At the age of just 33, Dr Nokwanda Zuma is only the second black African oncologist in KwaZulu-Natal.
She graduated last month after completing her training at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and is now based at Durban’s Addington Hospital, where she is in charge of radiotherapy.
In June, she treated the fi rst patient, following the restoration of oncology services at the hospital.
This included repairing one oncology machine and installing a second.
The new machine will be ready for use this month, giving the hospital the capacity to eventually treat between 40 and 50 patients per day.
In this candid interview, Zuma refl ected on her long and arduous journey towards becoming a medical specialist; the huge personal sacrifi ces she had to make along the way;
and her hopes and dreams for people who need cancer treatment in KwaZulu-Natal.
Born and bred in Pietermaritzburg, she was a very active child.
“Hence my father named me Philile (the one who is full of life) when I was born.”
The second daughter of Mbali and Christopher Zuma, a deputy principal and retired manager at the Department of Education respectively, Zuma comes from a family of achievers.
“My older sister is a chartered accountant and my younger sister is a financial manager.” Speaking of her childhood, she said:
“I grew up in Imbali township where my fondest memories are of us playing in the streets from dawn until dusk.
My parents are kindhearted, ambitious and hardworking people and those qualities I also inherited. However, they were very strict.
They encouraged us to study and create the life we wanted to live in order to be happy.”
Zuma matriculated at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High School where she was a prefect.
“I was a nerd in high school, studying all the time. I knew then that I wanted to become a doctor and that the only way I was going to get there was through discipline and studying.”
Zuma said her parents have been very supportive of her career. “I think I surprised them a bit when I said I wanted to specialise in radiation oncology.
However, they have always been supportive, even making fi nancial sacrifi ces so I could study medicine.
“They didn’t completely understand at the time what radiation oncology entailed A passion to fight cancer.
But the more they saw friends and family being diagnosed and dying from cancer, the more they understood the need for,
A passion to fight cancer and importance of, doctors who could treat cancer. So, my parents are my greatest infl uencers.”
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