Dalene qualified as a medical doctor from Stellenbosch University in 2006. After two years of internship in the Eastern Cape and a year of community service in Paarl, she started working as a medical officer for the Department of Paediatrics at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town.
Her dreams of becoming a paediatric surgeon were seemingly shattered when she was diagnosed with primary multi-drug resistant (MDR) pulmonary tuberculosis on Christmas Eve of 2010. What followed was a harrowing 19 months of treatment, during which she had to make some potentially life-threatening decisions in an attempt to preserve her hearing and career.
Dalene had optimal access to all forms of care, including very fortuitous use of the first new TB drug in 42 years, bedaquiline, on South Africa’s short-lived 2011 compassionate use program. She considers herself extremely fortunate to have recovered so well from this debilitating disease – the vast majority of other DR TB patients are not nearly as lucky.
Dalene has subsequently become a very motivated TB patient/physician advocate, campaigning for more effective, safe and equitable treatment options. She is a founding member of ‘TB Proof’, an education and awareness community seeking to destigmatize all forms of TB and empower health care workers and students to protect themselves and their patients more effectively against nosocomial TB transmission. She has done advocacy on various national and international platforms, including being a member of the WHO’s Strategic and Technical advisory group for TB (STAG TB) as well as the Global Drug-Resistant TB Initiative Core Group (STOP TB Partnership). She has recently been elected as a National TB Ambassador by the South African Minister of Health.