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.