Women's Activism NYC

Dr. Gloria Tshukudu

By: Jane Ambrose | Date Added:

Dr. Gloria Tshukudu is the first black female plastic and reconstructive surgeon in South Africa and is committed to helping patients regain a sense of confidence. Dr. Gloria Tshukudu graduated with a degree in medicine at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, previously known as Medical University of South Africa. She then completed her internship at Paul Kruger Memorial Hospital in Rustenburg, outside Johannesburg, and went on to receive a Master of Medicine degree at the University of Limpopo’s Ga-Rankuwa Medical University at the end of 2012. It was early on during her studies that she became curious about the potential of plastic surgery, she says. “I was interested in how we can improve a person’s confidence, their sense of self-worth, through surgery,” she explains. “When you study to become a doctor you must complete a rotation period, where you are exposed to all kinds of disciplines: ICU, orthopedics, everything. I was able to see then, first-hand, how reconstructive surgery can have a huge benefit in a person’s life. That inspired me.” Being the first black woman to qualify as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in South Africa is an impressive feat, but it’s not something that overawes Dr. Tshukudu. For this doctor, the patient is all that matters. “My story is like a lot of others – if you want something, go and get it. What I wanted was simple: I really enjoy helping people feel better about themselves.” The procedures we perform are complex and life altering. While many people may perceive plastic surgery as a cosmetic service that involves eye lifts, face lifts or tummy tucks, Dr. Tshukudu says much of her time is spent helping burn or trauma victims restore function to vital limbs. She also helps repair the effects of cleft palates and other birth defects. The patients she sees range from as young as three months, all the way to the age of 70. Some surgeries last over five hours at a time, while others, such as a simple skin graft, are all over in 30 minutes. Dr. Tshukudu is particularly intrigued by the potential of microsurgical techniques. Using advanced operating microscopes to greatly magnify the area, surgeons can transplant large sections of tissue, muscle, or bone from one part of the body to another – carefully reattaching tissue one nerve and blood vessel at a time. This allows the transplanted tissue a far greater chance of succeeding, and for the patient to maintain feeling and function in the area. “We use microsurgery when we need to move tissue around the body,” Dr. Tshukudu explains, “such as when we need to reconstruct a breast, reattach fingers or do fine surgical work on the scalp, ear or nose. It is especially beneficial for cancer survivors, who have had tumors removed, and it is a helpful way for us to treat trauma victims who may have been mutilated in an accident.” For these patients, plastic surgery is about a lot more than looking good – it’s an essential part of feeling comfortable in the world. “The procedures we perform are complex and life-altering. Some of them take hours, and we can’t make mistakes. The reward is indescribable: to see this person walk out of our rooms restored, and in fact transformed, is an amazing feeling.”

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