Having qualified as a doctor 10 years ago, and despite many challenges, 35-year-old Sidali was driven to enter this highly specialised, male-dominated field by her desire to serve people.

“What has kept my interest and made me stay in medicine is the desire to serve my people, to help people and also give back, not only by treating patients, but to be a positive role model for every African child,” she was quoted saying in an interview with the KwaZulu-Natal department of health.

READ MORE: Meet Dr Nomusa Shezi, KZN’s first black female neurosurgeon

Her decision to specialise as a cardiothoracic surgeon came about by chance while she was completing her community service work.

“Cardiothoracic surgery happened by chance for me,” she said. “I had always been interested in most surgical disciplines, and could not decide what to pursue. But then, interestingly enough, every time I was on call as a community service, there was almost always a patient with a stabbed heart, or chest-related trauma and after seeing a heart beating on my hands, I knew that I didn’t want to do anything but cardiothoracic surgery.”

As we celebrate her inspiring feat, here are five fast facts about Sidali that you should know.

  • She used to herd cattle

Born and raised in a small town in the Eastern Cape, Sidali used to herd cattle in order to support her family when she was growing up.

She matriculated from Rakgatla High School in Wonderkop in the North West and went on to secure a bursary to study medicine from the North West health department.

READ MORE: Ncumisa Jilata on becoming SA’s youngest neurosurgeon

  • She completed her medical studies in Cuba

Sidali was part of a group of South African medical students who received training in Cuba.

Her wish for the nation is that South Africans adopt healthier lifestyles to ensure that fewer people end up on her operating table.

  • She wants to be an agent of change

Sidali says she’s on a mission to make the playing field more even for female doctors across all surgical disciplines because women still don’t enjoy the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

“We need opportunities and exposure, but the most important thing that is needed to change the future for all African children is the eradication of poverty and one of the ways to do that is through education,” she said.

  • She’s an author

Sidali shares that when she’s not operating on people’s hearts,  she’s a budding author who enjoys writing romance fiction.

“I write under a pseudonym; only my friends know it’s me. I intend to share my writing with the world someday, but no-one will ever know it’s me,” she says.