From tending cattle to support her family, Sidali matriculated from Rakgatla High School in Wonderkop, North West and subsequently received a bursary from the North West Department of Health to study medicine in Cuba.

Dr Lindiwe Sidali, who has just made history as the first African female cardiothoracic surgeon in the country. The journey for the “small town girl”, born and raised in the Eastern Cape has not been easy, she said.

What sparked her interest in medicine, and particularly in heart-related matters, was the encouragement she received from her parents and other relations.

She was encouraged by her family and  teachers. Between 2000- 2001, I decided to volunteer at a Wonderkop clinic to see if she would like it. The nurses were wonderful in encouraging her to pursue medicine. That’s how she actually heard about the Cuban scholarship programme, then applied and got accepted.

“But what has kept my interest and made me stay in medicine is the desire to serve my people, to want to help people and also to give back not only by treating patients but to be a positive role model for every African child. Cardiothoracic surgery happened by chance to me” she revealed.

“I had always been interested in most surgical disciplines, and could not decide what to pursue. But then interesting enough, every time I was on call as a community service or medical officer, there was almost always a patient with a stabbed heart, or chest related trauma and after seeing a heart beating on my hands, I knew that I didn’t want to do anything else but cardiothoracic surgery,” she said in an interview with KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health.

Sidali is just one of the many South African women who has beaten the odds to achieve success in the medical and surgical fields.

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