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Young doc (21) among first graduates from University of Limpopo

Mkhombo beats odds in first medical school in post-apartheid SA

University of Limpopo medical graduate Junior Mkhombo.
University of Limpopo medical graduate Junior Mkhombo.
Image: Supplied

Junior Mkhombo was only 15 when he made his entrance at the University of Limpopo’s (UL) medical school in Mankweng.

Tomorrow, Mkhombo will be among the 47 young people who have made it through the grueling medical degree at the first medical school to be established in SA post-1994.

“I’m excited to be finally acknowledged as a medical doctor after a grueling six years," said an elated Mkhombo ahead of his graduation.

At the time of his entrance to medical school, Mkhombo, who hails from Thulamahashe in Mpumalanga, was among only 60 people who earned a spot at the medical school after the university received 6,000 applications.

He was believed to be the youngest medical student in the country when he began his first year.

Mkhombo said he pushed himself to the limit because all he cared about was passing.

“I learned the hard way that there is more to personal development than just studying and working. In medicine your mental health is tested because you come face to face with the reality of death,” Mkhombo said.

He said he was looking forward to exploring different medical disciplines so that he can choose his speciality. “I want to give back to the community the best way I know how, by being a good doctor and saving lives.”

The university spokesperson, Johannes Selepe, confirmed that Mkhombo would graduate. 

Limpopo health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba said the group's graduation was a great achievement for the province and the country.

Ramathuba said in the beginning they started with limited resources including 20 specialists to teach the students while they had to undergo inspections and scrutiny.

In 2018 the public protector's office released a report into alleged maladministration and corruption in relation to the implementation of the MBChB degree.

“But we have made it despite all the challenges and I must say the people of Limpopo are very proud,” said Ramathuba .

She said the graduates were well-versed with the specific needs of rural communities and understood the struggles that the people encounter. “I expect them to be led by the love for humanity and to be health activists in their own right,” Ramathuba said. 

She urged for the graduates to live by the Hippocratic Oath while upholding good ethics.

Selepe said the high interest in the institution’s MBChB programme, in particular in its inaugural year, demonstrated government's commitment to increase the number of doctors in the country amid dire shortages.

“In a country with a persistently low doctor-to-patient ratio, less than one doctor per 1,000 patients, the 47 graduates will positively impact the effectiveness of the public health system.”

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