A dream come true; reflections of a new graduate

A dream come true; reflections of a new graduate

By: Itumeleng Ntatamala, MBChB*

I stand on the brink of a momentous occasion in my life. I will today, the 12/12/12 at 10am graduate as a medical doctor. Reflecting on the years gone by I cannot but help wonder what could have been of this Limpopo born lad; the son of a widow, had it not been for the education I was fortunate to have received. The words of former President Nelson Mandela ring true at this point, “…It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another”.

Six years ago I embarked on a journey of enlightenment and self-discovery. I was admitted to study medicine at that prestigious African university; the University of Cape Town. It has been a remarkable journey filled with many sleepless nights, studying the various aspects of the human body; be it of children, adults or the elderly. I got to learn about what is normal for the human body, what could go wrong, how you manage this and the psychosocial issues that should duly be considered in proving patient care. As I traversed this journey however an uncomfortable reality constantly presented itself; and that being that my people are dying and most are in desperate need of even the most basic of health care services.

Graduating this year therefore does not mean that this young lad has “made it”, no, not at all. Society’s expectations that the “new doctor” is to now purchase that flashy expensive car, buy the signature clothing and other such niceties often masks the brutal truth of what awaits me and others; that helping fix South Africa’s ailing health system rests squarely in our hands.

I look forward to beginning a new journey next year as a fully-fledged doctor. I will during this new phase in my life remember Frantz Fanon’s words that “each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity.” I believe I have discovered what my mission and calling is, what remains now is to out and fulfil it!

*Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala is a 2012 medical graduate from the University of Cape Town who will undertake his internship over the next two (2) years at Mokopane Hospital, Limpopo Province (South Africa). He aspires to specialize in Public Health following his one year of compulsory community service expected of all medical professionals.


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I am a guest contributor but also an avid reader of this blog.

8 Responses to A dream come true; reflections of a new graduate

  1. Dr Ntatamala I enjoyed reading this reflection. I’m glad that young leaders like you are increasingly documenting not only their success but also the often difficult road success!

    I’ve been troubled in the past week as I watched the coverage of former Nelson Mandela’s health. I couldn’t help but notice the contradictions on the type of healthcare he has access to in comparison to the ones the majority of (especially old) South Africans are subjected to. I think to myself: the Presidency says that he’s not seriously ill, and yet through his private jet and ultra-wealth he is able to jump on a plane to the best health workers in Pretoria/wherever necessary, and I keep thinking to myself — what happens to the other old women and men who do not have access to these resources when they are sick?

    That’s why I love that as an emerging public health leader you are cognizant of the work that is still to be done in the South African public health system, I think that recognition on its own is a good start in you moving in the right direction towards FULFILMENT of your calling and mission. Indeed South Africa’s health system in your hands as the new cadre of health officials, you’re not future leaders, you are leaders NOW.

    But today at 10am take pride as you’re officially confirmed as Dr Itumeleng Ntatamala. I’m sure you’ve lost many comrades along the way to various exclusions so common at former white institutions. I want to dispute your claim, and dare say that you have indeed “made it”, and that’s something to celebrate. We must honour our stories of survival, even as we know the glass is still half-full!

    Congrats! So “Go Banana! Go Go Banana” today :)

  2. Congratulations Itumeleng 😉

    A quotation you used from the former President Mandela, reminded me of a Sesotho saying: “mohale o tsoa leroleng”, a warrior comes from the dust (or without being literal, a warrior emerges from humbly beginnings.)

    Again, congrats and don’t go too Bananas as encouraged by Gcobani ..lol 😀

  3. Friend I am proud of you, its amazing to see how you’ve remained consistent throughout the years I’ve known you. I know that you will bring a great contribution to the health system of our country. Education indeed provides a platform for us to serve society at a higher level. So as you continue this journey you’ve started I am excited to see you bring excellence to the public health system of South Africa

  4. Congratulations
    It’s always inspiring to hear from new graduates and especially share this enthusiasm to not only embrace the next step, but most importantly to recognize the value of this step as being important for many others, not just yourself. Have a wonderful graduation and all the best for whatever comes next, may you keep your enthusiasm and idealism no matter what realities you come across :)

  5. I shall say this from the deepest side of my heart. You are a truly inspiring young healthcare worker, a young leader with a big vision to overhaul our heath system.
    reading your piece has just revived my ambitions,it reminds me of those small conversations we used to have between you and I, talking about the sense of emergency needed in our health system, but it will take our efforts to ensure that we contribute positively to change what is not good for excellency.

    I pride myself to meet you Dr Itu, you are a true hero to our youth motivation for success. you have embarked in a journey that most people fail to accomplish, it took your endurance to survive in studying human anatomy and physiology (with its complications which sometimes are not understood even by experts, but you remained resolute and stood by your dream. I shall concur with you that the journey is yet to be started, this 6 years were still a preparatory phase. You are a building on progress for construction.

    Once again, congratulations, go and serve our people honestly.

  6. An amazing triumph indeed Itumeleng! Congratulations to you and your team of cheerleaders for this day has arrived! Indeed Madiba is right, “it is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another”. Delight in this moment, quench your thirst, and take it all in for as Madiba reminds us yet again that “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb”. Congrats on climbing this magnificent hill!

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