The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Heroic Medicine Woman of South Africa

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Mokgohloe Tshabalala, a private practice obstetrician and gynecologist from South Africa. They talk about South Africa’s medical education system, her practice as an OB/GYN, and her book chapter in Medicine Women.

  • [00:38] Dr. Tshabalala’s Medical Journey and Background
  • [04:02] South Africa’s Medical Education
  • [07:28] Why Obstetrics and Gynecology?
  • [11:29] A typical day in Dr. Tshabalala’s life
  • [13:52] Medicine Women
  • [22:33] Dr. Tshabalala’s Advice to Pre-meds and Medical Student

Studying Medicine in South Africa

The medical education system in South Africa is radically different from that of the United States. Students can apply to medical school straight out of high school. To gain acceptance into a university, students must put in hours of community service before the next school year starts. As an undergraduate, it takes 6 years to earn a Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) degree. On the 3rd and 4th year of medical school, students are exposed to more clinical work than classroom lectures.

Medical students who have earned their MBChB degrees are considered as general practitioners. But before they can start their practice, they must do a two-year internship. During this time, they will rotate between specializations every 4 months. Upon completion of the internship, they must render a year of community service wherein they can choose a specialization. Only after finishing the undergraduate degree, internship, and specialization can one become a fully fledged physician in South Africa.

Why Obstetrics and Gynecology?

Dr. Tshabalala was able to become a physician through a scholarship granted to the children of miners. She wanted a specialization that would allow her to interact with children during 9 to 5 working hours. Dermatology and ophthalmology seemed promising but she didn’t enjoy them. During her obstetrics and gynecology rotations, Dr. Tshabalala immediately felt comfortable and found the work to be very fascinating. Although the lifestyle of an OB/GYN was not what she initially wanted, she’s come to love her practice even if it means catching babies at the dead of the night. Every day is different; she sees women from ages 18 to 65, helping them deal with an assortment of concerns like contraception, pregnancy, and menopause.

Writing for Medicine Women

As a child, Dr. Tshabalala was always interested in writing. Her parents urged her to become a physician instead but her love for writing remained. Now that Dr. Tshabalala is a doctor, she uses writing as an outlet for her daily experiences. She even attributes her improved mental health to journaling. Dr. Tshabalala wrote her book chapter in Medicine Women because she wants to show the world the reality of what physicians go through. Underneath the scrubs and the brave façades, doctors are people who experience joy and hardship too.

Reach out to Dr. Tshabalala through her email at [email protected]. Grab a copy of Medicine Women, an anthology of stories by Dr. Erkeda DeRouen, Dr. Mokgholoe Tshbalala, and other female clinicians on Amazon.

Got questions, feedback, or suggestions? Send a message to Dr. Erkeda DeRouen’s Instagram or MedSchoolCoach’s Instagram.

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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