Somaza beat odds to become dentist

Growing up in the small town of Indwe, outside Komani in the Eastern Cape, Nocawe Somaza had always aspired to become a medical doctor.

As a little girl, Somaza would stand in front of a mirror wearing her sister's long white T-shirt and pretend to be examining patients.

At the time, there were no black doctors in the small town. Her love for medicine came as she used to accompany her father to work. He worked as an interpreter for the only white medical doctor in the area.

"I was fascinated by the love the doctor had for his patients and the respect he gave them. He was always smiling at patients and everyone spoke very fondly of him. I immediately knew that this was something that I also wanted to do when I grow up," she said.

The last-born in the family of seven siblings was raised by her mother who was a domestic worker.

Even though her family did not have much they instilled the importance of education in their children.

Her dream was to become the first black doctor in her small town and she made it when she graduated in dentistry at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, formerly Medunsa, in 2005.

"It was not easy as my family had many mouths to take care of. I was lucky to get a bursary from the then Ciskei government. That was the opportunity I grabbed with both hands because I wanted to improve my family's life for the better," Somaza said.

She, however, did not set up in Indwe, as she opened her first surgery in the city of East London in 2007. Somaza says being a female dentist comes with challenges.

"We are often undermined with people comparing us to our male colleagues. We also have to deal with people who still think that our white counterparts can do a better job than us," she said.

She said to overcome such challenges, she tries to do her best with her clients.

"In my job, one has to be patient, artistic and creative because you deal with the teeth, which are part of one's appearance.

"I also get satisfaction to see my clients smiling after I have worked on them. It is rewarding for me to see the confidence in them," Somaza said.

She said at times clients will not be satisfied, while others expected miracles.

"You have to love what you do so that giving love to your patients will come easier. I deal with different personalities everyday but my job is to make sure that they leave my surgery as happy clients."

Though she has helped change her family's fortunes, Somaza still feels she owes it to her people to serve them. She's therefore working on opening another surgery in Indwe.

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