After graduating with nine distinctions in matric and qualifying from medical school summa cum laude as a top student, Pietermaritzburg’sDr Preyanka Pillay is now heading for the world’s number one university, Oxford, on a prestigious scholarship.
Pillay (27), from Dunveria, has been awarded the much-sought after Nuffield Department of Population Health Studentship to study for an MSc in Global Health Science and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
The Nuffield Department of Population Health is doing ground-breaking work regarding Covid-19 and is at the forefront of solving global population-based health challenges.
Oxford University has been ranked number one in the world for the past five years.
“It will indeed be a life-changing experience to learn from world-leading academics from across the globe at Oxford,” said Pillay.
Having studied at Pietermaritzburg Girls’ High and then the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine in Durban, Pillay, the middle daughter of Kharina Secondary School educators Lavin and Sharitha Pillay, completed her internship at the Pietermaritzburg Hospital Complex (Northdale, Grey’s and Edendale hospitals) and then worked at Grey’s Hospital in internal medicine.
She has also done her masters in internal medicine this year — and has a great interest in research.
“Being able to fulfill the studentship at Oxford is a big deal — working alongside the world’s top medical minds, in the Oxford environment where they have a keen interest in global health and just not their major problems — is something I am really looking forward to,” said Pillay.
She intends to return to South Africa after the year’s studentship is over and to invest that education back into local research.
“First-hand research is really needed here in SA. We have to be drivers of our own research, develop our own skills. We are the best people to know our own problems. Our biggest challenges include finding solutions to our biggest problems of premature mortality and improving the quality of life for those with pre-existing conditions,” said Pillay.
A large portion of the work she will be involved in will include working on Covid-19 research at Oxford, and cardio-vascular conditions.
“I’m overwhelmed with this opportunity as it is indeed a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“I’ve really worked hard and this has been possible only through the hard work I have put in,” said Pillay.
Describing her motivation factor as “knowing her purpose”, Pillay said the hard work, time and sacrifice did not matter.
“Everything comes down to knowing your purpose. I don’t see it as a sacrifice but as a responsibility, something I need to do and I know what I have to do. I have to do something about people dying prematurely — I can’t let it go by … something has to be done,” she said.
Pillay’s message to the youth is to work hard, believe in yourself, stay grounded, know your goals and purpose and be of service.