With poor Grade 12 results and a challenging life in Eerste River where gangsterism, alcohol and drug abuse were part of everyday life, Gerald Maarman did not have much hope for the future. His dream to become a doctor seemed impossible when his first application at Stellenbosch University (SU) was unsuccessful. Fortunately, things changed for the better and the SciMathUS post-matric programme at SU gave Gerald a second chance. With their excellent support, he gained access to the University.
In 2004, he started with his BSc in human life sciences and thereafter, BSc honours and MSc degrees in medical physiology at the Tygerberg campus. Thereafter, he obtained a PhD in cardiovascular physiology at the University of Cape Town. This was followed by a two-year postdoctoral fellowship, research fellowships in Europe, multiple awards and approximately 35 publications (published and manuscripts in preparation).
“The South African Rooibos Council was the first funder to see my potential as a junior researcher, and funded me to investigate the underlying mechanisms of Rooibos-induced cardio protection. They have been instrumental in my success and I am thankful for their support,” he says. He is currently in the process of establishing himself as a researcher in the niche of cardiopulmonary disease, and is a research manager at the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at SU.
Other funders that have helped him to establish his career include the South African Medical Research Council (MRC SIR Grant) and SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences with its funding support for early career researchers. “Another highlight is a clinical study of which I am a collaborator, a study that will investigate the pathogenesis of pulmonary arterial hypertension in patients who previously had tuberculosis and moderate/severe lung damage.” Gerald dreams of becoming an internationally renowned researcher who contributes significantly to the field of medicine, conducting scientific research that has clinical impact.
He has been working with SU and other institutions for more than 10 years as a motivational speaker, and is a mentor to health professionals and postgraduate students. He also is a gospel singer and songwriter, started performing at the age of eight, and recently featured on an album of a Grammy award nominee and Dove Award winning artist.
“I want to touch lives wherever I go whether it is through my practical Christian faith, my voice, music or the ways in which I treat those around me. When I die, I must have left my mark in this world, people’s lives must be better just because God graced me to step in.”
Gerald is a firm believer that respect and hard work go a long way. “Respect people, irrespective of who they are and what they can do for you. Nothing in life (that is worthwhile) will fall into your lap; you have to work hard for it.”
He plans to release a book about his life challenges as a means to motivate young people to achieve success in spite of adversity. He believes that “to have a vision is crucial, because if you don’t have a vision you will drift around aimlessly and be easily swayed by everything that comes your way. Your history or past mistakes do not define who you are, neither who you will become nor your destiny.”
- By Elbie Els -