Passion bears fruit for oncologist
Dr Zuma who graduated last month after completing her training would like to improve services offered in KZN
THE road to becoming a specialist has been long but worth it Dr Nokwanda Zuma, 33, one of only two black African oncologists in KwaZuluNatal, said.
Zuma said it was her passion for oncology that kept her going and that she would like to improve the services presently offered in KwaZuluNatal.
She graduated in May after completing her training at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and is now based at Addington Hospital where she is in charge of radiotherapy. She treated her first patient last week.
“There is nothing as rewarding as seeing a patient smile or seeing them being cured from cancer,” she said.
Zuma said she decided in 2012 that she wanted to be an oncologist and a year later, her stepgrandmother, an ex-nurse from Edendale Hospital, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
“Oncology has always been my destiny, but my stepgrandmother just took away any doubt of anything else. I was working at Greys Hospital oncology at the time. She chose to be treated in a public hospital as opposed to going to a private hospital because her granddaughter was there. My father’s biological mother was also diagnosed with cervical cancer and treated at Addington Hospital 20 years ago and she’s still alive. That’s why it’s important for me to see Addington Hospital’s oncology department functioning well,” she said.
“Oncology is unique in that there’s the medical part and then the radiotherapy part. As an oncologist, I have to tell a patient that they have cancer and the immediate thought for them is that, ‘I’m going to die’. It takes a doctor with empathy and soft skills to be able to reassure them that, I will be there with you throughout this journey and I will do my best, no matter what the outcome.”
Zuma trained for nine years. She did her undergraduate studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal medical school which she completed in five years. She then spent four years specialising. She did her internship at Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital and her community service at Krugersdorp, West Rand health department.
“The hardest part of my training was when my aunt passed away two weeks before my final exams and I couldn’t go to the funeral in Durban from Cape Town. I was crying while studying,
“What helped me get this far is my perseverance and knowing that the goal is to become a specialist. I had a community to serve and the only way to do that is by becoming the best at what I do.”
PROGRESS: A 73-year-old cancer patient with, from left to right, physicist Thuso Ramoloko, oncologist Dr Nokwanda Zuma, radiotherapy staff Malenta Solomon, Natasha Maharaj, Teresha Pillay, Thabisile Hlengwa and Philani Mazibuko.