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Former Medical School SRC President Graduates as Top Surgery Registrar

Dr Nsizwenye Mkhwanazi.

Former Medical School SRC President Graduates as Top Surgery Registrar

The former President of UKZN’s Medical School Student Representative Council (MSRC), Dr Nsizwenye Mkhwanazi, has made history by graduating as the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa’s (CMSA) top surgery registrar (specialist in training) as well as becoming the first Black African candidate to receive the prestigious Douglas Award for Fellowship of the College of Surgeons of South Africa (CS CMSA).

The CMSA fellowship involves being part of a professional body dedicated to promoting the highest degree of skill and efficiency in medical practice and cultivating the highest ethical standards and professional conduct, not for financial gain but for the betterment of humanity.

‘This goes down as one of the proudest moments of my life,’ said Mkhwanazi, who is grateful to all his teachers, especially CS CMSA President, Professor Zach Koto.

The first medical doctor in his family, Mkhwanazi was born into a disadvantaged family in the Mpumalanga province, choosing to overcome poverty by studying to become a doctor with a mission to save the lives of others. ‘In medicine, you get to directly impact people’s lives. You have an opportunity to not only touch the physical being but also the soul,’ he said. ‘If God allows, the decisions we make echo into eternity. We ease the pain; we prevent catastrophe and I find that quite fulfilling.’

Mkhwanazi said he fell in love with surgery while doing his internship and instantaneously wanted to be excellent at it. ‘I realised that to become the very best at what I do, I need to put in the hard work. I have been inspired by many of my colleagues and mentors who saw potential in me and always encouraged me to work hard.’

Mkhwanazi is currently working at Cape Town’s Groote Schuur Hospital, where he is doing his fellowship (subspecialisation) in colorectal surgery which entails a wide range of surgical procedures to counteract conditions affecting the lower digestive tract – ‘and it’s been a great journey so far’. His ongoing Master of Medicine degree focuses on peripheral arterial disease for which he is being supervised by Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University vascular surgeon, Dr Siphumelele Ngema, where Mkhwanazi served as a registrar.

Mkhwanazi said he was pursuing colorectal surgery as a speciality because the disease is a significant burden in the country which needs to be better understood. ‘I am interested in minimally-invasive techniques in colorectal cancer treatment and also can’t wait to see where the tide of genomics, personalised cancer care and targeted therapies lead us.’

Mkhwanazi said being involved in student leadership influenced his future path. ‘There was a lot of naivety entering into it but I grew up so fast through that experience. I was quite passionate about improving the life of our students on campus.’

Mkhwanazi and his peers founded the MSRC book loan scheme with the help of UKZN’s former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Teaching and Learning, Professor Renuka Vithal. ‘Being elected MSRC president at 19 years old while in my third year was scary but definitely one of my Medical School highlights.’ He said holding insightful conversations with UKZN leadership cultivated his confidence going into practice and becoming a registrar.

Mkhwanazi said: ‘My mom has always been my inspiration while my dad supported me as a young pupil in high school and through varsity. My wife has been my rock – she encourages me to take time off and think about things outside of work. I go to church regularly and reset my spiritual compass. I also love being with nature, it gets my mind thinking at a different level.’

Words: Lunga Memela

Photograph: Supplied