Doctor Patience Ntshani: Racing to save lives

Anesthesiologist Patience Ntshani is the barrier between death situations.
Anesthesiologist Patience Ntshani is the barrier between death situations.

Doctor Patience Ntshani didn't have to give up her little black dress to excel in medicine.

She rocks both.

An award-winning anesthesiologist, Ntshani is a finalist at the positive awards to be held in the UK next month.

The awards celebrate everyday people from life; coaches to business, mentors, holistic healers and other inspirational individuals who have survived trauma, adversity and grief, and yet they are still admired in their communities.

On her website,, she describes herself as "married to medicine, cheating with fashion". A student of distinction, she was also voted a beauty queen when she was crowned Miss Harry Oppenheimer High School in her teens.

Born in Botlokwa village in Limpopo, Ntshani is the eldest of four children.

"I stayed in that village until I was in standard 5 [grade 7] and matriculated at Harry Oppenheimer after two boarding schools," says Ntshani.

She was only 10-years-old when she fell in love with medicine.

"I fell in love with anesthesiology while I was doing my internship at Natalspruit Hospital. Then I went to Akasia Hospital for community service and back to Medunsa to specialise for four years."

She obtained her Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at Medunsa, followed by a diploma in Anesthesiology with the Colleges of Medicine SA (CMSA) before completing her fellowship with the CMSA.

The 36-year-old, fondly known as Dr Pashy to patients, says she specialises in open-heart surgery at the MedicClinic Hospital in Pretoria.

She is also a wife, mother, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. "My goal is to show especially kids that they are capable of making their dreams come true."

But she says even though the country has made big strides in ensuring equal opportunities are afforded to women, she still has to work really hard to be taken seriously.

"I had to work five times as hard just to be taken seriously. Because I am a woman and because I am black. This field is dominated by white males.

"But this is why I believe in excellence. If you strive to be the best at what you do, no one will be able to deny you that.

"Excellence has no colour and [it has] no gender; it doesn't care that you grew up poor. It is something we have to claim for ourselves through consistency and passion."

She continues: "To me, when someone underestimates me, they are fuelling my resolve to go out there and be better."

She describes her job as having many challenges, noting that every single day she has to deal with a matter of life and death situation.

Her skill involves putting patients to sleep before surgery, ensuring they are pain-free.

"The work is very demanding because it is literally a matter of life and death. There is no room for error and that means I have to be extremely focused.

"The other thing is that every single patient has a different anatomy and different needs, so there is no "one size fits all" approach.

"I have to think on my feet and I have to be at my absolute best for each and every patient. If a complication arises, it is my job to manage it."

When she is done saving lives, Ntshani travels the world with her family.

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