When you fall ill, it’s often at the most inconvenient time. Dr Lerato Masemola’s patients really appreciate that her Thari Health clinic is open until 7pm or even 8pm, so they can visit after work or when they’ve put the kids to bed.
Masemola opens her clinic in the mornings, takes the early afternoon off to be with her children, aged 14 and 12, then reopens at 5pm. She lives close by, so it’s not a big deal, she says, but it’s a big deal for sick or anxious people who can get an appointment when they need one. Thari Health is open seven days a week, and Masemola also visits patients in two nearby frail care centres if they can’t get to her clinic.
She began her career studying as a specialist in forensic medicine, “but I missed the human interconnection and decided cutting up dead bodies wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I went back to clinical medicine”, she says.
She also studied emergency response medicine, which is when she realised that the hours when medical services are available are hugely important. “People would come into the emergency unit at 2am with tonsillitis because they couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment, so I’ll work until 8pm depending on how busy it is.”
As well as providing general practitioner services for everyone from babies to geriatrics, her thriving practice also offers aesthetic treatments, including micro-needling, thread lifts, chemical peels and targeted therapies to treat acne, pigmentation, scarring and stretch marks.
She added these at her patients’ request, because when she recommended that they visit a dermatologist to treat acne scars, for example, they wanted her to care for them because they like and trust her.
As a doctor first, however, her treatments focus on what people need or on restoring what they have lost rather than shaping a new body or face for them. “It’s the medical side rather than the pretty side; I don’t want people to look like Barbie, I want them to look like themselves. But if you’ve smashed your face on the tarmac, you don’t look like yourself.”
When someone comes in after an accident and she can restore their face to a point where they smile at the mirror and feel hope rather than despair, it’s “unbelievably rewarding”, she says.
Last year, she benefited from her own experience when she mangled her face in a serious bike accident. The process left bad scars that she has minimised with treatments including platelet placements, skin booster injections and peels to reduce pigmentation in the scar tissue. She’s determined to get back on her bike, however. “My husband and kids cycle and I’m not going to be left out.”
That ties in with her philosophy of gratitude, treating every day as a lesson and not giving up. “I had this big fall, but I’m a mother, a doctor and a wife — if I fall on the ground and then fall apart, what good does that serve me? I approach life as a lesson: if you fail, you get up.
I love hanging around with 100-year-olds who give you life advice that’s pure and brutal.