Selfless in a “Selfie” World

Scroll this

A selfless career in a world driven by free market ideology

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

Capitalism – A social system that acts as the driver for world economies and their development. In a world driven by profit, technology and self-help, it has become almost surprising to find young people who still have dreams of changing the lives of others, and ultimately, the world. The Corporate Canvas spoke to four young Doctors about their reasons for choosing the medical field, and what drove them to choose this selfless career in a world driven by capitalism…

Palesa Phalafala

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a burning desire to become a doctor. It is the awe of discovering the human body, being entrusted to give advice, and the gratitude received for helping someone through a difficult illness, that made me gravitate towards the medical profession.

Today marks almost 2 years since I started working in the largest Acute hospital in the world – Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. In these short few years, I’ve spent thousands of hours at the hospital. Countless weekends and Public holidays have been spent at the hospital instead of with friends and family; many a time they seem to be wondering where you are and why you’re still there and when, if ever, you’ll be coming home.

These are years spent defying all common sense about circadian rhythms and the regenerative powers of rest – largely awake and caffeinated to a high degree.

Nonetheless, becoming a doctor is one of the most amazing professions there is – and when you consider that you are in charge of preserving life, bringing life into this world, saving a life, and diagnosing problems in the lives of many people quickly and effectively – there’s absolutely nothing like it. This is one of the most rewarding journeys I’ve been on. It’s not only the fact that I heal the sick, but the fact that I have an impact on a person’s life not just on a physical plane, but mentally and spiritually. It’s quiet remarkable.”- Palesa Phalafala, 2nd year Medical Intern, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital


Nono Mbaakanyi
Nono Mbaakanyi

“To be honest, I don’t think anyone chooses a career without weighing the pros and cons of sustainability first – ie. Long term prospects, whether it’ll be something one enjoys when they are 60 and whether their salary will be enough to afford them a comfortable life. But a medical career in this current capitalistic economy is one that people could call self-serving AND selfless. Self-serving, in that it’s still a relatively lucrative career that allows one to live comfortably, and selfless because more often than not, you have to put other people’s needs before your own: very few or no lunch breaks at all, very long working hours and difficult calls to make such as acting as judge, juror, psychologist, nurse, mother, sister.

In other words, being mentally, physically and emotionally involved in your patients’ lives. But that’s what makes it so fulfilling. Your work brings smiles and good health to people on a daily basis. Saving lives is part of the job description and includes not just resuscitating someone on the brink of death but helping patients to prevent life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks or strokes and even counselling abused men and women and people with a fragile state of mind or emotions. All in all, being a doctor soothes my conscience and is quite gratifying in this capitalistic economy” – Nono Mbaakanyi, Medical Officer, Ministry of Health, Botswana


“I remember the day my brother was born as clearly as yesterday. It wasn’t only because I met my first best friend; but because that was the day that I decided I was going to be a doctor. What made me aspire to become a part of this profession at the early age of four? My brother’s paediatrician…Despite the hustle and bustle of that busy maternity ward, his mannerisms were calm, gentle, organised and professional. He made sure my baby brother received all the medical attention he needed, in order to start his life off on a good foundation. That doctor made a lasting impression on me. He contributed to the list of incredible doctors I’ve met, who’ve inspired me to undertake this extraordinary journey.

Medicine is a people-orientated profession, and that means that the patient’s needs often supersede your own. It’s a profession where hard work and sacrifice starts long before you get that acceptance letter in high school. From my time in medical school, I’ve learned that the medical profession requires a great deal of dedication, hard work, people skills, empathy, team work, whilst one also needs a good support system and the ability to keep a level head at all times.

During my first week of medical school, all our professors warned us that those who chose this career path, thinking they’d become rich overnight, would be greatly disappointed. Although doctors are remunerated reasonably better than some of their academic counterparts, what a lot of people don’t realise, is that much of this is paid for in blood, sweat and tears every step of the way; from medical school all the way through to specialisation.

Even though medicine has its associated risks; like the possibility of contracting various infectious diseases, it also has its rewarding moments. Such as when you help deliver that innocent baby into the world or when you revive a smile on the face of a patient who is languishing in pain. This is a profession that comes with a sense of humility; because being a doctor is a great calling to serve humanity and I’m honoured I get to make a small difference in our country and the world in this unique way.” – Nana Osei-Kuffour, final year Medical student, University of Pretoria


Phumelela Qolohle

“Why did I choose Medicine – a question I ask myself every time I find myself pulling gruelling all-nighters. I always knew I wanted to be a doctor – I realised in Grade 7 that it was my passion. The idea of making a difference to the sickly gives me great joy and happiness, I would never be able to explain the feeling I truly feel each day on this journey that I am currently embarking on towards becoming a doctor. To have the power to heal is something incredibly beautiful…And of course, the remuneration is a bonus!” – Phumelela Qolohle, 2nd year Medical Student, University of the Witwatersrand

Submit a comment