Ever Heard of Global Surgery? – Salome Maswime

Parts of Salome’s journey into Global Surgery, Obstetrics, and Gynaecology have been written about on various media platforms. Today, we bring a full version of all you have read and more about her career;

Hi, Salome! It is an honour to have you with us today. Thank you for joining us on this episode of Words That Count
Hi Winnie, thank you for inviting me. This opportunity humbles me. 

Kindly introduce yourself to the audience
My name is Salome Maswime from South Africa. I am an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, currently heading the Global Surgery Division at the University of Cape Town. I am also a World Economic Forum Young Scientist, and President of the South African Clinician Scientists Society.

Wow! You wear many “heavy” hats in my opinion! How did you get here?
I was exposed to higher education at a young age, as a daughter of a Theology Professor and Bishop. I dreamt of becoming an academic before I dreamt about a medical career. After completing high school, I studied medicine, and thereafter, whilst working I developed a passion for the labour ward and specialised to become an obstetrician and gynaecologist. I thereafter pursued my Ph.D., looking at death from bleeding during and after cesarean section. This led to an interest in global health, which I pursued during my post-doctoral studies at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. I was thereafter appointed to be the founding Head of the Global Surgery Division at the University of Cape Town.

Please tell us about some challenges you have faced along this journey
It hasn’t been an easy road – pursuing my studies for close to 15 years, whilst juggling work and family. I had my children whilst specialising and during my Ph.D. As a woman of colour, our glass ceiling is even harder to crack, as one is not always invited to or accepted at the decision-making table. You have to develop both a culture of excellence and resilience to achieve your goals.

How have you been able to overcome these challenges and move forward?
I love what I do. Global Surgery is both a dream and a passion for me, and I would do it even if I didn’t have to do it for a living. Being self-driven is important because you wake up in the morning and no one has to tell you to go to work. I surround myself with people who are inspiring; we motivate each other and encourage each other to do more. I am also aware of the inequities and injustices around us – and it does give me sleepless nights to see some of the consequences of weak health systems.

Tell us about your achievements and awards

I have received a number of awards – the most notable was the Young Achiever and Trailblazer Award from the former president of South Africa. I was counted among South Africa’s 50 most powerful women by Mail & Guardian in 2020. The One Africa Organisation gave me the Research in Health Award in Africa in 2020. Other scientific awards included the ‘Mid-career scientist award’ from the South African Medical Research Council, the recognition as a Young Shaper of The Future in Health and Medicine by Encyclopaedia Britannica. I have recently been celebrated among Finalists for the Emerging Researcher Award by the National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF)

Who are you outside work?
I am a mother,

best friend to my husband,

daughter, sister, aunt, friend to many. I live a normal life with normal responsibilities, like taking kids to school and helping them with their homework. I am Christian, and my Christianity shapes my values and principles the most.

What’s your favorite quote?
“It always seems impossible until it is done” ~ Nelson Mandela

What is your word of encouragement for a young girl in STEM?
Find a problem that you want to solve, and put all your effort into it. We often go into STEM because of what we want to get out of STEM, but there is something exciting about finding a challenge that you are passionate about and using all your energy and resources to find solutions. STEM is noble when we do it for a worthwhile cause.

Thank you, Salome, for taking time out of your busy schedule to contribute to this project. It makes us very proud to meet strong women like you in places of influence. May you keep soaring.



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