Cape Town - Amidst the rough and tumble of Manenberg, a neighbourhood often in the news for all the wrong reasons, a diamond has emerged, bringing hope to young people in the area.
Meet Dr Natalie Louw, a 26-year-old who has defied the odds and come up tops, earning herself a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) degree from Stellenbosch University.
Louw now stands tall as her family’s first medical doctor, a dream come true.
“I was young, naive and thought that I could achieve anything I put my mind to, regardless of my circumstances. That is how I became a doctor.
“I didn’t do medicine for the title; I did it because I wanted to break barriers while carrying out my passion as well.
“I always knew I wanted to live a life of giving because I am very passionate about helping people and felt that medicine was the best fit for me, I wanted my passion to meet my purpose as well, and medicine was the best way to do that,” she said.
Despite facing many challenges, Louw persevered and it paid off in the end. “I never imagined how tough this journey would be. To be honest, I think the goal itself scared me, but I never backed down from a challenge, I always gave 120%.
“The amount of tears I’ve shed, prayers I’ve prayed and sacrifices I made to achieve my dream are countless, but God! I’m standing here today because God has placed amazing people on my path, to teach me, mould me, guide me and push me to be and do better.
“Words cannot describe how incredibly grateful I am to every person who was part of this journey.
“From my primary and high school teachers, to my SciMathUS family, and everyone I met in medical school, I’m so thankful to be a product of your hard work.
“My parents’ and family’s prayers have carried me,” she said.
The proud doctor who recently started her internship, told the Weekend Argus that her hope was to inspire others from communities facing adversity, to go for their dreams no matter what challenges they may face.
“I want them to understand that I am part of them and if I can succeed, then they can, too. It can be done.
With hard work, prayer and faith, all things are possible.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the resources. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the support. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make sense, just keep working hard towards your dream.
“I love the saying, hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. You need to be able to motivate yourself and to be willing to go for your goals, regardless of what people might say and your circumstances. Just persevere, one day your hard work will pay off,” Louw said.
The young doctor has begun her two-year internship and thereafter she will complete a year of community service.
“I hope to be a surgical scientist. I really enjoy surgery. Being practical and hands-on, I am just so happy that I can enjoy this achievement and serve my community and the country.
“I am also just so proud to come from Manenberg!” she concluded before heading off for her shift.
Louw’s mentor and fellow doctor from Manenberg Dr. Randall Ortel, said: “She was part of the Dr. Randall Ortel foundation, and was one of four students who studying medicine. There are currently two that qualified and one that's qualifying this year.
“Natalie is a driven individual and look, you are only going to put in energy into someone that is driven.
“That is why I became a mentor, and it must be noted that there is a difference between being a coach and mentor.
“A coach is someone who checks in with you on occasions and a mentor is someone who is there for you all the time, so they would reach out not only for academics but more logistics and soft skills,” he says.
Ortell said he was proud of Natalie, who he said shared his own vision.
“The positive thing is that we get to put out more good instead of complaining about the bad, it’s just a step in the right direction.
“It gives the community another opportunity to look at another positive story,” he added.