Change the world


Kenyan-born Abdalla Mohamed wanted to become a cardiac surgeon, but could not afford to pursue his dream.


Instead, the Nelson Mandela University student chose nursing, and achieved this year’s best first degree performance across all seven health sciences faculties at the institution.

The newly capped medical professional says that South Africa initially inspired him to choose heart health as a career.

“As South Africa was the first country to have a successful heart transplant, I wanted to learn from the pioneers,” says Mohamed, 27, who earned a Bachelor of Nursing Science (Honours) earlier this year.

“I also wanted to honour former President Nelson Mandela’s call to ‘change the world’, one heart at a time, by working as a scrub nurse alongside cardiac surgeons.”

Mohamed achieved 82% for his degree, and hopes to work for Doctors Without Borders one day, since placing the needs of others before your own is important for self-discovery, he says.

At the Celebrating Excellence Awards on 27 November, Nelson Mandela University awarded Mohamed a First Degree Award for his remarkable academic success. The annual awards honour both students and staff for their achievements.

The concept of service above self is what drives the young nurse to help others, says Mohamed, who, together with his colleague Nolitha Ukhanye Zimi Gatyeni, launched an innovative “clinic in a bag” project during Covid-19.

“It is the same concept as online food delivery, but instead, you order healthcare services from nurses and healthcare professionals,” he says. “My colleague and I started the project aiming to revolutionise healthcare in South Africa.”

The project focused on remote services such as communication between patients and healthcare professionals, diagnosis, interventions, offering advice, sending follow-up reminders, providing health education and monitoring and facilitating presentations among healthcare professionals.

“A secured system based on cloud technology enables the exchange of diagnostic test data between facilities, allowing specialists to interpret the information and enable ongoing monitoring of a patient’s health, all in the comfort of their own home.”

Mohamed and his partners are still developing the concept and look forward to sharing it more widely in the future, particularly among disadvantaged communities.

“It’s important to tackle healthcare difficulties at grassroots level, especially in rural regions facing obstacles such as lack of access to quality healthcare, transportation difficulties, lack of mobility, financial constraints and shortage of staff.

“These factors compromise comprehensive and continuity of care, particularly in long-term illnesses. Hence, we need innovative ‘telemedicine’ products and projects to bridge the gaps.”

Countries such as Rwanda, for example, use drones to deliver medication to rural areas, he says, and this type of creative thinking could help to alleviate burdens on the healthcare system, optimise resource consumption and customise healthcare delivery.

Mohamed also gained valuable nursing experience working for the Transnet-Phelophepa Healthcare Train, a free, mobile healthcare clinic that travels throughout rural South Africa, where there is only one doctor for every 5000 patients, he says.

“Connecting with patients from different backgrounds, witnessing symptoms and diseases that I hardly ever encounter in my usual settings, helping those who felt helpless, giving hope to the hopeless, strength to the strengthless and seeing patients so relieved after consultations, were highlights of my train experience.

“These experiences kept reminding me why I chose this profession and how much of an impact our profession has on people’s lives, and why it is so worth it.”

Mohamed says that the train works with university students and collaboratively provides diverse services such as primary healthcare, pharmacy, psychology, optometry and dentistry. Teams also also conduct screenings for cervical cancer, diabetes and hypertension, with pap smears for women and prostate checks for men.

"Reflecting on my time at the Transnet-Phelophepa healthcare train, I think the magic of the train is that it is a healing train for both parties, the patients and us, the staff/students, as I thought I went there to only help patients heal, but I was the one who found healing." 

The in-depth, comprehensive training that nursing students receive translate into very useful and critical aspects of medical care in South Africa, he says.

His degree at Mandela University equipped him with a wide range of skills, including general and community nursing, psychiatric nursing, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nursing research, leadership and management and ethics and legal aspects of the profession.

“Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare system. We utilise specialised clinical expertise, deliver hands-on patient care, administer medications and monitor health conditions, which leads to positive outcomes.

“Nurses act as patient advocates, ensuring that they receive appropriate care. Our collaboration with other medical professionals is crucial for comprehensive patient care, and actively contributes to patient and community education health and preventative health care.”

People relied heavily on nurses for emotional support and care coordination, in addition to general medical needs, he explains, and the profession is key to preventing health complications and fostering links between patients and their healthcare providers.

“In summary,  nurses are indispensable in terms of their comprehensive approach to patient well-being, and make substantial contributions to both individual care and broader public health initiatives.”

While he values his role as a nurse, Mohamed does still have cardiac surgery in his sights. “Despite the financial challenges, I am still working on my dream to become a cardiac surgeon. However, I consider myself very lucky, and am so grateful to have been blessed with this nursing journey.”

He may also consider applying to the Nursing master’s programme related to Theatre to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist (CRNA).

Whatever transpires, he says, being of help to people is the secret to success. “Mahatma Gandhi said that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others.”

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160