The Maharaj family from Umhlanga in Durban are proud to be associated with UKZN.
Parents, Naren and Jenita, are alumni of the University, having graduated in Medicine and Optometry, respectively. Son, Sahil, graduated with a Medical degree cum laude in 2021 whilst his siblings, Sandhya, Suhana and Smita are current students at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.
Naren and Jenita said, ‘We both have very high regard for the Institution. As graduates ourselves, it is an absolute honour to have all four of our children attend UKZN.’ Coming from a family of high flyers, Smita the youngest achieved an average score of 92% in the 2022 National Senior Certificate exams and is excited to join the Medical Class of 2023. ‘This is a family tradition and I am absolutely elated to be given the opportunity to study at this Institution. I believe that the quality of education at UKZN is phenomenal. It might not have the bells and whistles of other medical schools in the country, but it definitely has what is needed to produce top-class graduates who can confidently hold their own in any setting,’ commented Smita.
Inspired by her parents to enter the health profession, the Westville Girls’ High graduate had these words of encouragement for others aspiring to enter this honourable profession. ‘From an early age, I used to go to my parents’ practices in Umlazi. I was moved by the gratitude expressed by patients when they were healed or given the gift of sight by my dad and mum, respectively. These experiences left an indelible mark. My parents showed me what true compassion is. I see healthcare providers for who they really are. They are not about arrogance, fame and fortune. They are the unsung heroes who silently go about helping the disadvantaged on the untarred roads of rural areas. Here there is no media coverage, no hair and make-up, no camera, lights and action; this is just about medicine, healthcare and improving humanity. You go through this life once. I would like to make my life meaningful, and I believe that my purpose is to help and uplift others.’
Suhana, who is in her fourth year of study joined UKZN during the COVID-19 lockdown. As she enters her clinical years of study training in hospitals throughout KwaZulu-Natal she recalls her first three years: ‘I entered first year during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, so like everybody else in the world, my life was drastically impacted by lockdowns and fears associated with the pandemic. My experience with UKZN thus far has largely been an online one interspersed with clinical exposure at Albert Luthuli Hospital. Throughout these uncertain times, the University has not defaulted in maintaining its normal high standard as far as academia is concerned. With regard to resource materials, clinical teaching, online mentorship, lecturers’ accessibility and the overall quality of education, UKZN is second to none.
‘As I enter the clinical phase of my degree, I know that the journey ahead will be long and tiring. However, I am confident that the skills and knowledge I’ll gain from my incredible tutors will be worth the struggle. UKZN is a university that builds powerful individuals with a mission to help. There is a quote, plastered on the front steps entering our campus, which each UKZN graduate carries in their heart as they leave: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, Mahatma Gandhi,’ said Suhana.
Sandhya, who is in her final-year, spoke fondly of her time at UKZN: ‘Medicine is about compassion, humility and care; it is not about ego, pride and vanity. UKZN students and graduates don’t often blow their trumpets because they have nothing to prove. The calibre of the graduates speaks for itself. The extensive clinical exposure as well as early integration into medical teams from third-year created a strong foundation. The mentors I’ve trained under are some of the best in the country and their motivation and guidance has been exceptional. UKZN allows you to develop and embrace your own identity. Whether your passion lies in the field of academic medicine and research or hands-on clinical medicine…… UKZN Medical School is a cut above the rest.’
A word of encouragement from Smita to the current Grade 12 class: ‘My advice is to stay calm throughout the year. Stay balanced and focus. Always make sure that you have a support structure, because there are times when you might fall off the wagon. This is normal, what’s important is that you get back into the race. Enjoy the ride, remember this is not the be all and end all. Many avenues lead to success. If there is a roadblock on one path, find an alternative.’
Words: MaryAnn Francis