Ridwan Mia: Doctor of new directions

2013-05-22 11:00

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After performing the first skin transplant in South Africa using cloned skin, this visionary surgeon received the Order of the Baobab (Silver) from president Zuma.

When doctors said burn victim Pippie Kruger wouldn’t survive after sustaining third-degree burns over 80% of her body, plastic surgeon Dr Ridwan Mia refused to let go.

Last June, he performed the first skin transplant in South Africa using the patient’s cloned skin.

Today the four-year-old is able to talk, play and move with little assistance. He recently performed this groundbreaking procedure on another burn victim, five-year-old Celiwe Maseko.

Who inspired you to become a plastic surgeon?

My uncle was a general practitioner in Mafikeng and during school holidays I would visit and help out at his rooms.

Seeing the passion he had for his job and how he treated his patients inspired me to study medicine.

I discovered that I wanted to be a surgeon while I was an intern at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

Knowing I have made a difference in somebody’s life, whether through reconstructive or cosmetic surgery.

Do you think skin transplants using cloned skin will become commonplace?

It is difficult to say because of the cost factor.

I would like to see more of these procedures being performed in South Africa.

What would also help to make it more affordable and accessible is if we had a local laboratory that cultures the skin.

Who do you most admire professionally?

South African cardiologist Dr Christiaan Barnard, who successfully performed the first heart transplant on a human being.

You work in the private and public healthcare sector. How do you view our public health system?

I have worked in the UK and I can safelysay that when you compare the two health systems, ours leaves a lot to be desired.

The UK offers patient-centred care, while we are concerned about the number of people we treat.

We need to move away from numbers and start thinking about patient satisfaction. Lack of equipment and staff shortages in the public healthcare sector are two big challenges that have to be addressed if we want to provide quality healthcare.

Advice to youngsters who want to study medicine?

Keep your eye on the ball and know where you want to end up. Even if you are faced with challenges, keep going because these challenges will teach you different lessons.

No experience is wasted.

3 books that have made me who I am

1. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

2. Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Ansary

3. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

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