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.