Doctor of Hearts, a biography of medical legend and UKZN alumnus, Professor Bongani Mayosi, is a poignant collection of reflections on his life journey through the eyes of his family, close friends and colleagues.
According to authors Drs Judy Dlamini and Kopano Matiwa Mabaso who were close friends of the late Mayosi, ‘Our hope is that through this book Bongani’s memory lives on and that those who read it will be inspired to take his great legacy forward. May it help to heal the pain of the continent’s profound loss!’
Mayosi was a Fellow of The World Academy of Sciences and of the European Society of Cardiology, the American College of Cardiology and the World Academy of Arts and Science, with an Honorary Fellowship from Wolfson College, Oxford. As a National Research Foundation (NRF) A-rated researcher, he changed the landscape of clinical research in South Africa and the African continent. In October 2017, he was elected as an international member of the esteemed National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the United States, the only African on this highly prestigious list. This is considered one of the highest honours that a scientist can receive.
Some called him the Madiba of Medicine because of his contribution in the field of medicine in South Africa and the African continent, especially in diseases of poverty that affect the heart. He was the first Black person appointed as the Head of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT), and the youngest that UCT ever had. He is well known for discovering the CDH2 gene mutation that causes arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy, a tremendous accomplishment that is regarded as one of the greatest medical achievements in South Africa since the first heart transplant.
Locally, and on the African continent, Mayosi is known for being a great mentor to many of the continent’s most productive clinicians and researchers and for transforming access to opportunities and funding in clinical research, as well as leading the continent’s first Pan-African clinical trial, the IMPI (Investigation of the Management of Pericarditis), a multinational trial by Africans, led by African institutes.
The book is a reflection on the journey of his life through the eyes of 78 contributors covering not only his work as a medical doctor and scientist but as a mentor, friend, father, husband, teacher, classmate, brother, uncle and child. His childhood friends share fun stories about their teenage years from Buntingville to St Johns College (both in the Eastern Cape) all the way to the University of Natal Black section (UKZN Medical School). Mayosi was a Pan-African who didn’t only travel the continent as a researcher but also to explore and admire its beauty and celebrate his ancestral heritage with his family. The story would not be complete without the love story that shows his romantic side, as told by his friends and his beautiful wife Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo.
The book celebrates a life well lived by a true son of the African soil, who believed in conquering the academic Everest, one basecamp after the other, with his eye on the ultimate prize, eradicating diseases of poverty in our lifetime and training no less than 1 000 PhDs in the health sciences. His wife and close friends share his last week on Earth before he ended his life on 27 July 2018.
Words: Judy Dlamini and Kopano Matiwa Mabaso