Shahieda was recently part of the campaign that culminated in a landmark settlement agreement to grant R5 billion in compensation for thousands of gold mine workers affected by silicosis. She talks about her path to becoming an industrial health specialist.
Shahieda was born in the Strand and completed her primary school in Strand and her secondary school at Trafalgar High in District Six. She is the second oldest of eight siblings, and one of 7 sisters. She credits her deceased father (a teacher himself) who instilled into them a love of learning and her mother (an exceptionally intelligent housewife) for providing the support and motivation to ensure they all excelled and attained a tertiary education despite the challenges of the time.
She is married and mother to four adult children (three sons and a daughter), three of whom have studied at UCT with the “laatlammetjie” due to start next year. She describes her family as loving, engaged and fully supportive of her career choices.
“Workplace medicine is my passion and has been my chosen discipline for the past 20 years or so. The relationship between workplace hazard exposures and ill-health is a fascinating one and requires a systematic and multidisciplinary approach to arrive at conclusive answers.
“Following my graduation with an MBCHB at UCT I practised as a GP for a few years and did my MFamMed through Stellenbosch. During this time my interest in occupational health matters was awakened as I was working as a medical officer in an occupational health clinic for a local municipality. This ultimately led me to working for the Industrial Health Research Group at UCT and pursuing a Diploma in Occupational Health.
“When occupational medicine was promulgated as a specialty by the HPCSA, I was the first registrar to pursue the specialist qualification at UCT. This culminated in my graduation in 2007 with an MMed and Fellow of the College of Public Health Medicine as the first locally trained occupational medicine specialist in South Africa. I had great support and mentorship from the staff in the Division of occupational medicine at UCT who were comprised of excellent teachers, clinicians and researchers.
“The occupational health of healthcare workers has always been an area of interest and so when awarded a Discovery fellowship (2008) I was able to pursue doctoral research on the topic of tuberculosis risk in health care workers. Following a stint in the corporate sector and local government, I returned to UCT in 2016.
“My current position as occupational medicine specialist allows me to pursue my clinical work, teach prospective specialists as well as pursue research areas of interest. In addition, I provide technical support in occupational health and safety matters to the Department of Health and advise on policy. The diverse duties, whilst challenging at times, keep me stimulated and engaged and I hope to contribute to improvement in workplace health during my tenure at UCT”.
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