(February 10, 2024) When Omishka Hirachund was a child, her grandmother suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and was admitted to the ICU. At that tender age, she was extremely frightened to enter the ICU, and her heart shattered when her grandmother passed away. “But it sparked a passion in me to become a doctor and make a difference in patients’ lives,” Omishka shared.
Omishka, who is of Indian descent and living in Africa, went on to study medicine, viewing it not just as a career but as a means to serve society. Having completed her MBBCH at the University of Witwatersrand in 2019 and her Masters in Medical Sciences at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2023, she has been serving as the medical officer, internal medicine in the Department of Health, South Africa. She has also now aligned herself as a volunteer doctor with the #keready project – an initiative of DGMT, a South African foundation that uses mobile units to provide free health services in underdeveloped, rural communities of South Africa to promote primary healthcare.
For her selfless service for the #keready project and other voluntary initiatives to promote healthcare and wellbeing, Omishka Hirachund was named in the annual Mail and Guardian’s ‘200 Young South Africans’ list of 2023. She was one of the 18 Indian origin changemakers to be named in the list.
The #keready initiative
The #keready mobile clinic project has been made possible through a grant from the Department of Health of the Federal Republic of Germany that DGMT received. The project is making healthcare accessible, affordable, and relatable. With her goal of making South Africa a safer place, especially for children and women, Omishka has played a vital role in the movement.
The #keready is being carried forward in association with the provincial departments of health in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and Western Cape areas of South Africa. Durban based Omishka provides voluntary services in the eThekwini and the Umgungundlovu districts.
With the help of young doctors and nurses #keready is not just focussed in providing free healthcare but also uses social media channels, and podcasts to help people find the right health information. Since social media and podcasts are platforms that attract more young people, this demographic segment is receiving healthcare tips and advice, which they tend to overlook.
Passionate about making South Africa better
“I would like the healthcare system to support primary healthcare initiatives and ensure equitable access to healthcare for all,” remarked Omishka after being named in the ‘200 Young South Africans’ list. Minimisation of discrimination against people living with HIV, more accessible and acceptable obstetric healthcare to pregnant women, and menstrual hygiene are some of the issues that she deeply cares about.
“The gender-based violence rates and the repercussions of the violence on our society and healthcare systems are devastating. I would like South Africans to remember who they are and what we fought so hard for — equality,” says Omishka who has started the anti-substance abuse project in the Wentworth area for teenagers, in coordination with Dr Daniel Kocks and the Department of Social Development, Government of South Africa.
The young doctor serves as a volunteer Subject Matter Expert on a medical talk show aired by Megazone Radio, aiming to educate people about common diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Additionally, she contributes articles on healthcare to scholarly journals.
Volunteering – a passion
Since her school days, Omishka has had a passion for volunteering. She actively participated in feeding schemes and donation campaigns organised by the Seva Bhakti Foundation in Durban and neighbouring areas. Additionally, she contributed to regular feeding and baking initiatives at the social service organisation, Aryan Benevolent Homes. Her involvement as a volunteer with St. Thomas Children’s Centre in Durban dates back to her growing up years. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the then medical student had dedicated herself to assisting people in various ways. “I was part of the mask drive organised by the department of paediatrics, King Edward Hospital, Durban,” she shared. The youngster was also part of the sanitary pad drive by Kerr House Women’s Hospice in 2021.
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Driven by her life’s mission to empower disadvantaged women, Omishka has been providing donations, assistance, lectures and educational counselling workshops at the Open Door Crisis Centre supporting abused women and children. She is also a member of the Umhlanga Women’s Association which works for food relief in destitute areas.
Life beyond healthcare and future plans
Born and brought up in Durban, Omishka was a very dedicated student right from her school days. She was selected as the head girl of her school and vice house captain of the school house, and had passed the International Benchmark Tests with distinction in Mathematics, Science and English.
Although she is armed with a bachelors and master’s degree in medicine along with diploma in primary emergency care and diploma in HIV Management Omishka’s educational goals are far from over. She aspires to specialise in cardiology or endocrinology.
Beyond the world of healthcare Omishka’s passions include travel, running and reading.