Paediatrician puts spotlight on kidney conditions in SA children
There is an acute shortage of paediatric nephrologists in SA, says Dr Ngubane-Mwandla
When Dr Nokukhanya Ngubane-Mwandla was a high-school student, she knew she wanted to be a paediatrician. She found a way to turn this dream into a reality, and the 34-year-old is now sub-specialising to help save children with kidney conditions.
Ngubane-Mwandla was born on Christmas Eve in 1985 in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. Her mother is a teacher and her father a chief magistrate. She studied medicine at the University of Pretoria and qualified as a doctor in 2009. Ten years later she completed her studies at Wits University and became a paediatrician.
For her second Masters in Medicine, she will be investigating the impact of chronic kidney disease on children attending the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital over the past five years. The teaching hospital for the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, is the third-largest hospital in the world with about 3,200 beds.
Acute shortage of paediatric nephrologists in SA
For the past few years, Ngubane-Mwandla has been working as a specialist paediatric consultant at Sebokeng Regional Hospital in Vanderbijlpark. Her interest in nephrology became marked during the last stretch of her paediatric studies.
“There is a shortage of paediatric nephrologists in SA, and a relatively high incidence of kidney problems among SA children. Some of these problems are congenital, which means that children are born with it, but several conditions are caused by malnourishment and gastric problems,” she says, adding that socioeconomic issues can contribute to these conditions.
An advocate for those who cannot fight for themselves
“It’s my personal mission to help and be an advocate for the vulnerable; those who cannot fight for themselves — children. It really adds to your life if you have a job that you enjoy. I am so lucky in that respect.”
She laughs when asked how she fits work, family and studying into a 24-hour day. “I go to sleep when the children go to bed, and then I get up at four in the morning. That time of day I can study without interruptions.” She says it takes true dedication in the winter and that her husband is incredibly supportive of her career.
When Ngubane-Mwandla is not spending time with her husband and two sons, she enjoys reading and cycling. Besides being a Sunday school teacher, she also supports two outreach programmes — Doctors without Borders and SOS Children’s Villages.
Bringing critical skills to the SA health sector
“I was not expecting to receive this Discovery Award. My mentor and supervisor, professor Karen Petersen, encouraged me to apply. I was astonished and thrilled to hear that my application had been successful.”
The Discovery Foundation Sub-Specialist Awards aim to contribute to human resources for clinical and academic medicine by supporting further sub-specialist training, research & development in health faculties in SA. Ngubane-Mwandla’s work will bring skills to SA’s health sector.
“It's an honour and privilege to be part of the nephrology subspeciality fellowship programme, and the Discovery Foundation has made that possible for me. I want to help improve the lives of children with congenital and acquired renal pathology. Through sharing of knowledge and skills, as well as continued research, we can make a positive impact on our communities.”
This article was paid for by the Discovery Foundation.
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