Dr Nkhensani Mogale accepted into African Futures Leadership programme

Posted on October 01, 2021

Clinical Anatomy lecturer at the University of Pretoria (UP) Dr Nkhensani Mogale has been accepted into the African Futures Research Leadership programme as part of its second cohort.

The programme was initiated in 2019 and aims to have early-career female researchers from Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) member institutions conduct research in a field that aligns with AAP’s six priority areas: agri-food systems; water, energy and environment; youth empowerment; education; culture; and health and nutrition. This year’s cohort comprises 10 outstanding female scholars.

UP is among the 11 AAP African member universities.

“I hope this opportunity will lead to ongoing collaborations with the amazing researchers that I have met so far, and will expand the way I approach research and my contribution to science,” Dr Mogale said. “I am also grateful that this opportunity can be pursued with my daughters [aged eight and two] in tow; this makes the opportunity all the more valuable to me. This is the push I needed for the next phase of my academic journey. I do not take the opportunity for granted.”

Dr Mogale, who holds a PhD in Anatomy, explained that her journey in the field began when she fell in love with human anatomy in the second year of her Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree during full-body dissection sessions. What most people would find squeamish, Dr Mogale was intrigued by.

“The intricacies of the human body and its functions absolutely fascinated me. Of course, like many in the human sciences, I initially thought I wanted to be a medical doctor, but I realised that I wanted to do something different with my life. However, it was not a linear path; I had several detours along the way, which led me to engineering, but I came back to my first love, human anatomy. I also realised that I had a passion for teaching and research, which is why I chose academia.”

Her current research focuses on orthopaedic anatomy, with a portion of the research that she conducts and supervises looking at various joints of the human body.

Michigan State University will host the programme’s cohorts for one year, and during this time, Dr Mogale’s research project will focus on adding to the pool of knowledge on pressure injuries experienced in individuals with spinal cord injuries. “The research that I will be focusing on during my postdoctoral fellowship will be looking at developing precision modelling of tissue mechanics for the prevention of pressure injuries in vulnerable populations by integrating in-vivo tissue properties, quantitative imaging and numeral modelling.”

Quizzed on what makes her tick, Dr Mogale cited her favourite quote by Oprah Winfrey: “Nothing truly worth having happens without hard work.” Hard work is the backbone of any successful academic career, Dr Mogale adds.

Being inspired and inspiring others are also part of the equation for her. “I am inspired by the students I come across and their thirst for knowledge. I am also inspired by my girls, as I know they are watching what their mother does. I want to help them realise that it’s possible to have it all – even though I have made peace with the fact that it may not all be at the same time – but they should never stop dreaming. I am inspired by the young women who will come after me in this field; I feel I should leave this field better and more accessible for them.

“[American showrunner] Shonda Rhimes likes speaking about contributing to making cracks in the proverbial glass ceiling. This is important – I too believe in occupying space and contributing a crack to the proverbial glass ceiling, with the hope of it ultimately being shattered.”

- Author Masego Panyane

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