Supporting medical students in South Africa is essential if the country is to address the critical shortage of doctors, with the ratio having widened to 0.8 doctors per 1 000 patients, by 2022. With the help of study bursaries, youth like 24-year-old Luke Alexander Wessels, a Genadendal local, are able to pursue careers in this essential public service and bring their skills back into their communities.
Wessels, who graduate from Stellenbosch University with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB), completed the six years of academic studies late last year and has commenced his two years internship, which will be followed by a year of community service.
“I have always had a passion for the study of human life – helping people was an appealing thought, and as I grew older my passion became tailored to the medical field. In fact, my passion for caring started in my hometown. We grew up with a lot of animals around and when they got sick or injured my father involved me in the care of the animals, igniting an interest in the medical field and the dream of becoming a doctor,” explained Luke who has re-located to Kwa-Zulu Natal to take up his internship at the Pietermaritzburg Hospital Complex, which comprises Harry Gwala Regional Hospital, Grey’s Hospital and Northdale Hospital.
This young medical student has been driven by his community’s need and has hopes of helping establish outreach clinics in and around his local area, as there is only one clinic in Genadendal.
“I would like to broaden my experience and be of service to South Africa. I would also love to give back to my community, by having conversations with the youth in Genadendal about the opportunities that are available,” said Luke.
Coming from a family that does not have generational wealth, meant that getting into university to undertake a six-year degree, would require either the attainment of a bursary or a loan.
“The bursary made it possible for me to start my career on a clean slate without the burden of paying off a loan. It also meant that my family was able to support my brother through university as we started our studies around the same time,” added Luke.
Luke is one of over 30 students from across small communities in the Overberg region, who have been funded through the Klipheuwel Wind Farm Bursary Programme since its inception in 2016, with a number also persuing medicine. There are currently another two medical students in their fifth and fourth years at Stellenbosch University, from Hawston and Botrivier respectively.
“Luke is the first of three current Klipheuwel Wind Farm bursary recipients to progress into the internship phase of his MBChB, with another two students currently still at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences,” said Nonini Makhothe, Economic Development Specialist for Klipheuwel Wind Farm.
This study bursary covers tuition fees, travel and accommodation costs, book allowances and even a stipend and is open to ambitious students from Genadendal, Caledon, Grabouw, Hawston, Botriver and Hermanus.