Health

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Caroline Pule, 30

Medical scientist
Stellenbosch University, Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics

It’s hard to know where to start when introducing the multidimensional Caroline Pule. She spends most of her time at Stellenbosch University’s Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, making the most of her extensive knowledge attained through a MMedSc degree, a PhD and a host of niche qualifications.

At present she helps as a volunteer scientist for the CrowdFight Covid-19 initiative, a global organisation enabling volunteer scientists from different countries to work together.

If that seems like a handful you’ll also find Pule volunteering for the Mould Empower Serve charity organisation, helping to feed people in need during the pandemic. She’s the vice-chair of the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World for South Africa and an ambassador for South African National Tuberculosis Association. She is also the founder and chief executive of the Caroline Pule Science and Literacy Foundation, which has a number of initiatives, including book donations and science clubs. Her research focuses on understanding the biology of drug-resistant TB, but the broader goal is for her findings to lead to the development of novel drug targets to combat the disease’s spread.

Pule believes in the importance of outreach programmes and does so by giving talks at high schools and at the National Science Week.

“My career in medical science and foundation was born from my desire to help,” she says. It seems to be working for not only her, but all those on the receiving end of her research and kindness.

Author - Scott Dodds
Sandika Baboolal, 34

Sandika Baboolal, 34

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon, lecturer, researcher, PhD candidate, Glaucoma Fellow
University of KwaZulu Natal

Sandika Baboolal is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon, lecturer and PhD candidate, as well as the first South African to be accepted into the Glaucoma Fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, a prestigious and internationally renowned institute in the field of eye care.

“Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness globally and most severely affects those of African descent,” Baboolal explains. “I was inspired to apply as a consultant in South Africa, treating advanced and complex glaucoma patients with limited options. There are no similar programmes offered in South Africa or on the African continent.”

Most surgical fields are male-dominated, and ophthalmology is no different. Baboolal’s presence as a researcher, practitioner, and teacher has inspired many other young women of colour to enter into surgical specialisations, and she has directly helped many of them along their path. “My proudest moment is being able to return to my undergraduate university, 10 years after I graduated with my first medical degree, as a consultant ophthalmic surgeon and lecturer,” Baboolal says. “This position helped me mentor other female surgeons of colour en route to becoming specialist eye surgeons. It is not an easy road.”

Upon her return from the fellowship in London, Baboolal aims to work on improving the academic and clinical resources for surgical trainees. She also hopes to work in the public sector, saying: “With the skills learnt, I also aim to improve the outcomes of advanced and complex glaucoma patients, helping to more effectively preserve their sight.” What drives her to work so hard? In her own words: “Being able to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of others through striving to heal, be kind, mentor and inspire definitely drives me towards excellence.”

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Leigh-Ann Carey, 32

Leigh-Ann Carey, 32

Communications officer
Massmart

Leigh-Ann Carey has had a measurable effect in the past three years as a passionate advocate for women seeking abortions, especially those in impoverished areas.

Her volunteer activities, which are as varied as her skills, include: helping people understand and overcome their fear of abortion, assisting those with no access to information about the administrative processes of abortions, speaking in public about abortion research in South Africa; and simply being a friend to those who are most in need of one. She has also directly and personally raised money for abortions.

One of the things that drive Carey is being able to add value to someone’s life and that has been the source of inspiration for the work she does.

“I like to be able to work on something, see and measure the result, and understand the impact it has on people and, of course, on myself,” she says.

Careys says part of the work she is doing in advocating for positive sexuality and abortion is to to stackle the stigma attached to abortions. “It is important to understand that stigma is never just about termination of pregnancy but plays out and attaches to different social issues and political debates in our respective societies.”

Carey holds an honours degree in journalism and media from the University of Witwatersrand, and she landed her radio job a week after she had loaded her profile on the station’s website. She says this remains one of the most notable surprises in her life.

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Malangu Blose, 32

Malangu Blose, 32

PhD candidate (immunology)
University of Witwatersrand

Asked what her biggest surprise has been on her personal journey, Malangu Blose says, “I mean, being a PhD candidate was never really part of the plan. So I could say that that on its own has been quite the surprise for me.” Blose’s surprise will benefit the medical community when she completes her research into vaccine-induced immunity from HIV.

Blose started as a National Research Foundation intern at the University of the Witwatersrand, where she attained her MSc degree in biochemistry and cell biology. She subsequently worked as research associate in multiple research projects involving stillbirth, child and maternal health at the Respiratory and Meningeal Pathogens Research Unit at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and Royal Bafokeng Yeast Project.

Currently, her research aims to give insight to vaccinating schedules for HIV-exposed individuals to ensure long-term vaccine induced protection. This study seeks to fill a gap in the knowledge in South Africa: that of the importance of vaccinating teenagers and infants infected or exposed to HIV.

She says, “It is my wish that our health system can get to a point where effective vaccines offering long term protection are available. The world is currently fighting a pandemic and the search for SARS-Cov-2 vaccines is high at the moment, thus I hope that through our work, working together with other departments, South Africa as a country can be better equipped to improve the quality of life by improving immunity.”

One would assume her proudest memory would be a recent one. Instead, she takes us back to school, saying: “(Winning) the first prize for a maths olympiad back in grade 8. The look on my grandma’s face as I went up on stage to receive my award was priceless.”

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Melusi Dhlamini, 32

Melusi Dhlamini, 32

Director of clinical services
Marie Stopes South Africa

Dr Melusi Dhlamini is a medical practitioner who focuses on obstetrics and gynaecology and is the director of clinical services at Marie Stopes South Africa.He is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day running of abortion services at the facility. He sees all of the patients admitted to his department, and performs second-trimester abortions and acute gynaecological emergencies. Among these are complicated cases such as failed illegal abortions.

Dhlamini views every one of these procedures performed under his expertise as a life saved from an illegal abortion.

Dhlamini endeavours to use every moment to educate others about abortions as a health service and as a human right enshrined in the Constitution. To this end, social media has proven to be a useful tool.

When asked about his proudest career moment he says, “When I was told that the first self-managed abortion that I did was successful … I tweeted about it. The response was so warm from my colleagues and sexual and reproductive health partners in the country and abroad.”

Dhlamini hopes to use his expertise to ensure that Marie Stopes remains a leading provider of affordable and quality health services and to expand the organisation.

“When I got admitted for medicine, why did I send back an acceptance of an offer letter?” he asks, and then answers, “Because I dreamed of one day being a doctor and making a difference in people’s lives in some way.”

Under his leadership, developments are in place for Marie Stopes to offer all healthcare services for women and to eventually introduce a trans healthcare service.

Dhlamini hopes to play a role in reforming the primary healthcare package to include safe and free medical abortion services at a clinic level, and to see an increase in access to sexual and reproductive health services in poor areas through the widespread use of telemedicine.

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Dr Phale Phillemon Machacha, 35

Dr Phale Phillemon Machacha, 35

Medical Doctor
Department of Health

Dr Phale Phillemon Machacha grew up as a sickly child. The lack of doctors in his hometown of Burgersfort in Limpopo meant that no one could detect what was wrong with him. He was later diagnosed with hydronephrosis, the swelling of a kidney because of a build-up of urine. He spent his childhood dreaming of finding a cure for his illness.

Many years later, he is saving lives and also finds pleasure in bringing new life into the world by delivering babies. Seeing dying patients being brought back to life and hearing the positive remarks from families of patients who he has helped is what drives him to excel as a medical doctor. Machacha’s illness as a child, lack of doctors and long queues at hospitals sparked his interest into medicine at a young age. He got a scholarship to study medicine in Cuba and returned to work for St Ritas hospital and Maphutha Maphutha L Malatji hospital, both in Limpopo. At St Ritas hospital he received an award for the best medical intern.

But even though his work was impressive at both hospitals his heart yearned to go back and work in his hometown. The opportunity eventually presented itself, and Machacha now works for Mecklenburg hospital in Burgersfort. At 34, he was appointed as the hospital’s chief executive. He has also been recognised by the Limpopo department of education for having reduced the maternal mortality rate in the province. Machacha was raised by a single, unemployed mother but he says this did not stop him from dreaming and aiming for the stars.

“It doesn’t matter your socioeconomic status; it doesn’t matter whether you are an orphan, hard work always pays,” he says. “You can be anything you want, irrespective of your socioeconomic status.”

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Dr Cosnet Lerato Rametse, 28

Dr Cosnet Lerato Rametse, 28

Clinician scientist (MD) and PhD candidate
University of Cape Town (UCT)

Dr Cosnet Lerato Rametse is a clinician scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town. During her studies, she had found that content was mostly founded on data derived from first-world populations, and that there was a lack of room to explore the content more deeply.

Then fate struck, and she became one of the first students to participate in UCT’s highly successful clinician-scientists training programme, pioneered by the late Professor Bongani Mayosi and Professor Arieh Katz.

As she describes it: “I was so excited that they just introduced a programme that would allow me to both study medicine and engage in basic science and research. This was one of the biggest surprises of my career — just how the opportunities unfolded and lead to where I am, and [am] headed now in terms of my career.”

This set the stage for Rametse, who has since published articles in peer-reviewed international journals, become the first graduate of the programme to enrol for a PhD (on HIV acquisition in men through penile exposure), presented her work at international conferences, and been awarded the 2020 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (Croi) New Investigator Scholarship.

In describing what motivates her, Rametse says, “I would love to see the gap bridged between clinicians and scientists and scientific research work. I hope to generate and contribute to the ever-growing body of knowledge in medicine; to shape our health care and understanding of diseases as directed by our own populations, by both translating research results into the clinical setting and developing research questions based on clinical issues encountered in practice”

“The fact that a curious young mind as mine was given the chance to grow and acquire the necessary skills to further contribute to my own community is something I will eternally appreciate,” she adds.

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Phumudzo Ndwambi, 33

Dr Phumudzo Ndwambi marvels at how women surgeons are taking up space with sheer force and doing a great job in a field that has long been conceived as a space in which men lead. She continues to thrive in the male-dominated field; this is evident in the leadership roles she has held, including being president of South African Society of Surgeons in Training, a position that has seen her representing trainee surgeons locally and in neighbouring countries.

The loss of her mother to cancer has become the driving force behind Ndwambi’s passion for her work. “I embarked on this journey as a result of my mother’s cancer diagnosis and the work she did with communities to promote health education,” she says. Her mother fought a “courageous fight” against her illness, and every day Ndwambi wakes up to continue her legacy.She wants South Africans to take charge of their health; she also works to give communities the correct health solutions, because she says the strength in building healthier and knowledgeable communities lies with them. She says she finds joy in using her strengths to build and empower those around her.

Ndwambi has also had to learn that having a healthier life means finding the balance to make time for other facets apart from work. She says pouring herself in her career led to her compromising her sanity and relationships. But she has since found a balance, which means living a holistic life and taking better care of her mental health.

Her advice to other young people is: “Be patient and kind to yourself, always.”

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Huzaifah Khan, 30

Huzaifah Khan, 30

Pharmacy manager
Lenmed

“With my work in vaccination, I would want to remove the doubts and misconceptions that lead to vaccine hesitancy,” said Huzaifah Khan. The 30-year-old pharmacy manager is currently pursuing a master’s in public health pharmacy and management, and is passionate about his work in immunisation, which he believes is important for every child.

Through his community work with the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa and advocacy for vaccine education, Khan has taken steps towards his ultimate goal: to give back to public health.

When he completes his master’s he hopes his work will someday contribute to the merging of the public and private healthcare sectors. Khan wants this to happen “to ensure that we are able to achieve universal health coverage, especially at a primary healthcare level, so that the future of healthcare resources in South Africa is shared in an equitable and fair manner”.

For Khan, achieving excellence in his field is less about personal gain than his desire to embody the ideals in section 27 of the Constitution, which states that:

“Every person has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care.”

Khan has achieved many, varied milestones in his career, but he believes his biggest accomplishment is being able to take his skills and knowledge back to the workplace and contribute to the greater good of society.

He’s a firm believer in never fearing failure, instead viewing pitfalls as opportunities for an individual to grow. Another important lesson that Khan has learned in life is to believe in himself and his ability to make a valuable contribution, even when surrounded by people with more knowledge and experience.

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Zainab Kader, 29

Zainab Kader, 29

Trauma counsellor
City of Cape Town

Zainab Kader’s proudest moment says a lot about who she is. She was working in an impoverished area helping children with externalising behaviour such as aggression and focusing on family intervention. She had worked with fathers but soon realised that mothers were being neglected, so she organised a “mother’s day”. She arranged a breakfast at Spur, a day on Table Mountain and some psychoeducation about self-care. It was a day the mothers had only dreamed and she saw their happiness, peace and tears of joy.

Kader works to destigmatise mental health, strengthen families and address social ills. “Even though the world may be full of suffering, my work allows me to brighten someone’s day by providing hope, meaning and insight.” Over the years, she has gained confidence through short courses, experiential learning and feedback from management and staff. She’s learned to take on opportunities and prioritise learning by doing even when it feels difficult.

“I would like to see more youth following their dreams by persevering, asking for help and being willing to take the chance. For this to happen more opportunities need to be created, mentorship and emotional support should also be available to increase resilience when experiencing adversity. I would like to see a society where women and children feel protected and safe. They would be empowered and encouraged to access support immediately when their sense of safety is compromised. I want people and girls in particular to be independent, successful and assertive.”

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Afsana Kajee, 34

Afsana Kajee, 34

Medical scientist
National Health Laboratory Services

It seems as if every day we take the wonders of modern medicine for granted but, as the world is gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re reminded of the need for talented researchers behind medical advancements. Minds like that of Afsana Kajee, who works at the National Health Laboratory Services, the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa that supports the national and provincial health departments.

Kajee completed her master’s in medical science at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, overcoming many obstacles and trials.

“Do not limit yourself. You can be anything that you want as long as you stay passionate and dedicated to your goals,” she says, adding that there is value in breaking big goals into smaller ones, which brings a better perspective and a sense of accomplishment.

Kajee wants to help humanity through science, and recognises that every small bit is a contribution, even if it is a failure. Having thick skin against criticism, failure and rejection is her recipe for success.

Kajee’s career is littered with a host of acknowledgements of her work, among them when she was chosen from a group of the most promising local scientists to be trained by international scientists.

Kajee is driven to excel by the satisfaction of making her mother proud. She hopes her research will translate into shorter diagnosis times for tuberculosis and findinding the best treatment for TB using novel drugs that expose people to the least toxicity.

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Nhlanhla Mafarafara, 35

Nhlanhla Mafarafara, 35

Pharmacist/pharmacy manager
Matlala District Hospital

Inspiring confidence in the public healthcare sector is a task that Nhlanhla Mafarafara has set himself. He’s a pharmacist and the pharmacy manager at Matlala District Hospital in Limpopo, and a strong believer in values-based leadership. In 2019 he was asked to step in as acting chief executive at Helene Franz Hospital and take over its strategic leadership. “That reaffirmed the path of leadership development that I have been on for the past eight years,” he says.

Mafarafara also co-ordinated Vhembe District’s Adopt-a-Clinic Project, where community service pharmacists implemented quality improvement plans at primary healthcare facilities. He served on the National Executive Committee of the South African Association of Hospital Pharmacists and as Limpopo branch chairman. Another personal goal is to inspire more young black people to pursue excellence, both in their personal lives and in their leadership skills. As part of that he mentors and coaches upcoming young pharmacists, and has helped more than 400 to study for their pharmacy board examinations.

As a sideline, he’s a motivational speaker and an author, with a Monday evening slot on Energy FM radio and with two personal development books to his credit: Relentless Youth – Reaching Beyond The Limits, and Step To The Next Level.
He does that through his own company, Faraz Creationz, which offers leadership development, workforce performance training, team building and online training courses in self-mastery, personal development and healthcare leadership development.

His desire to help people achieve their best partly stems from his personal mistake of not having a financial advisor early in his career. “I found myself chasing luxury before I could fully afford it, while overlooking good investment opportunities,” he says. “I have since learned that poor financial discipline often leads to poor and unethical behaviour.”

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Kapil Narain, 24

Kapil Narain, 24

Student and chairperson
Covid-19 Technical Working Group at FAMSA

Kapil Narain wants to build a community of medical professionals who comprehend their patients’ struggles beyond a biomedical vacuum. He hopes to contribute to improving the level of healthcare in South African through research and advocacy, and to this end he is chairperson of the Covid-19 Technical Working Group at Federation of African Medical Students’​ Associations (Famsa).

Narain was one of four recipients of the inaugural World Health Organisation’s Change-Maker Scholarship, funded by the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. It enabled him to attend the World Health Assembly, where he joined universal health coverage and digital health advocacy groups and was involved in drafting the statements made during the assembly.

In 2017, Kapil Narain launched a campaign aimed at addressing the stigma surrounding TB infection. It was coupled with a mini-symposium of specialists and was free for all students and staff at the University of Kwazulu-Natal to attend.

“In the years that followed, I made sure that the event improved and reached more people; we had a march planned for this year, but had to cancel due to the pandemic,” he said.

With the many challenges we face in this country and the world, Narain wants to seize every opportunity to de-stigmatise the ailments that affect us. “I want to be able to use my skill and passion to generate critical medical research that may improve our understanding of HIV, TB, Covid-19, mental health and the many diseases with stigmas attached. I also want to assist with the globally concerted efforts to improve health,” he adds. For him, medicine is not just a science but an art as well, where empathy, compassion and perspective play a critical role in making a positive contribution.

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Sipho Ncube, 25

Sipho Ncube, 25

Medical student and ambassador
Friendship Ambassadors Foundation (United Nations Department of Global Communications)

It’s hard to imagine just where Sipho Ncube finds the time. Already a final-year medical student at the Southern Utah University in the United States, the 25-year-old is always on the lookout for opportunities to make a difference — whether that is in places back home or the New York headquarters of the United Nations.

“The continuous process and need for self improvement” is her driving factor, she says. “I always remember that yesterday has passed, and today is giving me another chance to help transform the lives of those around me through my career and leadership roles.”

As a member of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations and the Student National Medical Association, Ncube has spent the past four years travelling to rural areas to assist in health education programmes. One project she’s particularly proud of involved delivering reusable sanitary pads to girls in an effort to shatter the stigmas of their menstrual cycle and ensure they did not miss attending school because of it.

Last year, she was selected as one of the 1 000 global youth leaders to attend the 23rd session of the Youth Assembly of the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation. Such was the impression she made that at the subsequent session, she was chosen to lead a delegation of youth leaders from African countries. The foundation recognised her efforts and bestowed on her the Outstanding Youth Delegate award in February.

Ncube hasn’t begun her dream job yet. When she qualifies as a medical doctor she hopes to contribute to national healthcare policies to improve the access of people in rural areas to quality healthcare.

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Kate Lara Solomons, 25

Kate Lara Solomons, 25

Internship co-ordinator
Trauma Clinic Foundation

Kate Solomons is the internship co-ordinator at the Trauma Clinic Foundation, an organisation that provides counselling for adolescents in underprivileged government high schools in Cape Town.

Her proudest moments are when she can help individuals in her community. “I will truly never forget when [a] mother hugged me ever so tightly after our last session and told me that not only had I helped her daughter with regaining her confidence, but somehow returned her zest for life,” she says.

Recently, Solomons has also developed a pro-bono counselling initiative through the clinic, offering individuals across South Africa access to virtual counselling and support during the national lockdown. Her own life journey has helped Solomons in her counselling practice, specifically when it comes to addressing traumatic stress and how to develop healthy coping mechanisms and self-care routines. A particularly important lesson is that it is okay to ask for help.

“Leadership is not about maintaining your pride or hiding behind the façade of faultlessness — it is about mutual support and learning,” she says. “You cannot help others if you cannot help yourself.”

Solomons is pursuing her master’s in clinical psychology; her research is conducted in a decolonial framework, and aims to produce a collaborative relationship between traditional health practitioners and primary healthcare workers in treating mental disorders.

“I truly believe we should use local psychological knowledge in South Africa in our current mental health systems,” she says. “For too long, our diagnoses, assessments, psychological tools and interventions have been dominated by international discourses, especially by [those from] Western countries.”

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Dr Chelsea Zindoga, 27

Dr Chelsea Zindoga, 27

Medical doctor and humanitarian
South Rand Hospital (Gauteng Department of Health), Thalitha Children’s Trust

There’s perhaps no one more respected and appreciated in the world right now than the brave healthcare workers manning the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s there you’ll find one of South Africa’s brightest young medical professionals, Dr Chelsea Zindoga, medical doctor and humanitarian, doing her part to ensure our country can beat the virus with the right treatments and considered care.

Like many in her field, Dr Zindoga’s proudest moment was the day she graduated in the Wits University Medical School Class of 2017.

“It’s not just because of my degree, but for everyone who made huge sacrifices to get me there, especially my parents,” she claims, emphasising how important the accomplishment was to her family as a whole.

In another aspect of her life-saving work, Zindoga is working to save the country’s tiniest citizens by intervening to provide care for abandoned babies through her Talitha Children’s Trust. She advocates for babies abandoned in state hospitals, working with the Gauteng Department of Health; Thalitha Children’s Trust ensures crucial assistance and care. She explains the importance of neurodevelopment during the early years, and says that “they deserve to be in a caring and nurturing place of safety so that they too can be on the MG200YSA list in 20 years to come”.

It is the pandemic that she considers the biggest surprise she’s faced in her career, as even the most intensive training on the subject would still leave the healthcare system on the back foot. What’s most impressive is her and her colleagues’ determined attitude and resilience in the face of overwhelming odds, just for the satisfaction of seeing their patients recover.

“I live for the moment I can discharge my patient back home to their family,” Zindoga explains.

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Chantal van Zitters, 35

Chantal van Zitters, 35

General practitioner
#One Health Care

Quality, affordable healthcare seems more important than ever.

Chantal van Zitters, a Cape Town-based medical practitioner, is dedicated to bringing this standard of care to those who need it most.

At 30, Van Zitters started her own practice. In only four years, she was able to grow her practice — situated on the Cape Flats — into a full-service medical centre.

Starting her practice so young felt like a massive step towards her dream. “I planned to do this later in my career, much later,” Van Zitters remarks.

But when the opportunity presented itself, she jumped at it. “I never knew what was going to happen. But I had to take the leap. I was really surprised that at such a young age I could live my dream.”

As she grew up in Blackheath on the Cape Flats, Van Zitters has seen firsthand the injustice of South Africa’s unequal healthcare system. “The quality of care depends on how much money you have. I would love to see a future where everyone has close to equal access and care.”

Through her work, Van Zitters hopes to show her patients that they too deserve to access the best healthcare on offer.

Ultimately she wants to see other healthcare practitioners following her example. “I want to see more facilities like mine in disadvantaged and rural communities,” she says.

I want to see more practices where patients don’t have to pay an arm and leg to get ‘decent’ healthcare. And where they are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances.”

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James van Duuren, 26

James van Duuren, 26

Deputy secretary
People’s Health Movement South Africa (PHM-SA)

James van Duuren would like to leave a positive mark on South Africa’s healthcare system. As the deputy secretary for the People’s Health Movement South Africa, Van Duuren has been inspired through his work for the organisation to push for a strengthened primary healthcare approach, and says that he also wants to work for greater community partnership.

Van Duuren is currently completing his Master’s in Public Health at the University of Cape Town on a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, and wants his academic work to draw greater attention to the social determinants of disease on the continent. Even though Van Duuren has made public health his chosen career path, this wasn’t something he would have considered when he first entered health sciences.

“I am surprised how the field of work I am most passionate about at the moment — public health — is not something that I had planned on or was even aware of when I started my career in the health sciences in the first place,” he says.

He’s passionate about working directly with patients in healthcare, and says that some of his proudest moments came when he was able to work with volunteers and fellow students overseeing patient care at the outreach clinics at the University of Cape Town.

“I have learnt a great deal about the financial and administrative challenges of the NGO space. Shelved projects that I have tried to lead on have taught me that it is best to do a core set of activities to a high standard, rather than getting caught up or overwhelmed by doing too much.” Van Duuren says the lessons he learnt while working during those volunteer periods are what he’s trying to put into practise in his day-to-day life.

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Dr Jonathan Macauley, 31

Dr Jonathan Macauley, 31

Medical doctor
Department of Health

Dr Jonathan Macauley is a medical doctor and HIV clinician whose passion lies in healthcare administration.He currently serves in a rural area in North West, where he helps facilitate the sub-district’s decentralised multidrug-resistant tuberculosis(MDR-TB) programme. While working in areas where people have very few resources, Macaulay takes pride in providing exceptional healthcare to all his patients.

Macauley was one of recipients of the coveted Chevening scholarship, the United Kingdom’s international awards programme aimed at developing global leaders, which he used to get his master’s degree in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Graduating from there was one of his proudest moments he says.

Despite having studied at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world, Macauley is driven by the idea of social justice and helping people. Health inequities disproportionately affect the poor and the need to rectify this is something that drives his work. His ultimate dream is to ensure that people in the poorest rural areas enjoy uninterrupted access to quality health services.

Through sustained policy action, Macaulay believes his vision of providing people with access to quality healthcare can be realised.

He lives by the ideal: “Never give up on your vision just because others don’t believe in it.”

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Gloria Mothapo, 27

Gloria Mothapo, 27

Medical officer

Dr Gloria Mothapo joined the Fees Must Fall Movement when she was a member of the student representative council at the University of Witwatersrand. This was another movement — after the 1976 student uprising — that shook the higher education system across the country and forced leaders to listen and take notice of the plight of poor students.

She became a student activist because she hates injustice and inequality.

Some of the words she lives by are: “It’s important to fight for change in the very space you exist in. That’s how you change the world.”

In 2017, Mothapo became the youngest board member at Chris Hani Academic Hospital, the largest hospital in Africa. She counts this as one of the proudest moments in her career and an indication that it is time for young professionals to be at the forefront of healthcare management.

Today, Mothapo finds herself at the frontline of another battle: the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is her dedication to her work, which she says is her calling, that means she’s prepared to risk her own life to save the lives of others.

From a young age, Mothapo knew that she wanted to be a medical doctor. She works in the emergency medicine department at Steve Biko Academic Hospital; she is the first point of contact with patients. She says there is always an uncertainty about the kind of patient she is going to treat at any given time, but she has established that she thrives on not knowing what awaits her.

“There is a beauty in seeing a patient move from almost losing their lives, to walking out of the hospital intact a few weeks or months down the line. That’s what gets me up every morning,” she says.

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Dr Thozama Siyotula, 34

Dr Thozama Siyotula, 34

Medical doctor (paediatric surgery)
Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hopsital Cape Town, University of Cape Town South Africa

Thozama Siyotula is a medical doctor whose main focus is paediatric surgery. She is also the president of the South African Paediatric Surgical Trainees Association.

Siyotula wants to see all children in South Africa, regardless of socioeconomic status, being able to access surgical care. She says that, according to research by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, 5-billion people lack access to safe, affordable surgical care. The majority of these people live in low-resource settings, where up to 50% of the population is children.

She wants to achieve a vision of safe, affordable, timely surgical care for all children by being a part of patient advocacy, continuing to conduct research that measures gaps and addresses impact to accomplish success in delivery and providing healthcare in the paediatric surgery sector. Ultimately, Siyotula wants to assist South Africa in the promotion of health.

She says her job has taught her that being a health practitioner is not not only about patient-doctor interaction, but encampasses working in a system that may at times be “dysfunctional” while a doctor tries to provide the best possible healthcare.

Her advice to young people is that, “It’s going to be okay. Be strong in your convictions, consistent in your word, influential in your conversations. Be a part of what gives you value. Achievable dreams take hard work and commitment.”

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Ken Mark Kabongo, 25

Ken Mark Kabongo, 25

Physiotherapist and clinical educator
South African Rugby Union (SA Schools), Boland Kavaliers Rugby Union, Ajax Cape Town Football Club & University of Cape Town

More than 140 injuries were sustained during the Rugby World Cup’s 45 matches in 2019. Athletes expose themselves to a much higher risk of getting injured than the average couch potato. This is where Ken Kabongo comes in. At the age of 25, Kabongo opened a physiotherapy practice in Cape Town. Last year, he was chosen as the physiotherapist for the team representing South Africa School at the U18 International Rugby Series. He counts this among his proudest moments.

“Representing South Africa on the world stage is always a huge honour and humbling experience,” Kabongo says. “Nothing can beat wearing the green and gold to sing the national anthem.”

He is also a physiotherapist for a number of South African teams, including Ajax Cape Town.

He was recently appointed as a clinical educator at the University of Cape Town. This, he says, has allowed him to mentor the next generation of physiotherapists.

“I am hoping that my story can be a catalyst for many more youngsters seeking to enter the profession; to be encouraged and motivated to continue working hard,” he says. “It’s a long journey. But it is a fruitful one.”

Hard work pays off. Kabongo says a strong work ethic is the first step. “My success did not just come. I had to work hard and I continue to put in the long yards to achieve success, not only in my professional but in my personal life too.”

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Sibongile Mongadi, 29

Sibongile Mongadi, 29

Founder
Uku’hamba

Sibongile Mongadi’s work has the potential to greatly improve lives of amputees across South Africa. A passionate entrepreneur, she is the founder of Uku’hamba, a start-up company that focuses on biotechnology and healthcare manufacturing.

Utilising 3D printer and 3D scanning technologies, she has dedicated her career to developing prosthetic limbs that can be widely and cheaply manufactured. Her mission is to ensure prostheses are made available to anyone in need, greatly increasing the independence of amputees who may not currently be able to afford them. Given how fulfilling the work can be, it has not felt like a sacrifice to Mongadi.

“My career has not been tedious and or boring,” she says. “I’m surprised at how much I have enjoyed it and the strides I’ve made in less than two years. In my career it never occurred to me that I would actually end up at this level, especially penetrating an industry that is known to be male-dominant.”

Mongadi has received no shortage of recognition for her efforts in recent years. Designated as one of the top emerging innovators across Africa in 2018, she travelled with other entrepreneurs from the continent to the American Express Leadership Academy, where they worked out how to improve their respective ventures. She was also named in the Inspiring Fifty’s class of 50 South African Women of 2019.

When the Covid-19 pandemic struck South Africa, she redirected her company’s efforts to manufacturing safety equipment for frontline workers; she says that over 200 masks and shields have been 3D-printed.

Luke Feltham | mg.co.za