At only 21, Sandile Kubheka has a scarce skill. Many nations would pay top dollar – even more in Rands at the current exchange rate – to hire the country’s youngest doctor as part of their workforce. Further, with better prospects of career advancement overseas, the country is not just attractive to impressionable young medical professionals. Even sixty year old veterans are tempted to finish off whatever remains of their careers elsewhere, not helped by the perception that politicians are better valued than medical professionals in the country.
But Khubheka believes his skills could best be utilised in the country, with the mounting health challenges he has witnessed in hospital wards during his short stint. “I want to serve my country. It needs me most. The idea of emigrating has never crossed my mind at all.” He is staunchly patriotic.
A graduate from UKZN’s Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, Khubheka does not take things for granted, though. Every day provides a fresh learning experience. One of the challenges he faces is being taken seriously by patients.
Given the public’s entrenched perception of a medical doctor as a greying bespectacled someone, Khubheka has got accustomed to be frowned upon: “What is this kid doing here?” kind of gesture. But as someone who took the Hippocratic Oath to serve humanity to the best of his ability, he acts as professionally as a 60 year old would.