The 63-year-old chief radiologist at the hospital said when she first set foot in the hospital, “I was young, scared and didn’t really know what to expect.”
But, looking back, she can only celebrate the many years she spent there.
Tomorrow, Groote Schuur will be celebrating its 80th birthday, and Harris is proud to be longest serving staffer of the hospital, after she has worked there for 47 years.
“Time has gone so fast, that it does not feel like 47 years. It really feels like I have just started working here. But the reality is that I’m going on retirement this year, with memories to cherish of joy, laughter and tears,” said Harris.
Back then, the mother of two admits she was just happy to have landed a paying job to support her family. It was an administration job, which she knew little about, but she was determined to make a lasting impact.
“I never knew I would one day develop an interest in the medical side of things and help patients from a different angle than only administration.”
After she was encouraged by senior staff members and professors, Harris continued with her studies and subsequently obtained a National Diploma in diagnostic radiology.
“To sit with patients who are nervous about their health circumstances, and to finally see the sense of relief when they know what is happening with them, is one of the most precious moments for me.”
She also remembers that the early years of her medical career were during the peak of apartheid, which made working in a racially divided society challenging.
“It was really a challenging time making friends and creating a balanced working relationship with colleagues was difficult due to segregation,” she said.
“Every time we met for classes, black people had to train at Somerset Hospital, while whites had to train at Groote Schuur”.
Years later, when democracy came, Harris admits that working in the medical sector became “quite pleasant, and I was able build relationships freely with everyone at the hospital”.
And what does she say she’ll miss most about her job when she retires?
“I will miss the interaction with my patients and imparting knowledge to the next generation of radiographers. Working in the public health sector has taught me to value people and life,” Harris concluded.