Mount Edgecombe surgeon is a trailblazer for KZN

A LOCAL doctor has made history as KwaZulu-Natal’s first female maxillofacial surgeon.

Doctor Pranusha Ramlakhan said she hopes her achievement will encourage other women to believe in themselves, work hard, and reach for their own dreams.

Ramlakhan, who works at King Edward VIII Hospital, specialises in maxillofacial surgery, a special type of dentistry that involves an operation to correct a disease, injury or defect on the face, jaw or mouth.

“It is a speciality that combines surgical training with dental expertise to correct a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries, tumours, defects and deformities in the mouth, head, neck, face and jaw area. This includes bones and soft tissues of this region,” the Mount Edgecombe resident said.

“We, at King Edward VIII Hospital, mainly see trauma patients who have sustained injuries from assaults, gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents. We also treat patients with adversely impacted teeth, cysts, and tumours, as well as severe infections and their side effects. As a maxillofacial surgeon, you consult with patients, diagnose their conditions, plan surgery and operate in theatre. We also render after-hour service for emergencies.”

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Dentistry from the University of Western Cape as well as a Master’s in Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery from the University of the Witwatersrand.

After completing her community service in the eThekwini district, she worked as a dental surgeon at the Department of Maxillofacial and Oral Surgery at King Edward VIII Hospital. (She’s been working at the hospital since 2006 but was appointed as a maxillofacial surgeon in April.)

Reflecting on her professional journey and how she ended up in this largely male-dominated field, she shared how her interest in the medical field started early in life.

“During my university years, I realised I had a special interest in surgery. After matriculating, dentistry was the perfect field for me to get into. During my fourth year of study, I used to shadow maxillofacial registrars to see the work they did. This sparked my interest in maxillofacial and oral surgery. After completing my degree in dentistry, I was placed in the eThekwini District to complete my community service. Part of this rotation was at King Edward VIII Hospital, where I gained experience in surgery, and my love for surgery was confirmed,” she said.

Her feat has drawn praise from KZN Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane, who has described her as an inspiration and ‘trailblazer’ who must be emulated.

“We are extremely pleased and proud of what Dr Ramlakhan has achieved. It is women like her who keep breaking down barriers and pushing the envelope, to prove to all that, indeed, women are capable of achieving anything, and that no field should be regarded as the sole domain of men. We need more people like her,” said Simelane.