Medical student aims to give back to the community

Former learner of Velabahleke High School in uMlazi Olwethu Ndlovu.

Former learner of Velabahleke High School in uMlazi Olwethu Ndlovu.

Published Jan 19, 2024


Durban — A former pupil of Velabahleke High School in uMlazi who is studying medicine hopes to return to her village one day, to serve her community as a neurosurgeon.

Olwethu Ndlovu, 18, who grew up in Umbumbulu will be doing her second year in Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in the University of KwaZulu-Natal this year.

Speaking to the Daily News, the student, who was one of the top achievers in the Class of 2022, said she had always dreamt of becoming a doctor because she was driven by the desire to help people and change their lives.

“I want to specialise in neurology because I want to break into the male-dominated world. I have prepared myself mentally and physically for any challenges that may arise through my journey.

“I believe that I will make my presence felt in the industry when I complete my degree,” said Ndlovu.

A neurologist specialises in treating conditions that affect the nervous system, including brain, spinal cord and nerves. Ndlovu expressed her gratitude for the support of her single mother who has been paying her tuition fees since she started studying.

“It is not a smooth ride at all because my studies are self-funded.

“I tried numerous times to apply for a bursary so that my mother could focus on other expenses but I haven’t had any luck in securing one.

“But having a brave mother is a blessing because I would not have enrolled if it weren’t for her,” she said.

In 2018, Dr Nomusa Shezi became the first black female neurosurgeon in KZN. Shezi was also one of only five black women doctors practising in the field in South Africa.

“Neurosurgery is the most complex speciality and I love challenges because they allow me to develop and reach my fullest potential. Life can be such a bore sometimes, hence why I entered the male-dominated field.”

Speaking of her role model, she said Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was one of the people she had looked up to.

“Besides the fact that she went to Velabahleke High School, I looked at how she was involved in fighting against oppression and actively participated in the liberation movement in a country that was non-democratic.”

Ndlovu said that if she were to get an offer abroad after completing her degree, she would consider relocating for self-development which would equip her with skills in neurology that could be helpful when she returned to her rural community.

“I plan to go back to my village people in Umbumbulu when I complete my studies, so I can give back to my community by preventing the existing challenges in health-care service,” she said.

According to research by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) done in June 2022, surgical specialities remain universally male-dominated despite the rising percentage of women entering the medical profession.

“A remarkable gender disparity is evident in neurosurgery, where only 19% of practitioners are females.

“Although women may be reluctant to choose a challenging speciality, such as neurosurgery, due to concerns around how to balance family and career,” the NLM study stated.

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