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SA’s most beloved Dr Coceka Mfundisi, a trailblazing yet super-humble neurosurgeon

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She is the first woman to qualify as a Neurosurgeon at the University of Pretoria (in its more than 100 year history). She also broke barriers by becoming only the third black woman to qualify as a Neurosurgeon in South Africa.

Meet Dr Coceka Mfundisi, holder of a Master of Medicine in Neurosurgery from the University of Pretoria and a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Cape Town.

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She became the second black woman to be admitted as a Fellow of the College of Neurosurgeons of South Africa.

Dr Mfundisi is dearly loved in South Africa and beyond. Her social media platforms are ever busy with profound stories of followers recalling how she helped a colleague or relative, while other pull her leg in one way or the other. Many attest to the fact that she is their inspiration.

And, surprising for a busy neurosurgeon, Dr Mfundisi squeezes in time to respond to many of them, further bonding with her fiercely loyal followers.

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A report by the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2017 said there were only five Black African female neurosurgeons in South Africa – the first having qualified in 2013.

“We are still working in an environment where surgery in general is considered a “man’s” field. So, neurosurgery is an even harder field to crack for women,” read the report. Scholarly Africa was still to verify the statistics as of 2022.

Dr Coceka Mfundisi runs a private practice based at Busamed in Modderfontein, Johannesburg, where she performs all neurosurgical emergencies and manage elective neurosurgical conditions in adults and children.

Dr Mfundisi previously worked at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, with a specific interest in Paediatric Neurosurgery.

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“My grandmother, MaMyirha, was a rural woman and housewife who was widowed at an early age and had to fend for herself to raise her young children. She showed great interest in my scholastic abilities and fostered in myself discipline and dedication,” said Dr Coceka Mfundisi.

She also cites her aunt and mother, a nurse and librarian respectively, for shaping her views of what women could achieve: “They both defied any laws that in their view were set against women and always sought to challenge that status quo that expects women to be less than,” Dr Mfundisi says.

“Professor Elelwani Ramugondo has been another inspiration to me, an occupational therapist who works against systemic discrimination in medical research,” she ends.

Dr Mfundi speaks five South African languages, loves teaching and mentoring and is available for speaking engagements.

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Dr Coceka Mfundisi is a Specialist Neurosurgeon at Life Brenthurst and Busamed in Modderfontein. She also works in this capacity at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, with a specific interest in paediatric neurosurgery.

She is also the second black woman to be admitted as a fellow of the College of Neurosurgeons of South Africa.

Dr Mfundisi currently serves as a member of RAF Appeal Tribunal at the HPCSA. She is also a member of the Golden Lions Rugby Club Medical Committee. Her other notable achievements include:

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  • Serving as a test match Neurosurgeon: Springbok vs France 24/07/17
  • Recipient of the Goldman Sachs Global Leadership Award
  • Published author of a scientific paper, published in South African Medical Journal

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