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‘Human beings have an unfathomable amount of potential’ – UP School of Medicine graduate Dr Aliya Mukadam on how she topped the class

Posted on April 09, 2019

Many might remember Dr Aliya Mukadam from a video that went viral on social media of the exceptional medical student at the oath-taking ceremony when it was announced that she had won the School of Medicine prize for the best performance in the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) course among other distinctions. We spoke to her about who inspired her, how she stayed the course during her studies and why she is excited about the future.

“The whole experiencing was incredibly humbling,” Dr Mukadam said about that moving moment captured on camera. “I still can’t believe any of it, and am filled with gratitude to God for having had the opportunity to share the stage that day with the woman who’s been my strength all my life – my mother. My hope is that the video inspires anybody who watches it to reach for greatness and keep pushing the limits of possibility.”

Dr Mukadam, who graduated with a MBChB degree cum laude, comes from a long line of medical professionals. “The very best people in my life are doctors: my grandfather, my mother and my father. Being witness to the incredible changes that these phenomenal people brought to others, their selflessness and humility made me want to try to be just like them. Beyond that, I find the physiology and pathophysiology of the human body fascinating. This is a field of study that is constantly evolving, where technological advancements lead to incredible possibilities – and that future excites me.”

She credits having a balanced life as helping her get to where she is today – “What has helped me through most of my academic career was balancing academia, faith, physical fitness, relaxation and time management to fit it all in. It’s very easy to feel burnt out in any demanding field of study, but finding a balance between things that are important to me gave me stamina. Each and every one of my lecturers paved the way by having a high standard and belief in students, pushing us to accomplish more than what was merely expected and offering unwavering support throughout. The most vital lecturer though was my dad, and a special thank you goes out to him for his memorable dinner table tutorials.”

Dr Mukadam shared some tips for fellow students to help them in their journey to academic success. “The core ingredient is belief that you can accomplish great feats. Medicine, or any degree for that matter, contains an overwhelming amount of work. For me the best way to tackle it was to do a little bit every day, going over everything covered in class that day and scanning the topics for the next day. Repetition is the simplest and most foolproof tactic, and by reading up before the lecture, paying attention during the lecture and consolidating it all afterwards, you’ve been over the material three times. Everyone has an individual approach to studying, including which materials to use. Lecture notes and textbooks seemed to work for me, but perhaps student summaries or various articles may work for you. The important thing is to find a method that suits you and to stick to it.”

Attending class lectures were also key to her success. “The lecturers that I was taught by upheld a standard of education that is world class. That’s why I’d never miss a lecture – that precious commodity is irreplaceable. The layout of the curriculum is also quite strategic and allows for ample repetition, which I found to be a great study method.”

Dr Mukadam’s future plans include joining Doctors without Borders, which has always been at the top of her list. “The opportunity to offer medical services in poorly resourced areas where they are needed most would be life-changing. I’d like to further my studies by specialising: ardiology, especially paediatric cardiology, and neurology are the branches I feel most passionate about at this point. Internship and community service will undoubtedly bring more clarity to the decision.”

Despite her amazing academic achievements, the young doctor remains humble and down to earth. She believes everyone has the potential to achieve greatness if they put their mind to it. “Human beings have an unfathomable amount of potential, and our history books are filled with individuals who have harnessed this for the greater good of humanity. We have all been affected by illness in some way, be it directly or through a loved one, and medicine has allowed much of that suffering to be alleviated. Knowing that there are still so many potential treatments to be encountered and knowing that there are so many patients out there has always fuelled my motivation and inspiration. My parents taught me the invaluable lesson that if I’m going to do anything, I should do it with all my heart and give it my best shot, otherwise it’s simply wasted potential.”

- Author Shakira Hoosain
Last edited by Primarashni Gower

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