A dream medical school journey Campaign
My name is Aziel Gangerdine and I was born to a mixed race family in South Africa. Apartheid divided my country and it permeated racial discrimination into healthcare and society – inequality was rife. I have worked alongside global medical research leaders who demonstrated the significant impact science can have in achieving health equity and ultimately health care justice for all. On unconditional acceptance to St James School of Medicine, I will begin my medical school education in January 2024. I humbly implore your financial support to make my dream a reality. Your generous contribution would not only alleviate the financial strain on my family but also empower me to fully concentrate on my studies and immerse myself in the rigorous medical curriculum.
My goal is to become a gifted physician and contribute to taking medical health care to scale in underserved communities such as those in which I was raised. I want to make invaluable contributions to the healthcare research enterprise and to communities who are in need of their right to dignified care. Health care at scale can greatly benefit economically unequal and underserved communities.
Why my journey is important
In 1994 South Africa successfully held its first democratic election, relieving from the shoulders of many communities, the weight of oppression. In healthcare, since the advent of democracy, the country made significant progress to address health inequalities. Mortality and life expectancy increased between 1990 – 2007.1 Albeit measurable progress healthcare equality is fractured in economically challenged regions already lagging behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Underserved communities continued to bear the brunt when poverty rates rose in 2015 leading to some communities being described as “chronically poor”.4
HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other communicable and non-communicable diseases are the quadruple disease burdens faced by South Africans.5 Despite proven HIV prevention strategies and providing the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment program, South Africa remains the world’s epicenter of the HIV epidemic. Globally, in 2019 more than 1.7 million people tested positive for HIV – more than three times the 2020 target. Women account for 1 in 4 infections in sub-Saharan Africa confirming the disproportionate impact on women and adolescent girls.2 Hard won gains in the HIV response were lost to the aftermath of COVID-19.6
A clinical trial and several others in which I was involved demonstrated how an effective preventive HIV vaccine, if taken to scale, has the potential to change the socio-economic circumstances of a country and the world. In an emerging economy like South Africa, using a dynamic economic mathematical model, researchers were able to show that a five-dose HIV vaccine campaign rolled out over two years could potentially prevent 480 000 – 650 000 HIV infections (13.8 – 15.3% of all infections) and avoid over 44 000 deaths from HIV in a ten-year period.3 This report reignited my dream to become a medical doctor and to relentlessly pursue health equity.
I am an aspiring medical professional who understands the importance of hard work, commitment and living with a purpose. I have worked diligently throughout my career, in an emerging (South Africa) and developed economy (United States of America), with noteworthy accomplishments and career milestones which include more than a decade working in public health – specifically, health research, innovation and clinical trials. I believe my experience in public health, working alongside globally acclaimed medical investigators and multi-disciplinary experts, and socio-economically diverse communities have drawn me closer to my calling.
Education gives hope and inspires me to remain a life-long learner – to create new knowledge. Education creates a world in which, individuals like me, growing up in an underserved community can believe that change is possible. My parents taught me the importance of fortitude and kindness, necessary catalysts to achieve my dreams. I continue to grow as a humanitarian and I draw inspiration from the individuals and communities who demonstrated an unwavering will to stand and fight for a more equal society.
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