Serving the community is part of UP’s DNA. The Daspoort Clinic stands as a proud testament to this.
Established as a University of Pretoria Student Initiative in 1964, it continues to serve the medical needs of the local community. While much has changed over the last 50 years, the ethos that first drove students to volunteer their time to do community service in this working class suburb of Pretoria remains the same.
The clinic is staffed by students drawn from different disciplines in the Department of Medicine. Students are provided with invaluable real world experience, and have an opportunity to do real, meaningful work, that can shape the direction they take once they graduate.
'The students are basically learning what is actually happening in a medical practice outside in the community,' said Dr Gerhard Botha, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Family Medicine. 'We have established a platform for all the disciplines in the Department of Medicine to be able to do community service. This is very important to the UP community.'
The clinic is an important part of the University’s Social Responsibility Programme, which provides a vital link between students and their community. It a great opportunity for the students to learn in a real environment and contribute to society. For many of the UP students, who have traditionally been drawn from the country’s middle classes, this interaction provides a reality about some of the real challenges South Africa faces.
It’s an interaction that can change your life. Just ask student, Lee Ann Claasen. 'I have opened my eyes and seen the challenges that the people face and I am prepared to make the changes that are necessary. I am ready to make a difference in the community,' she says.
Spend time at the clinic and it’s not hard to see why the experience affirms the decision to study medicine. While treating the sick and needy can be demanding, it can be equally rewarding. The fact that the services are free is appreciated in a country where the cost of private health care is well beyond the means of the average person.
Secelo Sebotelo, a proud new mother, smiles broadly when she speaks of the way the students treat her, and her new born baby. 'They treat us very well. They are very professional,' she said. Like most black South Africans, she’s accustomed to standing in long queues, poor service and medicine shortages at government hospitals.
However, the Daspoort clinic is refreshingly calm, and the young students bring an energy and vitality not often found in facilities that service the poor and working classes in South Africa.
For Refilwe Motala, the experience gained working in the clinic is invaluable. 'We get to interact with patients apart from what we read. We get to understand diseases, but the most important aspect is that we get to understand how to manage sick people.'
Her work at the Daspoort Clinic has affirmed her higher purpose as a medical professional, and most importantly, her belief in serving her community. It’s become a part of her DNA. Just like the building she’s working in.