I have known Malebo Mokotedi for six years. Amo and I call her Dr Malebo. Her mother, Dr Mojapelo, is a family doctor and has been my parents’ GP for over 17 years. When my daughter was born, Dr Mokotedi had given birth to her little one a week before Amo was born.
So when Amo needed a GP, I met an amazing God-fearing great doctor. She has been my daughter’s GP since she was a baby, and my Amo adores her. I know a lot of mothers do too because Dr Malebo just loves children.
The mother and daughter team opened their own medical centre, Mediwell at DainfernSquare, and have a diverse set of medical offers. I wanted to do a blog on Dr Malebo, this Phenomenal Woman, a powerhouse and an amazing doctor and entrepreneur.
Can you give us a brief background of who Dr Mokotedi-Mapiloko is?
I was born in Durban and raised in Pretoria. The political environment then was quite unsettled, so my father had to leave to study abroad and my mother went to study medicine in Durban. I then spent my formative years being raised by my grandmother, who is one of the most influential people in my life. She was a cleaner, and she managed to ensure that all 11 of her children went to school and received a tertiary education. She also helped to raise me and many of her grandchildren and instilled an attitude of persistence and perseverance within all of us.
I completed medicine at Wits Medical School and after serving my internship and community service, I branched off into family practice.
I studied sports medicine at the University of Pretoria and was actively involved with providing medical support for team sports, particularly rugby. But the travelling became too hectic and I realised I had to focus on the practice and on Mediwell, which had just been founded at the time.
I am married to a very supportive husband, and I have a five-year-old daughter.
What made you go into medicine?
Seeing my mother work tirelessly in her community as a doctor in the East-Rand sparked my love for medicine. I used to spend days in her practice – watching how she passionately took care of ailing and fragile patients. My mother was a district surgeon, working with children and women who were physically and sexually assaulted, and her twin sister provided free counselling services for the patients. During the political unrest in Thokoza, my mom’s practice turned into a trauma unit and she treated many patients with gunshot and stab wounds. As a family, we decided to spearhead the Thokoza Memorial for those who passed away in the violence. Seeing how thankful her patients were to her for not leaving the area and providing medical and psychological care for their loved ones, I knew that there was something special about medicine. It was just not just a science or an art – it was a calling.
You and your mother have started Mediwell in Dainfern Square – can you tell us about that?
I initially started with my mother in 2008 within the digital medical space. We were joined by my cousin, Keitumetse Lekaba, and my little sister, Onkgopotse Khumalo. They are both in the corporate finance and accounting space, and their addition to the team really beefed up the clinical side of Mediwell with regards to strategy and compliance.
We initially had a B-to-B model where we ran company wellness programmes on a digital platform. Our company, Mediwell Digital Health Care, utilised mobile platforms to increase the ease with which employees could access healthcare providers after having health screenings. We were chosen by Microsoft to join their Biz-Spark portfolio programme which provided tech-savvy businesses with support and mentorship. This was a very exciting time, because as health professionals, the IT space was completely new and unchartered territory. We developed health-related mobile apps, which we used in our corporate screening programmes.
Mediwell Digital Health Care was elected to join the Discovery Innovations Programme. One of the aspects of this programme involved going to Israel to interact with captains of industry in the digital and electronic health space. My mother was at the time advised to also focus on the tangible, brick and mortar aspect of healthcare in the form of modern medical centres, to ensure that we were not just screening patients, but that we had a platform to manage them as well. This is where Mediwell Dainfern was born.
We chose to start in Dainfern, because both Dr Maggie (my mother) and I had been practising in the area. But we definitely do not plan to end here.
Mediwell Dainfern is one of the few women-owned Multidisciplinary Health Centres. Our vision is centred around the Christian values of integrity, kindness, stewardship and excellence. The centre focuses on a co-ordinated healthcare approach. We have our bouquet of medical professionals, physios, psychologists, biokineticists, dieticians, occupational therapists, chiropractor, baby clinic, a fully kitted X-ray and Sonar department, and other integrated practitioners. We have also recently launched our Mediwell senior care and home-based care programme for the elderly and fragile, as well as Mediwell corporate wellness services, training and coaching and occupational health services. Mediwell believes in responsible health care and provides affordable packages and health solutions for companies, individuals and their employees. We also are engaging government with enhancing health care provision to communities and have creative ideas of how to create public and private partnerships that increase health outcomes at a primary care level. Our Mediwell School health and wellness programme is the most exciting aspect that is close to my heart. We are currently with private schools, but hope engage with the department of education to expand this programme to public schools as well.
What are some of highlights of being an entrepreneur?
In medical space, some of the biggest highlights have been seeing someone who had a significant medical emergency or crisis – being sorted out and happy. As an entrepreneur you do not just work in silos. If the process from start to finish (ensuring the patient is cared for as they called for an appointment, the reception care, the nursing care, the doctors care, the equipment and consumables utilised and the follow-up care) is efficient and seamless, one gets a deep sense of personal fulfilment.
My other highlight is being able to change the trajectory for women in this country. Our company is 100% women owned. Our staff compliment is comprised of 98% women. Our tenants are 90% women.
In fact, of the many funders we approached to assist us with the centre, we were primarily funded by a Women owned company. They caught the vision and believed the dream.
I have such a deep passion for women: Being raised in my early years by my grandmother and having my mother’s sisters (all eight of them!) play a role as mother in my life, the benefits of empowering women transcends this generation.
What are the challenges?
Creating a spirit of excellence and ownership in your staff. In medicine, your human resources (the nursing sisters, receptionists, professionals, allied service providers) are the pillars in your company. They are the face that patients see and interact with before they even see you as the doctor. Balancing between being firm and results driven and being compassionate and taking a very real interest in your staff can be difficult. I have learnt that small things can motivate staff – this does not have to be monetary, but just acknowledging a hard-working staff member can encourage them in unbelievable ways.
The biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is how to quickly learn to be a jack of all trades. I have had to learn to do HR related work, draft contracts, analyse financials, streamline our IT systems, create marketing plans – whilst still operating in the sphere that I love, which is clinical medicine. As a start-up, you will not always have the funds to outsource many of your supporting services, and you have to be creative in ensuring that you learn a myriad of skills in a very short period of time. It is a balance between working on and working in your business.
What advice can you give other women who want to take this route?
Faith: The business word is extremely tough. I have found that some of the dreams that we have had were destined to fail unless we really had faith in the Lord to change the trajectory or bring destiny helpers. Mediwell Dainfern’ s first year in business was undeniably a faith walk, and we are thankful to have a team that is praying for the business’s needs at all times.
Family and fellowship: I believe that having a supportive family keeps one grounded. Work life balance is a rare commodity in business, but it is so important not to neglect family in the entrepreneurial pursuit. Maintaining solid relationships is also important. When I started at Mediwell Dainfern, my friends all rallied together to come for full medicals, visit the dentists and participate in any campaigns we were running. It is important to value these relationships.
Give back: As a woman, I think it is so important to give back to our communities, particularly focusing on the girl child. Nothing humbles you like going back to schools, orphanages, or whichever sector you feel led to – and seeing the plight to the girl child. Sometimes it just takes one word of advice or inspiration, to change the course of a child’s destiny. It reminds us that its not about our personal success, but about being significant. It’s about being legacy-minded.
Mentorship: Always have a mentor or someone who can motivate you because the road is tough. There have been so many people who have sown into my life and I know I would not be anywhere without them. In the business realm I have a mentor who is a businesswoman in both the entertainment and construction industry. I can literally call on her any time of the day (or night) for motivation and support. When you don’t know how you going to pay suppliers or salaries or you have a presentation that you just are not ready for, you need someone who can pray with you, wipe your tears away and tell you from very real experience that its going to be okay. I can’t understate the value of mentors for entrepreneurs.