It is hard to imagine that when the Eastern Cape’s, Nitiksha Wesley, applied for bursaries to study medicine, all her applications were rejected. Her marks simply weren’t good enough. What makes this story particularly interesting is that 7 years later, the medical student completed her mbchb degree and graduated with an overall ‘A’ aggregate, cum laude.
Born and raised in Gelvandale, Nitiksha had always dreamt of becoming a doctor. She admired the way they helped everyone and considered them to be pillars of the community. She and her siblings were raised by a single working mom and granny, so money was always tight and it was not easy to dream big under such circumstances. However, despite these difficulties, she continued to dream big and excel at school.
During her matric year, she had applied for bursaries to study medicine, but all her applications came back as unsuccessful. She was however awarded a bursary to study accounting but she was not ready to let go of her dream. Before making her decision on whether she will study accounting, she consulted with her mom and family elders. They advised her that it was her decision to make and so she decided to risk it and left home to study medicine at Stellenbosch University. She had no bursary and very little money, but she did have a plan. She would work hard, maintain excellent academic results and continue applying for bursaries. The first few months were difficult but because of her strong academic performance, she was eventually awarded a bursary by the Eastern Cape Department of Health. The question is however, ‘how strong was her academic performance?’ and this is how.
During her fifth year of medical studies, she was the first Stellenbosch medical student chosen to do an elective 5 week visit at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, USA. This meant that she had to work at a hospital in Chicago as part of her medical training. In order to qualify for the elective visit, she had to go through two selection processes. During the first process, she had to outperform her fellow Stellenbosch medical students, which she did. The second selection process required of her to compete against students from all around the world for the coveted elective. Since there was only one elective position available, she had to work extra hard and to put it simply, she had to be brilliant. She was tested on her knowledge, scored above the qualifying 80% and managed to outperform some of the best medical students in the world. That is how strong her academic performance was.
She chose to do her elective in the specialised field of organ transplants and some of her duties at the hospital included taking a flight in the hospital’s private jet to collect and transport organs. She plans on becoming an organ transplant surgeon which is basically a doctor that surgically removes organs (like the heart or kidney) from one person (who donated those organs) and surgically inserting it into another person.
Whilst at the Feinberg School, her organ transplant professor, Dr. Jonathan Fryer, described her as a model student and he considers her to be an example of what active learning is about. He wrote her a shining letter of recommendation and commended her for always coming to work prepared, asking relevant questions and being an innovative thinker. Dr Fryer also told her that she should apply for the Feinberg School’s postgraduate fellowship in transplantation surgery after she has graduated and completed her community service. She is currently completing her community service at Kimberley Hospital in the Northern Cape.
Nitiksha says that her success is largely a result of having a supportive family and a strict study routine. She also reminds herself to be forever grateful, never forget where she comes from and how she got to where she is. She also says that you should never let your circumstances define you and you have to choose your own path in life. After completing her community service, she intends to qualify as a general surgeon after which she will specialise in organ transplant surgery.
Being brought up under difficult circumstances can either break you or make you stronger. From being rejected to graduating cum laude and becoming one of the brightest young medical minds in the country, Nitiksha Wesley chose to be unbreakable.