Mvuwo Tshavhungwe (29)

PhD candidate in Neuroscience, University of Cape Town

As a scientist, Mvuwo Tshavhungwe enjoys learning about old and new discoveries. “Scientific research enables me to contribute to the body of knowledge and trigger a rethink in an ancient disease that continues to kill many, especially in resource limited settings,” she says.

Tshavhungwe is currently a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Cape Town. She is researching paediatric tuberculous meningitis, the most lethal form of tuberculosis, which affects mainly children. Her research — which looks at the medication used to treat tuberculous meningitis in children and if enough is being delivered to the brain (where it is needed the most) — is being conducted under the wing of the Division of Neurosurgery at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. This, for her, is a dream come true.

Tshavhungwe lost her mother at the age of 14, and faced some financial difficulties thereafter. However, buoyed by the support of her family who encouraged her in her academic path, she forged ahead with pursuing her goals and snapped up a place she was offered on merit by the University of Limpopo. Medicine was her initial choice of profession but she has no regrets about opting for science instead.

“Medicine is a science and even though I do not have direct contact with the patient, research provides the platform to rethink patient treatment and help improve disease outcomes. I also trust that God, who orchestrates my life, will lead me to the next path.”

She is passionate about serving deserving communities and volunteers her time to two projects: “Adopt a School,” which provides grade eight and nine maths tutoring at a local school in Mowbray, Cape Town, and “Girls with Wings,” which provides sanitary pads for homeless women.

Moving forward, she hopes to continue with her research, particularly in the clinical environment. “This gives me a sense of purpose — knowing that I can contribute to helping better patient treatment.” Tshavhungwe has the following advice for historically disadvantaged young women who think they have no hope of creating a brighter future for themselves: “Do not limit yourselves based on your current situation or environment; work hard and doors of opportunity will open.” — Fatima Asmal

Twitter: @mvuwoT