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UKZN launches Intern Mentorship Programme

UKZN’s School of Clinical Medicine launched an Intern Mentorship Programme, in partnership with Investec, on 16 September, through a webinar with around 180 attendees made up of medical interns, academics and mentors.

The brainchild of Professor Ncoza Dlova, Dean of the School, the mentorship programme aims to support KwaZulu-Natal interns through a series of monthly workshops related to career guidance; work-life orientation; financial, physical and mental wellness; personal development; motivational talks; and mentorship. This platform will also help to forge relationships for interns to collaborate with and support one another.

Addressing attendees, Dlova called on senior members of the medical fraternity to be exemplary mentors: "Let us not be hyenas that destroy, cripple and devour the souls of these junior doctors, but let us support, guide and nurture them in the best possible way, creating positive experiences and role modelling for our potential future leaders. As the saying goes: 'There is only one thing better than reaching the top in life: Reaching down and helping someone else rise to the same level.'"  She advised the interns to be the best version of themselves by working hard and showing respect, compassion and dedication to their patients.

Dlova added that the programme will be extended nationally and that the South African Committee of Deans has embraced the initiative, with Investec being willing to assist with national implementation.

Dlova is also planning to acknowledge exemplary interns, medical officers, registrars and consultants by awarding certificates of appreciation to the top five medical and nursing staff who epitomise the characteristics of a good doctor or healthcare practitioner.

Guest speaker, Dr Vuyani Mhlomi, reminded mentees to stay true to who they are, be resilient and equip themselves with knowledge and experience.

Alumnus Professor Salome Maswine advised the interns to choose their mentors and friends well and encouraged them to consider becoming clinician-scientists if that route appeals to them. She commented: "If the research question does not interest you, it will never end in searching for the answer."

University of Cape Town graduate and intern Dr Zolelwa Sifumba, who was part of the founding committee, shared some of the challenges faced by junior doctors and noted that a lack of support and mentorship almost drowned her at one point in her career.

The launch was attended by Heads of Disciplines in the clinical fraternity, who presented specialisation options such as Psychiatry (Professor Bonga Chiliza); General Surgery (Professor Bugsy Singh); Neurosurgery (Dr Basil Enicker): Anaesthetics (Dr Dean Gopalan); and Critical Care (Dr Thomas Hardcastle). Psychiatrist Dr Suvira Ramlall’s presentation focused on investing in one’s own mental health as a doctor and Dr Sizwe Zulu shared a business overview of private practice.

UKZN Intern Committee member Dr Veena Singaram invited interns to work with the committee and introduced the new Intern Web page, with resources and mentorship opportunities: https://scm.ukzn.ac.za/intern-info/

Comments from the participants included: "Mentorship is critical in shaping young doctors, the future of medicine and creating and sustaining something with far-reaching effects on our world that is so broken and in need of healing," and: "I wish we had this when we were interns."

Young doctor Mduduzi Mthembu said: "I am so glad I joined this Zoom meeting... this feels like an investment in self; we are really inspired to become better interns."

Participants were also treated to performances and exhibitions by poet Stanley Sekhula (sixth-year medical student); vocalist and guitarist Sphamandla Sibisi (fourth year); photographer Thabo Langa (fourth year); artists Kwanele Memela and Leonard Da Rocha (fourth year); and musician Dr Senzeni Tshuma, alumnus and intern in Pietermaritzburg.

An extract from Sekhula’s poem:

But it is the same people that constantly verbalises words that,
Crushes our souls and break our bones,
These words are so cold like winter morning, every morning before we go to work,
We choose which bottle we are going to drink next,
Not because we like but because it hurts less than these words,
That came from seniors who were supposed to rejuvenate our souls,
But instead they set fire into our dreams, it burns, and these scars are hard to heal.

Words: Lihle Sosibo

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