By Charndré Emma Kippie


Dr Thakgalo Thibela may be young, but has no fear at frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic in SA…


Currently completing her experiential learning at the Helen Joseph hospital, in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, Dr Thakgalo Thibela has been making waves across South Africa. Noted as ‘the youngest active female doctor in South Africa’, by The Health Practice Council of South Africa (HPCSA), Dr Thibela has come a long way to achieve her dream of becoming a qualified surgeon. 


The Aspiring Doctor 

From a very young age Thakgalo was quite the academic, growing up in the village of Violet Bank near Bushbuckridge, in Mpumalanga. She began primary school at Farel Primary School when she was only 6 years old, and was promoted to high school at an earlier stage than her peers. Thereafter, she attended Lehlasedi High School, becoming a top student. 

She was quickly awarded a bursary from the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) at the end of her matric year in 2015, and was a Wits University student at just 16. Her hard work and dedication to her academic career ensured that she obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBCH).

“In high school, I was always the youngest in my class so by the time Wits came around, I was used to it. I never really felt the age gap because I matured early in life”, Thakgalo explains. 



  • Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Bursary Recipient
  • Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBCH) – Wits University 
  • Golden Key International Honour Society member


Young & Making a Difference

Now known as ‘Dr Thibela’, her enduring life goal of becoming a medical doctor has come true, as she began her career at the beginning of 2021. When she started working at the Helen Joseph Hospital, she became one of the youngest people to practice as a medical doctor in the country. Her journey is similar to that of Sandile Kubheka, who qualified as the youngest doctor ever in 2014 (age 20 at the time).

Dr Thibela stands as the epitome of what it means to progress beyond one’s circumstances to a fruitful future. As optimistic and as motivated as they come, she remains hungry to learn and advance in her craft.

“When I treat the patients, who come to the hospital, they always ask me about my age and are full of compliments when I tell them”, Dr Thibela expresses. 

“I am enjoying what I am doing at the hospital. I am getting clinical exposure and my theoretical knowledge is also being reinforced,” she says. 

Even beginning her career in the middle of a global pandemic did not discourage this trailblazing youth. An unprecedented experience, Dr Thibela adds that the circumstances only reiterated the urgent need for healthcare workers to be even more aware of personal safety when treating medical patients.

“When you are in the emergency department, you must get to the next patient quickly, but in treating patients in the time of Covid-19, I have learnt that you have to protect yourself first by wearing personal protective equipment”, Dr Thibela exclaims. 

“It is only when I am protected that I am able to help other people. When I consult a patient, especially one who has tested positive for Covid-19, I must wear gloves, mask, a face shield and gown.”

She is truly forging a path of her own in the medical industry despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic. This is exactly the type of positive attitude we need in all future surgeons, and surely Dr Thibela will be right there at the forefront –  without a doubt! 



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