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Dr Refilwe Mokgatlha – the first black female to qualify as a Prosthodontics Specialist at SMU – and one of the few black women in the country

Dr Refilwe Mokgatlha was born in Lehurutshe and raised in Gopane village in the North-West Province. She went to Mmabatho High School, where she was in a boarding school for the entire duration of her high school years until the completion of matric. “As a young girl, I enjoyed being there for others and assisting them. I was also a bookworm, and in high school through the assistance of our guidance teacher at the time, I knew I wanted to be in health care. There were three professions in health care that I liked; in standards 9 and 10 (currently grades 11 and 12) we were required to accompany working people in the fields we were interested in for some time. Dentistry became my first love”, says Dr Mokgatlha.

Dr. Mokgatlha holds various qualifications at undergraduate and post- graduate levels. She holds a Bachelor of Dental Sciences Degree (BDS, University of Witwatersrand); a Post-graduate Diploma in Endodontics (PgDipDent, University of Pretoria); Master of Dental Science in Prosthodontics (MDS) and a Master of Dentistry in Prosthodontics (MDent, Prostho) attained at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University – the first black female to achieve this qualification at SMU. She is a member of the International Team of Implantology (ITI) and the Academy of Prosthodontics South Africa (APSA) and is currently a part-time lecturer at SMU. Her key responsibilities involve lecturing the undergraduate students (Second, Third and Fourth year BDS students), teaching pre-clinical techniques and overall clinical supervision.

“I am not where I would want to be, but I believe I am where I am supposed to be now, according to the divine plan and guidance, there is still more that I would like to accomplish, a mountain peak of a mountain is only the bottom of the next. I will do a PhD in the future”, Dr. Mokgatlha expressed.

Her journey at SMU started in 2010 when she was working as a sessional Dentist in the Department of Prosthodontics. In 2014, she registered for a Master of Dental Science (MDS), as she desired to specialise in Prosthodontics at a later stage. The earlier years were a challenge to her, especially during her time as a sessional Dentist, a Developmental Dentist and an MDS student.

Dr. Mokgatlha believes that, for any academic department to achieve what is required of it, it is important to have sufficient support for the undergraduates, postgraduates, and the rest of the clinical staff to adequately teach, guide and mentor them in the field. In this way, the dentists in the department will be motivated to develop themselves further in the same field of study. This directly speaks to the importance of some degree of stability that can be brought about by the right amount of human resources especially people who are passionate about this field of study, teaching, and learning, as well as those who have an appreciation of teamwork.

 “Success is very personal and relative. I believe everyone has their meaning of success, a meaning that gives them a sense of having accomplished something important based on their values, virtues as well and desires. One then should have the perseverance and resilience to push to accomplish, that which is meaningful to them, and to reach those goals we set for ourselves. We should continuously be willing to learn, to fail (if we do) forward, to take each challenge as a steppingstone and keep moving”, Dr. Mokgatlha remarked.

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