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  • Cited by 7
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    Digby, Anne 2013. Black Doctors and Discrimination under South Africa’s Apartheid Regime. Medical History, Vol. 57, Issue. 02, p. 269.

    Bhana, Surendra and Bhoola, Kusum K. 2011. The dynamics of preserving cultural heritage: the case of Durban’s Kathiawad Hindu Seva Samaj, 1943–1960 and beyond. South Asian Diaspora, Vol. 3, Issue. 1, p. 15.

    Burton, Antoinette 2011. THE PAIN OF RACISM IN THE MAKING OF A ‘COOLIE DOCTOR’. Interventions, Vol. 13, Issue. 2, p. 212.

    Noble, Vanessa 2009. A Medical Education with a Difference: A History of the Training of Black Student Doctors in Social, Preventive and Community-Oriented Primary Health Care at the University of Natal Medical School, 1940s–1960. South African Historical Journal, Vol. 61, Issue. 3, p. 550.

    Digby, Anne 2008. The Medical History of South Africa: An Overview. History Compass, Vol. 6, Issue. 5, p. 1194.



  • ANNE DIGBY (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 09 December 2005

The article adopts the approach of a group biography in discussing the careers and ambitions of early black South African doctors selecting both those trained abroad, and the first cohorts trained within South Africa who graduated at the Universities of Cape Town and the Witwatersrand from 1945–6. It focuses on the ambiguities involved, by looking at tensions between professional altruism and entrepreneurialism in pursuing a medical career, as well as that between self-interest and selflessness in attempting to balance the requirements of a medical practice against those involved in political leadership. The paper highlights the significance of the political leadership given by black doctors in the mid-twentieth century and indicates the price paid for this in loss of medical resources under the apartheid regime. Two annexes provide original data on the medical and political contributions of individuals.

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Grateful acknowledgement is made: for the financial assistance given to this research by the Wellcome Trust; for assistance in some of the interviews by Dr. Helen Sweet; for the helpful comments made by Dr. Harriet Deacon, and by members of the History of Medicine Seminar at the Medical School, University of Cape Town; for the assistance of Maeve Hersman of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Gonda Perez of the University of Cape Town (UCT) who facilitated access to material from recent Internal Reconciliation Processes in the two Health Sciences Schools; for the interest and support given by Drs. Anvir Adam, Essop Jassat and Kupedi Patrick Mokhobo.
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The Journal of African History
  • ISSN: 0021-8537
  • EISSN: 1469-5138
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-african-history
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