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My name is Sanelisiwe Mthembu. I was born at Mosvold Hospital at Ingwavuma. I’m from a family of 7. I have 3 brothers, 2 sisters and my Mom. I have an 11yr old daughter.
I started schooling at Lundini Primary School at Ingwavuma until I completed Standard 5 (Grade 7). At school I competed in the Maths and Science Olympiads and I won them twice - progressing up to the regional level. I went to Mlokothwa High school for my secondary education where I also competed in the Maths, Science and Afrikaans Olympiads. I was always the top student in my class up until I matriculated in 1996 with very good grades. I completed matric at the age of 17.
My father who was previously working as a mineworker and was the sole breadwinner in our family (my mother was a housewife) got retrenched just when I was about to finish high school. Due a lack of money I had to stay at home for the whole of 1997. My dad passed on in August 1997 while my elder sister was doing her 2nd year at College and my youngest brother was only a year and a half old. My mother had to start trying something to put food on the table. She then started selling fruits and vegetables and I started doing some domestic work. I stayed at home job seeking from 1997 until September 2001 when I heard the news that there were interviews at Mosvold (which I thought were job interviews)!
I went for the interview, which was for a bursary to study a health science degree! I passed but I didn’t have money for the University application fee. Dr Ross offered me the application fee. I was accepted at the University of Witswaterrand (Wits) to study Pharmacy. A DREAM COME TRUE.
In Jan 2002 I started at Wits- it was my first time in Joburg. Life at Wits was never easy, especially for a black student, having to deal with the accent of the lecturers during lectures. At times the whole lecture would go by without me understanding a single sentence but I had to find ways and strategies to make sure that I passed. Eventually I managed, with the help of tutors and mentors from MESAB, and with the support we were getting from Dr Ross and from each other as a team (fellow students from Ingwavuma). I managed to pass my 1st year without much difficulty. I was doing holiday work during University holidays in June and in December which exposed me to a lot of processes and medication in the pharmacy which also worked to my advantage.
2nd year was my toughest year at Wits. I had to write a supplementary exam during the 1st week of Jan 2004 which meant I spent my festive season back in Johannesburg studying for the supp. I passed my supp. and completed my studies in 2005 (within the minimum time). My graduation was in December 2005 - my mom and sister came to my graduation. ANOTHER DREAM COME TRUE.
In 2006 I did my internship at King Edward Hospital where I gained a lot of experience in the different sections of the pharmacy and putting theory into practice.
In 2007 I went back to Mosvold Hospital and started my community service. I was happy to be back home, serving my own community and my own people.
There were a lot of challenges at the beginning having to deal with the pharmacy staff, colleagues at the hospital and hospital management. Things were really not easy. In September 2008, the Pharmacy manager left, I was the Principal Pharmacist then,there were only 2 pharmacists left. The following month the other pharmacist left - making the situation worse! The pressure was too much to bear.
I had to manage pharmaceuticals for 10 clinics, 3 mobile clinics, Antiretrovirals (ARV's), the whole hospital and wards. I still had to manage and supervise the pharmacy staff - Pharmacy Assistants (I was the youngest, having to deal with older people who have been there for a long time - this was another challenge). I was acting Pharmacy Manager and the only pharmacist since September 2008 until April 2010. The pressure was too much with little appreciation and no time for personal and professional development.
In April 2010, I decided to change my field of work and got myself a post in research. I am currently working as a research pharmacist in a clinical research project on HIV/AIDS which is funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Aids and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) within the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). I am currently registered with the Medicines Control Council (MCC) as a Clinical researcher.
I recently attended the 5th South Afican AIDS conference where we were interacting with many researchers and getting new developments on HIV/AIDS. I am in the process of registering at the University of Kwa Zulu Natal for my Masters in Health Sciences, which I start next year. I strongly feel that there is a need in Umkhanyakude for researchers especially since the HIV/ AIDS pandemic is so prevalent in our communities and a lot of research needs to be done.
The experience I have gained so far has had a huge impact on my competency in the profession and in my leadership and management skills. Even the sky is not the limit!
With the help of Friends of Mosvold/Umthombo Youth Development Foundation I have improved and grown from a girl next door to a role model for a lot of kids in the community and am a good example to a lot of young people. Life has improved in all spheres. I can proudly say that I am living a better life with my family and my daughter because I can now provide for my family and am supporting my younger sister who is now doing tertiary studies and my younger brother who just started high school. The future looks so bright.