RARE  RISINGSTARS - The UK’s Top 10 Black Students
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No. 7


Qhayiya Magaqa

DPhil Clinical Medicine
University of Oxford
Academics and Community Service

Qhayiya Magaqa

Qhayiya’s remarkable achievements in the medical field have meant that she is currently on the path to revolutionising rehabilitation and health care services in South Africa. Her experience in physiotherapy, academia and policy is unparalleled; it has allowed her to see the importance of crossing disciplines in order to implement effective and appropriate strategies within the health care system. Qhayiya’s passion for medical progress in South Africa is inspirational and is an extraordinary example of how just one person can make a positive difference to an entire population.

Raised in a small town in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, Qhayiya is one of three siblings. Growing up, she expressed early signals of being a natural scientist since she liked to question everything around her and ask how and why things existed as they did. In school, she had an influential science teacher who inspired her to pursue science further. Her initial interest in physiotherapy began when she started administering first aid at her high school and volunteered at sports games.

Qhayiya describes physiotherapy as an empowering way to think about health – it combines scientific knowledge with humanistic development and empathy, demonstrated when one of her patients was learning to walk again. She is passionate about changing the way healthcare works in South Africa as she noticed severe disparities in the public and private health care systems. She went on to study Physiotherapy at the University of Cape Town with an overall aim of increasing access to health care services in South Africa. In 2014, she graduated from Cape Town as best student in Clinical Physiotherapy. Qhayiya is now completing her DPhil in Clinical Medicine at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar at Green Templeton College. She is looking at the provision of rehabilitation services for people with disabilities in South Africa and her tripartite role as academic, scientist and decision maker can be seen in her achievements.

Qhayiya is the recipient of the Murray Speight Grant and has been named a Leading for Impact Fellow by the Skoll Foundation, an organisation which drives large-scale change by investing in, connecting, and celebrating social entrepreneurs and the innovators who help to solve serious global problems. She worked for a year in a rural part of South Africa as a physiotherapist at Zithulele Hospital after her undergraduate degree. It was here that she noticed how the legacy of apartheid still remained, reflected in the lack of basic resources that the Eastern Cape had access to. Her DPhil research is looking into introducing appropriate health policies and improving human resources within the medical industry in South Africa.

“I see myself having a practical purpose in order to implement rehabilitation services in South Africa. I’m not only passionate about seeing the path of change anymore - I’m already on it.”

As an academic, Qhayiya has also demonstrated a high level of excellence. In 2017, she delivered a lecture on ‘Paediatric Neuro-disability in Resource-limited Contexts’ for the Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene course organised by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Kampala, Uganda. She has also presented her research at the Oxford AfriSoc Symposium on the ‘Provision of Rehabilitation Services in Rural South Africa’. Qhayiya also worked on a consultancy report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the theme of ‘Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases’ but with a focus on drug resistant tuberculosis.

Qhayiya wants to create a team of experts from a range of disciplines, including mathematicians, health economists and clinicians, in order to gather a range of information needed to come up with the best health care strategies for South African medical progress. Qhayiya’s achievements so far are a testament to her incredible work ethic; this is only the beginning of her phenomenal career.

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