03 September 2014 Volume :2 Issue :46

Colombian Medical Student Following her Dream through UKZN

Colombian Medical Student Following her Dream through UKZN
Ms Diana Marcela Valentin Cardenas (centre) welcomed by Medical School staff, Professor Ted Sommerville and Dr Margaret Matthews.

A Columbian Medical student’s dream to study overseas to help her become one of her country’s best doctors is slowly becoming a reality, thanks in part to a three-month experience at UKZN’s Medical School.

Ms Diana Marcela Valentin Cardenas, a student at the University of La Sabana in Chia, met the head of the Clinical Skills Laboratory of UKZN, Dr Margaret Matthews, at the Towards Unity for Health Conference in Thailand last year and discussed the chances of coming to UKZN to work in rural areas to help improve primary care. Cardenas said she felt society currently needed more education to prevent important diseases which are a challenge for medical science.

Cardenas said her passion was to see people happy and felt she could achieve that by solving some of the main problems related to health, beliefs and social life. ‘I am sure that sometimes all people need is someone to listen to them and make a difference in their lives. I am absolutely convinced that physicians who listen with care are more successful in treating their patients than those who only cure diseases. I want to be a good doctor to my patients and treat them in the right way.’

Cardenas said she was unsure about which country she wanted to work in long-term but being attached to UKZN was an excellent opportunity. ‘Currently the world revolves around globalisation so it is therefore necessary for young doctors to meet and learn from other cultures and other medical practices to generate new ideas that can be used in the place where they will work eventually.’

Cardenas said South Africa and Africa were beautiful places to explore. ‘As a future physician I thought there were opportunities to experience new medical practices or just provide a little help in Africa. Additionally, it is fascinating to learn a bit about different cultures in this country.’

‘People here are incredible – they are always friendly and willing to meet me, help me and to get to know about me.

‘The landscapes are beautiful. Durban is very clean and is fortunate to have the beach nearby.’ She also enjoyed the weather, indigenous flowers, seeing a variety of animals ‘including the beautiful birds and monkeys on the streets’, and said she was privileged to be linked to UKZN which had an attractive and large campus.

Comparing health system challenges in KwaZulu-Natal with those in her home country, she said: ‘In terms of family medicine, similarities include the need to improve the lifestyle of patients and trying to develop the primary care system. In both countries there are inequalities in terms of poverty and work opportunities. The prevalence of teenage pregnancy is high and in most cases single young mothers must take care of their babies and stop studying.’ However, infectious diseases such as TB and HIV were less common in Columbia.

Said Matthews: ‘Diana is currently at Wentworth Hospital and will soon go to Bethesda Hospital for some rural experience.’

-          Lunga Memela

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