University of Pretoria medical student Nozipho Magagula doesn’t just want to help people - she wants to heal the planet.
“I entered the Miss Earth South Africa pageant not thinking I would get anywhere, not thinking it would have an impact on my career, nor link with what I love,” said Magagula.
The 23-year-old fourth year student made it to the 16 finalists of Miss Earth SA. The crowning was due to take place late last night.
Miss Earth SA is a leadership programme that aims to empower young women with the knowledge and a platform to create a sustainable difference in combating the destruction of SA’s natural heritage.
The programme also helps to create an awareness of sustainable development, wildlife and the conservation of the country’s natural legacy.
Atteridgeville-born Magagula said her initial motive for joining the pageant was to have fun.
But that changed when she was doing her academic practicals at Tembisa Hospital, and she came across an 8-month-year-old boy who had been admitted for two months.
“I cried when I was told that the child had been bitten by rats in his hospital bed. That showed negligence of the environment,” said Magagula.
That made her realise that the environment played a significant role in people’s lives.
“The experience made me cherish being in the programme, because I can acquire skills for educating people about the importance of the environment,” she said.
Magagula said she had always dreamt of being a heart surgeon, but has had a change of heart.
“I have learnt that I actually want to be more involved in the community. There is a greater need for doctors in the community than there is at hospitals.
“It is difficult for someone from rural areas to reach tertiary hospitals to be treated, it’s easier for them to go to the district ones.”
She said it was for that reason that she wanted to focus on family or community-based medicine.
“I want to reach patients at a primary level, be the person that sees them first before the disease has advanced. Surgeons don’t see the people but their bodies,” she said.
Asked how she juggled her studies and being a finalist, Magagula said: “Well, one or two things had to suffer. I had cut off most of my social life and work extra hard to balance my academic responsibilities.”
Besides having her mother as an inspiration, Magagula said one of the people she looked up to was the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
“I encountered Dr Motsoaledi one day when he visited our campus and he said that one of the goals that the Department of Health had was to looking out for the environment.”
Magagula said she has taken it upon herself to ensure that the environment is preserved.
“There are a lot of new viruses coming through and the real cause is us humans.”
“That made me realise that there are some medical conditions that we can’t treat as doctors because they are environmentally-based” said Magagula.