Dear colleagues and students
Tomorrow marks one year since Professor Bongani Mayosi, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, passed away. While it is deeply tragic that other members of the University of Cape Town (UCT) community have also passed on and are sorely missed, the loss of Professor Mayosi has left a wound that is still healing. I believe this is true not only for myself but also for his family, students, friends and colleagues, both here at UCT and in the global medical community.
I would like to honour the anniversary of Professor Mayosi’s passing by reflecting on the effect he had on us, and by recognising that we still have significant recovery work ahead of us. For instance, we need to be more forgiving of one another and of ourselves. There have been many conversations and much work has been done to address this over the past year – and we have much work still to do. I call on each of you to join me in reflecting on the lessons that we can draw from his legacy, passing and impact. I believe we need to be humble in acknowledging that we have all made mistakes and encountered difficulties at this institution. This is a time when we need to support one another and create a community of care.
Healing from a tragedy like this is a lifelong process. Many of us have used the past year to make a start, especially in the Faculty of Health Sciences. I want to encourage each of you to persevere in helping one another to grow. If you find yourself in need of support, please remember that you are not alone. There are many resources on campus to assist you, and I encourage you to make use of them.
Even those who are new to UCT are touched by Professor Mayosi’s legacy. I believe the best memorial we can raise to him is to allow his inspiration and example to become a living part of us. In his eyes, students were future leaders. Colleagues were partners in saving lives. He did not just do research; he grew researchers. He grew his passion in the people who worked with him. He had a sense of urgency about his vision that he passed on to others. Today they are a living testimony to his inspiration.
His personal story resonates with many of us. He was born in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape and went with his father, who was a doctor, to visit patients in poor rural villages. He saw the struggles of Africans first-hand. He was inspired by his parents to get an education, to excel and to help change people’s lives.
As UCT changes, South Africa will be that much closer to the kind of transformation we want in our country because this institution will produce graduates who follow Professor Mayosi’s example, dedicating their lives to excellence and helping others to be excellent too.
Professor Mayosi was an embodiment of excellence – living proof that all of us can be the best in whatever we do. Everything that he was and did was an expression of that message to us. It can be our message too.
As a campus community, we represent many different groups, languages, backgrounds and organisations. Just as the loss of Professor Mayosi united us in grief a year ago, I am asking all of us to unite in our commitment to the values he demonstrated. In that way, we can be his memorial at UCT and his gift to the world.
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
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