Cape Town - A young woman from Strandfontein is living her dream of becoming a doctor after years of hard work and a boost from the Sando Bursary Trust.
Speaking to the Weekend Argus shortly after starting her two-year medical internship in East London, Dr Lisa Maria Benjamin, 28, said despite the initial rejections and hardships, she obtained her medical degree from Stellenbosch University (SU) last month where she graduated with eight distinctions.
“The journey was a long and difficult one. I lived in a household with my sister, stepfather and grandmother, we were a close-knit family. My mom was a teacher and the only breadwinner as my stepfather could not work due to health complications.”
After matric, Benjamin applied for medical school, but her application was rejected. She said this did not stop her from pursuing her goals and she enrolled for a BSc degree at UWC.
In 2017, she graduated top of her class and was awarded the Dean's Merit Award.
Benjamin made her second application for medical school and was left devastated when it was again rejected.
She opted instead to complete a post-graduate degree in medical physiology at SU and graduated with an Honours degree in 2018.
She then applied for medical school for the third time.
“I had to sit in an interview with the panel from the faculty. When they phoned me to say I was finally accepted, everyone was happy.”
Benjamin then faced her next challenge: she did not have the funds for the next six years to complete her medical degree.
“It's not just the tuition and textbooks. There are other hidden costs. I finally got the chance to study the one thing I saw myself doing, so I went to the bursary department. But because I already had degrees, no funding would go to me. I also couldn't get a loan as I had an outstanding loan that needed to be repaid.”
She started a Back-A-Buddy campaign and was spotted by Terence Erasmus of the Sando Bursary Trust.
The trust, run by Erasmus along with Mirah Ranchod and Karriem Roomaney, was created to assist previously disadvantaged students. It aims to create opportunities for deserving students who persevere in trying circumstances.
Ranchod said the trust granted Benjamin a full bursary.
“Her perseverance, coupled with her hard work, humble nature and top marks made her the perfect candidate. We were so excited to see her walk across the stage at the graduation.”
As Benjamin settles into her new role, she said she can now live her passion of serving the public.
“Serving people is such an honour. Medicine is hard and has many difficult days, but there are incredibly exciting times too and you'll always come out stronger once you've overcome an obstacle. You add tools to your kit for problems you may face. You build tenacity and perseverance and soon the bad days become less.”
Ranchod said while they had assisted many students over the years, the trust was in need of funding.
“In our work to uplift our communities through education, the funding required is essential. We work hard to assist willing young people out of a life of poverty and away from crime.
“We are always open to funding from CSI initiatives but also help from other professionals to mentor our young graduates.”