, DR TUSWA
Outstanding men and women are changing the healthcare landscape in their African homelands. By partnering with these medical professionals and by strengthening local healthcare systems, we serve our local colleagues through our medical capacity building programme. Mercy Ships strives to leave a lasting impact in every nation we visit.
Dr Gcobani Tuswa was the first participant in our Mercy Vision South Africa in 2009. At that time Dr Tuswa said, ‘Though it is difficult to determine my future, I am focused on being rurally based and operating at a high volume.’
And that is exactly what Dr Tuswa is doing now. He has his own practice in Queenstown, right in the middle of the province Eastern Cape in South Africa.
When Dr Tuswa came onboard in 2009, he was mentored by our lead ophthalmologist Dr Glenn Strauss and underwent an intensive six-week training which helped him develop new skills and increase his confidence.
Dr Tuswa explains, “At one point I was operating in an operating theater when my fellow trainee in the theater next to me asked me for help. Dr Strauss wasn’t around, because he had to leave for an emergency. I walked over, looked at the situation and helped my fellow trainee. While doing that, without my knowing, D. Strauss returned. But, instead of taking over from me, he let me do my thing and watched me do my work. I only noticed him when I was done. He was just standing there smiling and he complimented me on what I just did. That was, of course, very important to me, but also showed that he is not only a good surgeon, but also a good teacher, and that is a unique combination.”
A Cure for Cataracts
Dr Strauss taught Dr Tuswa to perform an effective and inexpensive procedure to treat cataracts called Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS).
Knowledge of the procedure is a particularly useful skill for ophthalmologists in Africa. Cataracts are a common condition among the population of South Africa, especially in the less developed regions. Cataracts develop slowly but can have far-reaching consequences without proper treatment. Eventually, the condition can render the patient completely blind. In fact, most of the blindness in the world is caused by cataracts and the lack of access to surgical treatment. because of distance or unaffordability.
The advantages of MSICS became evident to Dr Tuswa soon after his time with Mercy Ships: “When I came home to my hometown, Mthatha, I started working in a public hospital and they were cancelling surgeries because the hospital had a shortage of suturing material. And I said, no, we can do this with the MSICS. A major advantage of this procedure is that you don’t need sutures. That saves materials, but also a lot of time. I showed them how this surgery works and they were amazed. MSICS is now a standard cataract operation procedure at the Mthatha hospital. The four junior doctors that I worked with went to learn this procedure and became eye specialists as well. Now they are working in different places around the country.”
Bringing Cataract Treatment to Rural South Africa
In 2010, Dr Tuswa continued with his specialist residency training at the University of the Free State in South Africa. He went on to work in different places in the Eastern Cape. He now lives with his family in Queenstown, South Africa where he opened his own practice. This is a significant development as it’s the only practise in the area, and the public hospital does not have an ophthalmologist.
Dr. Tuswa has only been in the region for a year, but he’s already making more plans. “In the future I want to expand my practice. Hopefully I’ll be able to open operating theaters and find colleagues to work with. Then we’ll be able to help even more people and continue to fight the cataract problem in my country.”