Dr Asafika Mbangata

Rural doctor

Dr Asafika Mbangata is passionate about community health and rural practice, and hopes to open her own clinic in an informal settlement in future. Now 26 and working in the obstetrics and gynaecology unit at Cecelia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, Dr Mbangata wants to specialise in family medicine and take her skills to rural communities.

She is studying for her obstetrics diploma, core HIV diploma and advanced life support certification in addition to her daily work and raising her young daughter. Born in the Eastern Cape and raised in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Harding, she completed her medical degree at Walter Sisulu University in Umtata in 2013 and her internship at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg in 2015.

“Rural practice is not something every medical student aspires to, but I believe working in a smaller hospital, out of the main metros, offers great opportunities to hone your skills, and have an impact,” she says. “I’d like to hone my skills and prove that you can be a good doctor in a rural area, even with limited resources. And I’d like to inspire others to look at rural and family medicine not as a burden, but the reason we chose to enter this field in the first place.”

Advocacy and patient education is part of her focus, and she hopes to help patients become more informed so that they are diagnosed and treated sooner. “I feel compelled to make a difference: I see how patients can suffer in rural areas, where medical facilities are challenged by understaffing and a lack of resources. Someone has to take responsibility.”

— Tracy Burrows

Twitter: @AsafikaPluto