Keep your eye on the prize and success will follow

Meerhoff Residence's first-years arriving for the official welcoming ceremony

» Scroll down for a video of the day's proceedings

Focus, hard work and a helping hand. These are the things students need to succeed, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) told first year students embarking on their medical and allied health science degrees.

"Today you begin what will undoubtedly be an exciting and life-changing journey and if you apply yourself diligently, you will eventually reach your goal of becoming a doctor, physiotherapist, speech-language and hearing therapist or dietician," he told the group of 465 first year students at the Tygerberg campus.

Of this group, 290 students have enrolled for the MB,ChB programme to become medical doctors, 60 students are starting their BSc in Physiotherapy degrees, 35 have signed up for the BSc in Dietetics, 50 are studying towards Occupational Therapy degrees, and 30 students enrolled for Speech-Language and Hearing Therapy.

Quoting from the popular science writer Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, Volmink explained that in order to become top of your field, you have to spend 10 000 hours working on your craft. "The take-home message is that hard work is indispensable for high achievement," said Volmink.

"We look forward to being instrumental in your growth and assist you in acquiring the knowledge, skills and attitude needed to practice your chosen craft," Volmink said.

Chairperson of the Tygerberg Student Representative Council, Mr Nick Wayne, encouraged the new students to become doctors that do more than just treat disease, but also address the health issues in the communities that they will serve one day. "There is a bit of magic in you. And that magic is the fact that we are able to change this country," said Wayne.

Among the group of first-years is Lindokuhle Mazibuko. This MB,ChB student was the first person in his school in rural KwaZulu-Natal to obtain nine distinctions in matric.

News of Lindokuhle's achievement first appeared in The Mercury, a daily newspaper in KwaZulu-Natal, where one of South Africa's top DJs, DJ Euphonik, read the story and decided to sponsor part of his study costs for his first year of study. "I want to study medicine, and then open a clinic that will provide specialist medical care to people in rural areas," Lindokuhle told The Mercury.

Patsy Oosthuizen is another top achiever starting on her MB,ChB-degree this year. She hails from Riversdale, a town in rural Western Cape, where she spent a lot of time in her parents' consultation rooms. Both her parents studied medicine at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and are doctors at the provincial hospital in Riversdale. Patsy is staying at Huis Francie van Zijl, the same residence where her mother, Emma, stayed while she was studying. Patsy plans to join the international humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, when she completes her studies.

Another first-year MB,ChB student is Dr Sunita Potgieter. This mother of three has a PhD in Nutritional Science and has been lecturing at the FMHS' Division for Human Nutrition for eight years. "It has always been my dream to study medicine and I eventually I got the guts together to start," said Potgieter. "You have to follow your dreams and never give up!"















Wilma Stassen