It’s Women’s Day on 9 August and we feature four dynamic women who contribute towards Mediclinic’s reputation as an inclusive, world-class company. From Africa’s youngest neurosurgeon to South Africa’s first black female plastic surgeon, these strong women focus on making a difference.

Riani Retief

Clinical Quality Specialist: ICU & EC

Mediclinic Southern Africa

“My aim is to ensure safe, patient care while supporting the nursing staff.”

“When I was in matric, my mom asked me what my plan B was. My answer was ‘I don’t have a plan B – I was born to be a nurse, and everything will work out.’ When I started my career, I worked in the adult cardiology critical care unit and went on to do my Master of Adult Critical Care Nursing. In 2015, I moved into my current position.  At that stage, I’d never worked in an Emergency Centre, so I had to catch up very quickly. Luckily, I work with amazing people who supported me and helped me to find my way.  Obtaining my postgraduate critical care qualification has been the highlight of my career. It’s enabled me to see the bigger picture and how all the little puzzle pieces fit together.  Obviously, the real learning happened once I completed my studies and started to work. 

“Patients and their stories have played such a big role in my professional development, and I’m truly grateful for everyone with whom I have crossed paths.

“My aim remains to ensure safe, patient care in these departments, while supporting the nursing staff. This involves creating support structures and processes. I also have a passion for teaching, and love to share my knowledge and skills with young and upcoming nurses. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the light go on in someone’s eyes when you explain something to them, and they suddenly ‘get it’. It’s humbling to be part of someone’s professional development and to see them grow.”

Dr Gloria Tshukudu  

Plastic Surgeon

Mediclinic Muelmed and Mediclinic Legae

“I am committed to helping patients regain a sense of confidence through surgery.”

“Early on in my studies I became curious about the potential of plastic surgery. I was interested in how we can improve a person’s sense of self-worth. When you study to become a doctor you complete a rotation period, where you’re exposed to all kinds of disciplines: ICU, orthopaedics, everything. I was able to see then, first-hand, how reconstructive surgery can have a huge benefit in a person’s life. That inspired me to become the first black female to qualify as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in South Africa. I really enjoy helping people feel better about themselves. I am committed to helping patients regain a sense of confidence through surgery.

“While many people may perceive plastic surgery as a cosmetic service that involves eye lifts, face lifts or tummy tucks, much of my time is spent helping burn or trauma victims restore function to vital limbs. I also repair clefts of the lip and palete and other birth defects. 

“I’m particularly intrigued by the potential of microsurgical techniques. Using advanced operating microscopes to greatly magnify the area, we’re able to transplant large sections of tissue, muscle or bone from one part of the body to another – carefully reattaching tissue one nerve and blood vessel at a time. This allows the transplanted tissue a far greater chance of succeeding, and for the patient to maintain feeling and function in the area.

“We use microsurgery when we need to reconstruct a breast, reattach fingers or do fine surgical work. This is especially beneficial for cancer survivors who’ve had tumours removed, and it’s a helpful way for us to treat trauma victims who may have been mutilated in an accident. For these patients, plastic surgery is about a lot more than looking good – it’s an essential part of feeling comfortable in the world. The procedures we perform are complex and life-altering. The reward is indescribable: to see a patient walk out of our rooms restored, and in fact transformed, is an amazing feeling.”

Magdeline Rapudi

Learning Centre Manger

Mediclinic Learning Centre Limpopo

“My students say I am supportive, approachable, friendly, and that I provide professional motherly love.”

“My excellent matric results qualified me to study nursing, and I completed the basic Diploma in Nursing with distinction. Upon completing my studies, I worked at Tara Hospital then moved to Mediclinic Limpopo in the surgical, high care and ICU units. During my practical, Professor Mashudu Davhana-Maselesele recognised my devotion and potential for teaching. This inspired me to complete my Bachelor of Nursing Science and join the world of academia. I was appointed as a clinical assessor at Mediclinic Learning Centre Limpopo and soon promoted to Nurse Educator, and then Learning Centre Manager. I continued with my studies and have obtained my Masters and PhD degrees while still serving in the same position. My thesis focuses on the development of a support model for the implementation of new nursing qualifications in South Africa.

“My advice to young women seeking a career in nursing is: Be passionate, stay focused and persevere. Nursing comes with a lot of opportunities. But the most important aspect is bringing a smile to someone’s face and experiencing the priceless sense of ‘I have made a difference in someone’s life’.

“I was fairly young when I first joined Mediclinic and was inspired by a number of strong women who became my mentors. These included Learning and Development Facilitator Alison Dlamini, who always shows an attitude of caring and support.

The humble and professional conduct of my nursing managers, Hendrica Ngoepe and Dr Estelle Coustas, also motivated me. At the training site, Kobus Vester, Avril Stroh, Isabel Heigan, and the late Norma Paverd also supported my development. To date, my leaders in nursing education, Dr Ann van Zyl, and Dr Kayline Coetzee, continue to inspire me.

“I choose to share my passion with my students. The biggest compliment I’ve ever received from them is that I care for them beyond the classroom. They also say they’re grateful that they were taught to always do things correctly and they know I don’t allow short cuts. My students say I am supportive, approachable, friendly, and that I provide professional motherly love.”

Dr Ncumisa Jilata

Neurosurgeon

Mediclinic Morningside

“The brain is the seat of the soul. It is a privilege to work with this organ.”

“As Africa’s youngest neurosurgeon, I help my patients harness the power of the central nervous system. I finished my specialist training at the University of Pretoria, before completing a fellowship for the Council of Neurosurgeons of South Africa in 2017.

Something about the brain – the way it works, the role it plays through the body – fascinates me. My patients are referred by either a general practitioner, a neurologist or a casualty doctor in the Emergency Centre. By the time they arrive at my office we have a pretty clear picture of what is wrong, and it’s really a matter of surgically correcting the issue. I’ve treated everything from brain tumours to the effects of stroke.

“While most people might consider a neurosurgeon to be preoccupied with the brain, I deal with all things related to the nervous system. In fact, my most common treatments involve degenerative conditions of the spine. Typically, people in their 50s and 60s experience pain or discomfort in the lower back or neck. This is because the spine has begun to degenerate and is causing an injury to the spinal cord or spinal nerves, which can lead to neurological symptoms.

“A highlight for me was when President Cyril Ramaphosa commended me in his Presidency Budget Vote in Parliament’s National Assembly in 2017, for ‘inspiring us, motivating us and challenging us with your [life] and your determination … demonstrating what is possible with perseverance, courage, collaboration and partnership’. But my focus is firmly on my patients. When you think about it, most of life starts with the brain: walking, writing. The brain is the seat of the soul. It is a privilege to work with this organ.”