“Education is power,” says Gantsho. “I want to open up dermatology to people. The skin is the biggest organ of the body. It’s the indicator of systemic disease – the canary in a coal mine, so to speak. Dermatologists can detect skin signs in HIV-positive people and those with diabetes. We can even spot signs of high cholesterol on the upper eyelids.”
Gantsho, whose Cape Town-based practice focuses on general, surgical and paediatric dermatology, as well as cosmetic treatments, recently returned from Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where she volunteered in hospitals serving underprivileged communities.
“There are hospitals in those areas, but no dermatologists. Giving other healthcare workers an introduction to dermatology has become a big thing for me. Even a basic knowledge of common skin diseases and conditions like acne, eczema or skin changes in pregnant women will help them.”
Gantsho qualified as a medical doctor in 2004 at the University of Pretoria and underwent surgical training at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town for two years before specialising and then qualifying in dermatology at the University of Cape Town in 2013. “I love general surgery. It opens doors to the growing field of dermatological surgery, so I can continue cutting,” she smiles.
She’s also a Director of Derma-Scape, a company which undertakes clinical studies on cosmetic products and is on the board of Amaqhawe Ngemfundo (Heroes in Education), an organisation that promotes science, technology, engineering and maths for girls in underprivileged communities.
At the end of October, Gantsho will attend her fourth Dermatological & Aesthetic Surgery International League conference, this time in Argentina, where she’ll present a talk on aesthetics and black sin. Last year, she spoke at the conference in Shanghai, China – “It was a real career highlight” – on the efficacy of acid masks on people with rosacea.
The daughter of a single mother, Gantsho was raised in Mdantsane near East London. She says she’s deeply grateful to her mother and siblings for funding her education. “My husband Luzuko also supported me while I was specialising and when our daughter was born, months into my dermatological practice.
“Seeing patients get better always feels like a huge achievement. I bumped into a patient recently whose eczema I helped clear after she’d consulted doctor after doctor. She was ecstatic. Some patients cry with happiness and then I know I’ve made a big difference,” she says.
“As you grow older, you discover that you have two hands – one for helping yourself and another for helping others. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
– Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor