Professor Mashudu Tshifularo - from the humble, dusty streets of Mbaela to a world-class researcher and surgeon.
Date: 07 April 2019 By:
By Zwivhuya Rashaka and Elmon Tshikhudo
Professor Mashudu Tshifularo became an internationally recognised name almost overnight. Together with his team at the University of Pretoria, they made history by performing the first ever successful middle-ear operation where 3D-printed technology was used. The world-renowned professor, however, started dreaming about his career while he was still a herd boy at Mbaela village in the Vhembe District.
Early in March this year, the medical team from the University of Pretoria performed a unique operation at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria. Prof Tshifularo and his team transplanted the hammer, anvil, stirrup and the ossicles - the components that make up the middle ear. What made this operation so special is that they used 3D-printing technology that allowed them to scan and recreate the bones.
The patient was a 35-year-old man who had lost his hearing when his middle ear was damaged in a car accident.
The surgery, which can be performed on everyone, including new-borns, has benefited two patients already.
“By replacing only the ossicles that aren't functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures,” said Tshifularo.
The operation was also an achievement stretching beyond the walls of an operating theatre. The 54-year-old professor has brought hope to those who think that it is impossible for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to make it big in life.
Mashudu Tshifularo comes from a rural area in Limpopo where he grew up in an environment where services such as running water and electricity were luxuries. He lived in a mud house and looked after goats and cattle.
He attended school at Mianzwi Primary, where he was sometimes taught under a tree with no books and no flushing toilets. To top it all, he had to write on the ground during his lessons at the time, walking barefoot for five kilometres to and from school every day.
Fortunately for him, he grew up in a family that valued education. His mother encouraged him and his five siblings to study further and work hard towards creating a better future for themselves.
Tshifularo attended various high schools and completed his matric at Dimani Agricultural High School. After school, he was admitted for his first year at the University of Venda, were he obtained distinctions in maths, biology and zoology.
He completed his degree at a different university and then continued to study at various other universities. He even had the opportunity to work in the United Kingdom for two years, until he decided to come back to South Africa to help his country.
He believes that what he has done is motivation enough to any young black child who thinks that he/she cannot do it.
Apart from being the head of the Ear, Nose and Throat Department at UP, he is also a pastor leading the Christ Revealed Fellowship Church in Pretoria. Tshifularo has written six lifestyle and Christian books.