South Africa: 'Find a Mentor', Doctors in Waiting Urged

As the University of Cape Town's (UCT) 2019 MBChB cohort prepared to take to the stage to receive their degrees and start a new chapter of their lives outside campus, they were urged to find a mentor to help them on their way.

This was the sound advice guest speaker Dr Dumani Kula offered the 150 doctors in waiting on Monday, 23 December. Kula is the deputy CEO of Clinix Health Group, pioneers in affordable quality healthcare to underserviced communities in South Africa.

The morning ceremony concluded UCT's 2019 summer graduation season, which comprised six ceremonies over a three-day period this month. The university capped 1 771 graduands and conferred three honorary degrees to renowned academic, Professor Jonathan Jansen, world-renowned biochemical engineer, Dr Georges Belfort, and leading scientist in molecular genetics and biochemistry Dr Marlene Belfort.

UCT also used this graduation season to celebrate and honour outgoing Chancellor Graça Machel. Machel's tenure comes to a close at the end of the month when she will hand over the baton to incoming Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi Motsepe.

Addressing the "latest crop of healthcare professionals", Kula, a UCT alumnus, congratulated graduands on their achievement, and paid homage to their families, friends and teachers for their indelible contribution to the students' lives.

And for graduands who are about to embark on their careers in the severely under-resourced and overburdened healthcare sector, he stressed the importance of finding a mentor to provide insight and help shape their paths as health professionals.

"As you go into the next phase of your lives, I want to suggest to you to secure at least one person who you can rely on. You will achieve more, faster," he said.

Mentor vs midwife

Kula likened the role of a midwife, who assists expectant mothers during the "extremes" of the birthing process, to a mentor, who offers guidance and coaching to young professionals.

"It is a mentor who [will] affirm you during those critical moments of vulnerability and doubt."

He told graduands to make use of a mentor to assist with the transition from university life to the demanding field of medicine.

"It is a mentor who [will] affirm you during those critical moments of vulnerability and doubt," he said.

But aside from the obvious advantages that come with a mentor, he said a mentor would also help determine whether climbing the ladder in the profession would be a slow process, or help graduands "jump the queue on your way to success".

"A mentor helps to crystalise and shape your vision of the future, as the midwife does for expectant mothers in those first few weeks of pregnancy," he said.

"When you feel defeated, down and out, it's your mentor who will help breathe new life into your dream. I look forward to seeing you in the field as we strengthen our country's health system."

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