Daniella Mark

Dr Daniella Mark enjoyed a privileged upbringing — private school, birthday parties with jumping castles and overseas travel. But her 24-month internship as a neuropsychologist at Groote Schuur Hospital opened her eyes to the healthcare issues facing poorer communities, inspiring her to apply for a job at the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. There she spent seven years learning as much as she could about HIV, before joining Pata in May 2012. It was a life-changing move. Pata’s main goal is to promote and facilitate improved healthcare for HIV-infected children and their families in Africa. Since her arrival 33-year-old Mark has launched several new initiatives, from the Pata Child-Friendly Clinic Initiative to uplifting paediatric HIV clinics in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s thanks to these programmes that three South African clinics have benefited from grants enabling them to create child-friendly spaces. Concerned about the needs of frontline healthcare workers, Mark launched an advocacy portfolio that strives to make health system policies more inclusive by taking into account the workers’ experiences and needs. Her work is also hands-on and reaches into the African continent. At any given time Mark can be found in a clinic in Lesotho, addressing healthcare teams in Tanzania about psychosocial support for HIV-positive adolescents or meeting caregivers of children living with HIV. It’s not always about tackling big issues or addressing the masses. Through the Sisanda FunDaytion, which she co-founded with friends, Mark turns her time and attention to underprivileged children, taking them on regular outings to places which would normally be beyond their reach. Mark may have grown up privileged but it is now her privilege to realise her dream of leading a life of purpose. “My mind is utterly engaged in this work that I find intellectually and academically stimulating — and my heart is filled with the deepest, most intense of joys,” she says. — Fatima Asmal