Bienvenido a casa to our Medical Students
Ninety-six South African students who spent the past six years studying Medicine in Cuba as part of the Nelson Mandela Fidel Castro programme were recently welcomed back home by UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health (DoH).
The students will now begin their final journey to graduation.
The reception took place at the Stanger Hospital where the journey started many years ago with the preparation of the hospital as a decentralised clinical training site for UKZN and the DoH.
Dr Gustavo Lopez, Medical Manager at the hospital and a Cuban national, was overjoyed to welcome the students after many years of not only preparing the hospital, but the entire iLembe district for their return.
‘Educating Medical students is a huge responsibility and the District of iLembe is well equipped to do just that. There is no greater reward than contributing to the healthcare sector through quality education,’ said Lopez.
On the day of the reception, Stanger Hospital also welcomed its new Chief Executive Officer and UKZN alumnus, Dr Noxolo Vabaza, who was thrilled to be part of the exciting journey.
UKZN will train the students in the regional hospitals of Stanger, RK Khan, Prince Mshiyeni and King Edward with clinical rotations to Greytown, Christ the King, GJ Crookes and Wentworth hospitals. The largest cohort of the students will be based in Stanger. UKZN has secured accommodation for the students either in or close to the teaching hospitals as well as transport to and from the clinical sites.
The students will rotate through clinical blocks of surgical practice, obstetrics and gynaecology, internal medicine, child health, primary care and mental health. Upon completion of the necessary assessments, the students will graduate and then serve both their internships and community service training in South Africa before registering with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) as medical doctors.
Professor Busisiwe Ncama, CHS Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head, told the students their clinical training was in line with the UKZN vision of training healthcare professionals who are “fit for purpose”. ‘This is where the raw pathology happens. I am proud that this day has come and am happy to host you. At UKZN, we pride ourselves in advancing African scholarship which includes building confidence, competence, capacity and innovation. The future of South Africa rests in the hands of young professionals like you,’ she said.
The students were also addressed by their Deans, Professor Ncoza Dlova of the School of Clinical Medicine and Professor Mosa Moshabela of the School of Nursing and Public Health, who pledged the full support of the Schools to the students who, during their first six months in Cuba, had to learn Spanish as it was the only medium of instruction. They are now all fluent in the language.
Dlova told the students she had initially failed her first year of Medicine as she couldn’t grasp Chemistry. However, she persevered and never failed again. ‘It’s not how you begin but how you end. Pave your path and we are here to support you,’ she said.
Moshabela, a Family Medicine specialist, reminded the students that the curriculum would expose them to different perspectives, including curative and preventative medicine. ‘A holistic doctor needs to learn both perspectives and should also have an understanding of the rehabilitative approach. Become empowered and ensure you understand the context in which we live in South Africa with its high burden of HIV and tuberculosis; disease profiles that are new to you. Always maintain the passion you have for what you do and you will succeed,’ said Moshabela.
Words: MaryAnn Francis
Photographs: Nombuso Dlamini