Defining Female Leadership in Science and Public Health
In line with celebrating Women’s Month which takes place during the month of August, the College of Health Sciences recently held an inspiring webinar featuring a panel of Medical students and interns who deconstructed the theme: ‘Female Leadership in Science and Public Health.’
Underpinning the robust discussions, the panel agreed that leadership must be built on a solid foundation of human values, spirituality, networking, service, and breaking down barriers to ensure the provision of holistic healthcare.
The initiative was that of Ms Tivana Chellan, a final-year Medical student and Global Outstanding Leadership Awards finalist. ‘Leadership comes from within and is influenced by our thoughts and beliefs. Selfless leadership is a desire to uplift, motivate and serve and that should be the foundation of all good leaders,’ she said.
Dr Ashiq Pramchand, first-year Medical intern and author of The Great Medical Student Odyssey reflected on the time he spent as a student engaging in community work. He recalled, ‘The role of leadership in public health has been a source of internal debate for me for a while. The community work I’ve always engaged in was about helping others. Our role should always be to inspire others to craft their own vision and goals and find ways to break down barriers, be innovative and lead with kindness and empathy.’
Said final-year Medical student, Ms Rivona Harricharan, ‘How we as healthcare workers receive our patients can make a huge impact on the lives of our patients and their families. We are always judged by our human values and the impact we have on other people’s lives, so treat others with compassion.’ Harricharan has a Master’s degree in Medical Sciences (summa cum laude) and is the Chairperson of the Medical Dean’s Research Group, affectionately dubbed “The Masterminds”. Her talk focused on human values which are the internal virtues and beliefs that guide us in the world.
She said, ‘Based on Robin Sharma’s teachings, human values are as unique to each individual as one’s thumb print and are characterised by our mindset, soulset, heartset and healthset.’ Being a woman in university places more emphasis on one’s mindset but as a healthcare practitioner, we must embrace all the human values. Human values must be aligned with your university degree which presents you with the opportunity to empower other women.’
Dr Tumisang Malete, a senior Medical intern who was selected as one of UKZN’s Top 40 Most Inspiring Students in 2017 and is the author of Leading in a Selfie Generation, said spirituality - one’s connectiveness with one’s self and the environment - must be a common theme in leadership. ‘Spirituality does not always equate to religion. It is the belief in a higher power or something greater than you. Integrating spirituality into your leadership role will guide you on how to lead others and also provide holistic healthcare to your patients.’
Ms Xoliswa Njapha, final-year Medical student and co-founder of the #IMadeADoctor fundraising campaign, said she drew inspiration from Traditional Affairs Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. ‘She is not scared to speak her mind and this skill is very important in leadership. Have a vision and do not be afraid to dream big. As Saint Teresa mentioned, it is important to remember that no one person alone can change the world but step-by-step, we all can contribute.’ Njapha hopes that South Africa’s next president will be a woman.
Undermining women in society is the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV). Mr Yanga Mbele who is a final-year Medical student serving as class representative (2020-2022) and was voted by the Medical student body as the Best REACH? (Respect, Excellence, Accountability, Client-Orientation, Honesty and Trust) Student MBChB- fifth year, presented an emotional message focusing on the importance of creating an environment that is safe, respectful and ensures the protection of all women. ‘We need to form closer connections with boys to mentor and teach them to break away from the “typical stereotypes” that encourage men to exert force in order to effectively communicate. We must move away from other toxic masculinity expectations such as buying a woman a drink and expecting sex in return,’ he said. He also encouraged men to be responsible and sensible in the messages they send on social media to ensure that gender stereotypes are not perpetuated.
Rounding off the webinar was Ms Kiara Govender, programme director, final-year Medical student and founder of iCarePledge, a youth student campaign. ‘Women are the strength of our nation. Through practicing core human values, immersing ourselves in our spirituality, standing up for what we believe in and generating innovative solutions in public health, we will become the impactful leaders that our nation and the world needs.’
The webinar can be viewed on the UKZN YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAEu4Q5yvO4.
Words: MaryAnn Francis