Michael Van Niekerk (28)
Michael van Niekerk is a committed advocate for health in South Africa and globally.
He made the decision to become a doctor at a very young age, and by 16 he was an ambulance assistant, an opportunity that allowed him to experience death as a process and therefore mentally prepare himself for one of the most challenging aspects of being a doctor.
Van Niekerk has seen first-hand the effects of poverty on people’s life chances, as well as how poverty impacts disease. His leadership potential was further honed by the University of the Free State’s Leadership for Change Programme study abroad international programme, as it gives first-year students international exposure to top universities throughout the world, with the aim of giving them the tools to experience models of integration across lines of culture, colour, and language and gender.
Van Niekerk is on the Samsa (South African Medical students Association) board of directors and has dedicated his time to activism in the medical space, often fighting for health and safety standards to be upheld in hospitals, pushing back against the bullying and intimidation of junior doctors and fighting against harsh working conditions that leave doctors overworked and with compromised cognitive functioning and personal health. — Nomonde Ndwalaza