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Over the past few years, Wits Medical Students have watched the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital being built right at their doorstep so when it was finally completed, it’s understandable that everyone was just itching to see it! This presented us as the Wits Students’ Surgical Society with the beautifully fitting opportunity to host our second lecture series event (Paediatric Surgery) at this brand new hospital. The lecture was preceded by a tour and with the overwhelming RSVP response to our first day, we were compelled to create a second day of the same event! The event was thus run over 2 days with a lecture and tour on both days and was attended by over 200 students!

The tour of the new Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital was truly an experience to behold. From the infrastructure, advanced equipment and attention to detail to the child-friendly design, it was all truly remarkable. Each area of the hospital has been constructed and designed with not only the patient but their entire families in mind. Students enjoyed the viewing of these areas while being guided by a member of the hospital – this allowed them to ask questions and understand the thought process that went into each decision made.

Our students were afforded the opportunity of viewing the world class surgical theatres, all equipped with live streaming facilities! It is so heart-warming to know that such a remarkable facility will have its doors opened to the needy children of South Africa.

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After an incredible tour of Nelson Mandela Children’s hospital, the group of one hundred excited students piled into the seminar room for an informative talk by the man who played a crucial role in organizing this incredible event; Professor Jerome Loveland. Prof Loveland is the head of Paediatric surgery at the University of Witwatersrand and knows too well about the massive burden of paediatric surgery in South Africa. After having just learnt about all the fascinating cutting-edge equipment that could be used in this field, we were more than ready to explore the fascinating life of a pediatric surgeon.

Despite some of the preconceptions some may hold with regards to the South African public health system, Prof. Loveland started his talk praising how fortunate we are to be working here. “Similar jobs in Europe and the United States simply do not have the same impact” and very few other professions will give the same level of job satisfaction on a daily basis. As South African medical students we are extremely fortunate to be exposed in the way that we are affording us priceless training opportunities in order to serve our people. Despite this, there is a severe deficit of pediatric surgeons in South Africa. In the US and UK, they strive for 1 pediatric surgeon per 400,000 population. Currently in South Africa we have 1 pediatric surgeon per two million.

But the situation is improving; there has been an increase of registrars from 2 to 10 in the last eight years and posts have been made available in the state sector while still giving access to the private sector. Guests were exposed to how the pediatric surgical unit was first built up at Chris Hani Baragwaneth Hospital, offering the patients the highest level of care that they would receive in a private hospital. Unfortunately, in the past the pediatric surgery unit at Wits was not recognized for its excellence nationally or internationally due to a lack of published works. That has changed greatly and Professor Loveland shared with us a wide variety of fascinating cases from oesophageal transplants to the incredibly rare Pentalogy of Cantrell: with the heart being displaced outside of the thoracic cavity (in case you needed a refresher). Prof ended off the talk telling us about his charity organization: Surgeons for Little Lives “with the overriding objective of raising the level of care given to patients in the Paediatric Surgery wards in state hospitals, in the Greater Gauteng area, to world class standards.”

On the second day of the event Dr. Taryn Gabler gave the Paediatric Surgery Talk. I think I carry the voice of everyone when I praise Dr. Taryn Gabler’s talk as extraordinary. Her passion for paediatric surgery captivated us while her sense of humor reminded us that even in the rigorous career path there is still fun to be had. We were humbled by the work and dedication that goes into becoming a specialized surgeon, but the atmosphere was one of inspiration and unwavering desire to achieve that dream. Dr. Gabler’s eagerness to interact with the society and cooperate with students really shone through. She piqued our interest and her contribution to our perception of pediatric surgery in South Africa has no equal. She has truly immortalized herself in the hearts of Wits Student’s Surgical Society’s members.

We were honored to have such inspirational surgeons teach us so much about the world we hope to be involved in. Our sincerest thanks go out to Professor Loveland and Dr. Gabler for their time and effort on behalf of the society and all of the guests that were lucky enough to attend this extraordinary evening. And a huge thank you must go to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital and their organising team for assisting us in making this tour such a success!

 

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