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SA’s First Robotic Urologist

Those words from my parents have stuck with me for as long as I can remember. I come from humble beginnings, and the importance of education, hard work and perseverance has been ingrained from a young age. And I cannot thank my parents enough for that legacy. Being a mother myself, I can only hope that I am able to instill those same values in my little girl.

I grew up in Lenasia and attended the local primary school in our area. I loved school from the start. I couldn’t wait to do homework like my older siblings; I had no idea what it really meant! I followed in my sister’s footsteps for high school and went to an all girls’ school. I was inspired by history, the struggle for freedom in this beautiful country, and wanted to study law so that I too could fight for people’s rights. But after doing work experience at the Human Rights Commission, I realized that the fight takes a lot longer than it does on TV, and I didn’t really have the patience for it. This realization in Grade 11 threw me off-balance as I then needed to apply for university, but I had no idea what to apply for. My parents refused to give any opinions on what I should study. Their only requirement was that I study something; ideally something that would lead to gainful employment in the future. I enjoyed a variety of subjects, and I ended up applying for medicine and actuarial science – 2 very different fields!

Once I was accepted at Wits Medical School, the snowball was set in motion. The moment that I stepped into the wards for the first time, I knew with 100% certainty that I had made the right decision and also that surgery would be in my future in some way. I would still be fighting for people as I’d hoped to do, but just in a different way. As life unfolded, I continued along the General Surgery path but over time it became clear that I needed something more. Gaining experience in Urology during my General Surgery rotations convinced me that Urology was the only career for me. It is such a versatile and progressive field. One can do prostatic work, stone work, paediatric urology, female urology, reconstructive urology, and robotic work. It is impossible to get bored in this field. And we have the loveliest patients!

With a lot of meticulous planning, the Western Cape Province has managed to budget for 2 DaVinci Xi robotic systems – one at Tygerberg Hospital and one at Groote Schuur Hospital. I am the first female to be trained on the robot, but there are more of us to follow shortly. The Province is dedicated to progressive training and equal opportunities for all, which is so refreshing.

One striking thing about Urology in South Africa is that there are not nearly enough women in Urology yet. There are definitely more in training, which is wonderful to see, but I hope to see more in the future. We are fortunate in this country as it is very progressive in that we are able to open the conversation about gender equality with a higher likelihood of something actually changing as a result of it. Unfortunately the narrative hasn’t quite changed in all spheres, but it has thankfully come a long way in the medical field.

There are so many inspirational women in medicine in South Africa. If I started naming them, I would surely forget someone important! They have such a wealth of advice that is under-utilized. I have been blessed to have been in the company of some of these phenomenal women over the years, and the pearls of wisdom that I’ve gathered along the way have helped guide my path thus far. I aspire to be just that – a guiding light for other young doctors to find their truth and their power.

One of the things that I have learnt is that knowledge is power. Read, research, ask questions, push yourself to always learn more. We will never know it all, and so we should always strive to learn new things. Knowledge allows you to stretch your mind and this in turn pushes those boundaries that we have subconsciously set for ourselves. Don’t give anyone else your power. And books or social media aren’t always appropriate sources of knowledge. Travel, talk to people from different walks of life, try to imagine yourself in their shoes, and you will grow as a person. Empathy is such a powerful thing.

One of my mentors also pointed out that there is no such thing as work/life balance. This shook me, as this is what I have been chasing my whole life. I am a wife and mother with a strong passion for the work that I do. It is impossible to give 100% to everything all the time. Pushing for this “ideal” only leads to disappointment and eventual burn-out. Simplify your life and focus on the things that truly bring you joy. Nobody is perfect, and that is perfectly okay. It is quite a process changing this mindset, and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of phenomenal mentors, as well as my incredible husband. It also helps having a daughter that shouts “Go be a superhero Mama!” as I leave for work in the morning.

Be your own superhero and live your truth!

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