Professor Ephraim Mokgokong, an 89-year-old gynaecologist who consults at Mediclinic Legae, was recently recognised for his work in the medical field with an Order of the Baobab in Gold – South Africa’s highest honour for outstanding contribution to various fields.

Apart from serving as gynaecologist to the royal families of Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, Professor Ephraim Thibedi Mokgokong has made a massive contribution to the development of the medical field in South Africa. The respected octogenarian has also distinguished himself with his dedication to providing gynaecological services to disadvantaged women in rural areas.

Professor Mokgokong recently received the prestigious Order of the Baobab for his excellent contribution to medical sciences in South Africa. He was awarded National Orders at an investiture ceremony in April 2023.

Career in helping people

Given his reputation as one of the grandfathers of South Africa’s medical profession, it’s interesting that he didn’t consider medicine as a career option until the day his father, the postmaster in the Makotopong village where he grew up, handed over his matric results.

“I was sitting with my elder sister at the time. When my father told me I had done well in the exams and asked what I wanted to do with my life, she answered, ‘He’s going to be a doctor’. I hadn’t thought about it until then – I only knew that I wanted to do something in science, because I was good at mathematics. But I thank God every day that she gave me the idea. I love that I have been able to help people.”

Professor Mokgokong went on to become the first black gynaecologist to qualify and practise in South Africa. His first post was at KwaZulu-Natal’s King Edward Hospital, which at the time boasted the largest obstetrics unit in the entire Southern Hemisphere. He found that he thrived on the frantic pace, and fast developed a passion for being of service – and so, when the opportunity arose to be part of the team that established the Medical University of Southern African (Medunsa, now known as the Sefako Makgatho Health Services University) in Ga-Rankuwa, he leapt at it. When it opened its doors in January 1978, the hospital distinguished itself through the quality of training provided, and the professor relished being part of an initiative that had reached such a level of expertise.

Areas of expertise

In 1990 he joined Mediclinic Legae, another career move he is proud of. His practice provides a one-stop solution to expectant mothers in Mabopane, as he specialises in both gynaecological and obstetric services. His areas of expertise are:

  • Prenatal care
  • Postnatal care
  • Childbirth
  • General gynaecology
  • Foetal assessments
  • Prenatal emergencies and complications
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Cancer of the reproductive organs
  • Dysmenorrhoea.

Today, he looks at the high-calibre facilities on offer at Mediclinic Legae and the management of the hospital, and recognises the legacy that has been created. “I’m very proud of the relationships we have built with the community,” he says. “At first, the idea of a private hospital in a township was an unpopular one, but we helped people understand that our objective is to deliver quality care, which we have done.”

Having spent time in both public and private sectors, Professor Mokgokong appreciates the private sector’s ability to develop relationships with patients, making it possible to know them on a deeper level and provide personalised service.

He says he is “honoured and humbled” to have enjoyed a career in which he has treated countless patients, helped in the delivery of thousands of babies, and won a slew of awards – although he adds that he never sought recognition for his contribution to the field.

So, what’s next? “There’s a Zulu saying: ‘Old age doesn’t ring the bell when it arrives. It just walks in’. It’s true that, while I have more skill than ever, I’m slowing down. I am coming to the end of my years of active service – although I have been told by my niece that I may not stop practising altogether!”

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