanduli in the Eastern Cape. In developing a rapport while working with her patients and discovering her empathy for them, Mudau came to realise that health policies and systems needed work if they were to successfully facilitate access to health rehabilitation services in the Eastern Cape.

“It is my conviction that services such as physiotherapy are part of the broader solution of facilitating the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society, so that at the end of the day they too can say, ‘we have both the opportunity and choice to be and do that which matters to us’,” she explains.

Having set her sights on gaining better insight into just how accessible healthcare might be provided to all, she became the first physiotherapist to be awarded a Rhodes scholarship, which took her to Oxford University to pursue an MSc in international health and tropical medicine. It was during her time in Oxford that she was recognised as one of top ten Black students in the United Kindgom at a ceremony that took place at the Houses of Parliament in London.

Mudau is now in her second year of DPhil studies at Oxford, where her research focuses on the availability and accessibility of health rehabilitation services for adults with disabilities in the Eastern Cape. – Cayleigh Bright

Twitter: qhayiya_m


Vera-Genevey Hlayisi (27)

Vera-Genevey Hlayisi (27)

Audiology lecturer and researcher, University of Cape Town

Twenty-seven-year-old audiology lecturer and researcher Vera-Genevey Hlayisi understands the value of hearing. She’s won multiple awards in the field and is a voice worth hearing to patients, students and international forums alike, but it was not the obvious choice for her.

When she finished school in Limpopo, she was accepted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) to study medicine. Yet, when she arrived at UCT, she was told the university had sent out too many acceptance letters believing not everyone would choose to study there. Hlayisi was told to choose another stream in the health sciences faculty.

She’d never heard of audiology. “My dad said to me, ‘this is an institution of higher learning, you might as well go study what you know nothing about’,” she remembers.

Six months into her first year, she was offered a place in medical school, but she turned it down because she was enjoying what she was learning in audiology. She has not looked back.

“I’m an eager-beaver and I have a can-do spirit I got from my grandmother,” she says. This pragmatism led her to an award from the future leaders in health initiative for her leadership and contribution to UCT’s health sciences student council.

Hlayisi qualified as an audiologist by the time she was 20; she has practised in both the public and private sector. She also teaches in the field at UCT and is an international contributor with the renowned Ida Institute in Denmark as well as the leader of the academic development portfolio of the South African Association of Audiologists. Most recently, Hlayisi’s doctoral research was awarded a research grant by the South African National Research Foundation.

Hlayisi also strives to educate ordinary people on how to care for their ears.

“Your hearing is not something that you can just get back once you’ve lost it,” she says. She was one of three audiologists selected by the Western Cape province to provide training and content for screening guidelines for the school health campaign in 2014 and 2015; she hosted the first International Ear Care Day celebration at Pietersburg Academic Hospital; and was invited to guest lecture and create curriculum content on the massive open online courses with the Teacher Empowerment in Disability Inclusion under UCT’s umbrella on hearing health and learning for children with hearing disabilities.

Another area of research that interests Hlayisi is person-centred health-care.

“The one-size-fits-all sales-focused approach currently practised in medicine is not working,” she says. “We need to start focusing on people’s individual needs and customising our treatments to them.”

She added that this approach is yielding great results in other parts of the world and South Africa needs to follow suit. – Itumeleng Molefe

LinkedIn: Vera-Genevey Hlayisi

Warren Lucas(29)

Warren Lucas(29)

Sports scientist, South African Medical Research Council

Sports scientist Warren Lucas (29) takes minimal time off. This is because he doesn’t consider his job work: “I love what I do. Being a sports scientist for me is like a calling,” he says.

Recognised as an active sport and exercise scientist, Lucas works for the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) doing statistical and data analysis, publishing articles, coordinating research as well as testing and screening of patients for data collection. He is chairperson of the Cape Town Gymnastics Association, an organisation that takes gymnastics to previously disadvantaged schools in the Cape in order to expose school children to other sporting codes outside of soccer, rugby, netball and cricket.

More than that, he is also a lecturer at the Exercise Teachers Academy in Cape Town, where he teaches anatomy and physiology, exercise principles and programme design to personal training, fitness and management students.

Lucas, who was born and raised in Cape Town, holds a master’s degree in sports science from the University of the Western Cape. He is currently enrolled for a PhD at the University of Cape Town looking at the impact of personalised exercise plans for patients in rehabilitation centres. He has collaborated internationally with researchers in Spain investigating rates of post-operation surgical infections.

But that’s not all. He is also an executive committee member of the Foundation for Sport, Development and Peace leading the youth portfolio. This foundation is committed to using sport and recreation activities as a vehicle for peace, community resilience, individual development and overall well-being. Together with one of his former students, Lucas also started a research company, the Sport Research Association.

“I started this company because of my passion to discover,” he says. “In South Africa there is not enough research available on areas like how sports is used in schools.”

Currently, the Sport Research Association facilitates sport research among sport codes and postgraduate students in sport, exercise and management sciences in the Western Cape.

Lucas’s work has not gone unacknowledged. In 2017, he was deemed one of Africa’s 100 brightest young minds by the non-profit organisation BYM and earlier this year, he was granted a nod from SAMRC in support of his PhD in progress in Exercise Science, through the faculty of Medicine. – Itumeleng Molefe


Dr Palesa Mabatho Monyake (34)

Dr Palesa Mabatho Monyake (34)

Paediatrician, Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital

Palesa Mabatho Monyake is a prominent figure among healthcare professionals, known as a leader in the field with an intense passion for both the practice and the people that make up the medical industry. Often taking the time to mentor young doctors, she has become a role model in addition to her own significant accomplishments at a young age — most recently, qualifying as a paediatrician.

Monyake’s history and academic record speak volumes about her mastery in, and dedication to, the field. In all of her work, she is guided by the goal of ensuring that, “families may feel loved and comforted as we take care of their little ones in their greatest time of need”.

While still in high school, Monyake was a member of a paramedic team at St John’s Ambulance and a volunteer at Netcare Union Hospital from 1998 to 2001. In 2002, she graduated from school with six distinctions. These outstanding results earned her the Gallagher Foundation Scholarship, which covered the expenses of her tertiary education.

Monyake was accepted into the University of Cape Town’s medical school and obtained her first medical degree in 2008. She went on to obtain a diploma in HIV disease and management, a Fellowship of the College of Paediatricians and, finally, her Masters in medicine.

Having just finished a Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship with the University of the Witwatersrand, Monyake is currently employed as a specialist pediatrician in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Outside of the office, she is preparing to write her pediatric critical care exams, which will make her one of only six black women pediatric intensivists in South Africa.

Her hope is: “To put a smile on the face of a child, and to have children’s lives changed by my presence. I dream to leave a legacy of love and kindness, all done with a spirit of excellence.” Monyake serves as the secretary of the Critical Care Society of Southern Africa, Egoli branch, and is involved in the planning of symposia and critical care activities. – Cayleigh Bright

Linkedin: Palesa Monyake

Cyan Brown (26)

Cyan Brown (26)

Medical doctor

Dr Cyan Brown is a Johannesburg-based medical doctor with a passion for making healthcare access more equitable; she is helping to achieve gender equality through health. Determined to make a significant impact to help create a more accessible, better quality health service for all South Africans, she is focused on community change and women’s empowerment.

Five years ago, Brown started the TuksRes Women in Leadership Academy at the University of Pretoria, a year-long programme dedicated to equipping young women with life, business and leadership skills. The course includes a mentorship and community service relationship with local underprivileged high schools, whereby schoolgirls are taught about safe sex, gender-based violence, financial literacy, self-worth, self-care, and how to access further educational opportunities. It also includes content lessons on leadership skills and events with guest speakers for the students.

As a doctor, Brown believes health is defined by holistic wellbeing, rather than merely the absence of disease, so she considers eliminating gender inequality integral to helping women become healthy and achieve their full potential.

“We’re aiming to produce a generation of empathetic, skilled, aware and connected South African women leaders. The programme has seen more than 1 000 students graduate and is looking to spread to other campuses in South Africa,” she says.

Brown is studying her MSc in Public Health with a global health specialisation through King’s College London online, to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the complexity of achieving health access equitably.

She is already making waves in the health sector. She was selected as one of 25 Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity by the Tekano Institute. The programme is a year-long fellowship aimed at equipping leaders in the public health space with the tools and knowledge to help make healthcare more equitable in South Africa and be advocates of social justice.

She was also the only South African selected from 12 500 applicants worldwide for the Young Sustainable Impact Programme 2019, an incubation hub that creates an environment where teams of young people from around the world create innovative start-ups to help contribute to sustainable development goals.

“I believe we need to innovate and disrupt the healthcare industry if we are going to see solutions to some of the tough healthcare challenges our country is facing,” Brown says.

Cyan has already achieved wide recognition for her work. She was one of the top 30 young women leaders in South Africa in the McKinsey NGWLA awards in 2017, was considered one of the top 10 students in South Africa by Gradstar in 2016, received the gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh President’s award in 2017, and became an associate fellow of the Royal Commonwealth society in 2017. –Linda Doke

LinkedIn: Cyan-Brown

Kentse Radebe (28)

Kentse Radebe (28)

Executive Director, South African College of Applied Psychology Foundation

Kentse Radebe has been instrumental in opening up access to mental health care in South Africa for those who need it most. “In my current role as executive director of the Sacap [South African College of Applied Psychology] Foundation, I’m working on broadening access to mental health care services and also focusing on adolescent mental healthcare, which is severely underserved in South Africa,” she says.

“In South Africa, there’s a dire lack of mental health services — particularly at the community and primary health care levels. Through my work, I am invested in developing solutions that close the mental health equity gap by making mental health accessible and affordable.”

On a practical level, this has meant establishing a place in which South Africans can access the  counselling and mental healthcare that has for too long been the preserve of the privileged. “Through my work, I have been involved in developing a community level mental health intervention, the Counselling Hub in Cape Town. It provides affordable mental healthcare services, working with student interns and professional volunteers.”

The Counselling Hub delivers basic mental healthcare services at R50 for a counselling session. It aims to provide clients with the tools they need to deal with everyday life crises, at a rate that’s significantly more affordable than mental healthcare usually is. Radebe’s work in this space has been influenced by her involvement in the Atlantic Fellows for Health Equity programme during 2017 and 2018, for which she was selected as a Global Fellow and had the opportunity to collaborate on the development of scalable programmes with the potential to produce positive health outcomes.

Next up for Radebe? Breaking down more barriers, and ensuring that conversations about mental health spread even further and wider. “I’m currently involved in developing a podcast that explores the social determinants of mental health and advocates for a public narrative that reduces the binary and pathology focused perspective of mental health in South Africa,” she explains. – Cayleigh Bright

Twitter: @Kentse_radebe

Dr Kagisho Thomas (31)

Dr Kagisho Thomas (31)

Medical doctor, Charlotte Maxeke Hospital

Working with youth to increase general health, fitness and wellness in South Africa is a passion for Dr Kagisho Thomas — and, from his point of view, it’s a privilege too. Born in Taung in the North West province, Thomas won an African Languages Olympiad bronze medal while still in secondary school.

He has always felt deeply connected to not only his own community but to the notion of community itself, and it was that persistent impulse that would lead him to study and complete his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at UCT in 2011. He is now in the process of completing his Master’s in Internal Medicine through the University of Wits in Johannesburg, where he currently resides.

Thomas has become a leader in youth development in South Africa, as well as a role model for many young people. His driving force as a member of the medical community is not a material one; instead, he says: “Being a medical doctor is more than the stethoscope and the pills, it’s a privilege to be part of people’s lives …[we can be] advocates for the voiceless and [provide] hope for underprivileged.”

He’s taken the initiative to further his reach as well, founding an annual soccer tournament in rural villages throughout the nation to promote fitness and social cohesion among young members of these communities. This project also hopes to teach people about ways in which to uplift and empower themselves by taking charge of their health and lifestyle.

Thomas speaks regularly on radio shows such as raising awareness about various health issues and serving a vital role as a middle-man between the medical community in South Africa and the general public. His interest in health education shows the depth of his feeling of duty to his fellow man; he’s among the most inspirational South Africans wearing a white coat. – Cayleigh Bright

LinkedIn: Kagisho Ramatlhale Thomas

Candice Groenewald (32)

Candice Groenewald (32)

Senior research specialist, Human Sciences Research Council

Candice Groenewald  is a senior research specialist in the Human and Social Development Unit of the Human Sciences Research Council in Durban. With a doctorate in psychology, Groenewald has dedicated her life of research to adolescent drug abuse and dependence. She examines how an individual’s substance use significantly compromises the wellbeing of those closest to them.

Her PhD research investigated the subjective experiences of parents of adolescents with substance use problems, many of whom experience a lack of support, diminished hope and silent suffering.

She researches the best approaches to support parents to cope with their own distress caused by their adolescent children’s behaviour, and how to provide support to the adolescents themselves.

Groenewald is part of the Affected Family Members’ Network, an international network comprising researchers, academics, practitioners and family members who work towards providing support to families of substance users. As the South African representative of the “Five-Step Method”, a support intervention for affected family members, she presented her work at the first international Affected Family Members’ conference, hosted in the UK in November 2018.

“Adolescent drug use and addiction is, sadly, a challenge that impacts so many families in South Africa,” says Groenewald.

“It is underreported and often not well understood in communities. Drug addiction is associated with other maladaptive behaviours, including violence, theft and other forms of victimisation that families experience at the hands of the drug addict (in my work, the adolescent). When adolescents face these times of risk, parents are generally expected to know what to do. They are also blamed for their child’s behaviour and many report experiences of shame and stigmatisation. All these devastating situations occur within a space where support is significantly limited but desperately needed.

“It is because of this need that I do my work. Parents need support to cope effectively with their own distress in order to be able to provide support to their child as well. Many parents suffer in silence and my work is not only to identify best practices to provide support, but also to enhance parents’ voices and tell their stories.”

twitter: @cjrgroenewald