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Amir Abouelrous

Amir Abouelrous (BSc Hons 2017, MSc 2019) is an Egyptian citizen living in Cairo. In 2012 he travelled to South Africa with a goal to study physics at university. The journey was arduous and his experience as a refugee was well documented in local media in 2019. 

Amir Abouelrous

Amir is currently working at a telecommunications company as a technical support specialist. “The work I do is not really what I enjoy, but it is a stepping-stone to get me where I need to be,” he writes. “My plan is to travel back to South Africa to work with universities as well as youth and student organisations across the country to inspire and motivate the youth and students to pursue their passions. I am determined to continue my PhD studies in theoretical physics.”

How have you used your skills/values, if any, you learned at Wits?
The most important value I learned at Wits is friendship. Good friends will inspire and motivate you to become a better person. I was fortunate to have good friends at Wits who assisted me in university work and most importantly, were always there when I needed them most. We should choose our friends wisely because certainly they will make a great positive/negative contribution to our personality and lives.

The main lesson I learned at Wits is that hope is a good thing. Wits was a source of hope for me. Outside Wits university, I was a foreigner with no money, holding on to my dreams that nobody seemed to believe in. Inside Wits I was a master’s student in physics, I was somebody. Wits literally saved my life, it was my refuge from the outside world. Now I am far away from Wits but I will always live with hope because hope is a good thing and no good thing ever dies.

Do you have a definition of success?
For me success is simply waking up every morning, working on the things that I love doing, the things that I am passionate about.

What inspires you? Or what's the best part of your day?
I am a happier person when I am better today than yesterday. My best part of the day is when I can contribute something good.

Read more about Amir’s story featured in the South African Young Academy of Science here

Paul Luckin

Paul Luckin (MBBCh 1980) is an anaesthetist, living in Brisbane, Australia. He was a paramedic in Australia before starting his medical training. After graduating, he practiced in cardiac anaesthesia in Durban, where he was a consultant in accident and emergency medical services. Paul spent eight years in the Mountain Club of SA Mountain Rescue team in the KZN Drakensberg, which he describes as “exciting times in small helicopters in big mountains, in all weather!”

Paul Luckin

After returning to Australia he set up and ran Advanced Airway Management Training in Ambulance Service Tasmania, and was President of Royal Life Saving Society in Tasmania.

While building a house, he fell 7m onto concrete, sustaining multiple fractures. “Some near-death experiences are a great way to learn the receiving-end of trauma medical care,” he writes.

Paul has four parallel careers; in the Royal Australian Navy, Search and Rescue, St John Ambulance as well as earning a living as an anaesthetist.  As a captain in the navy he has deployed to a number of war zones, including Afghanistan; to peace-keeping operations; the Bali Bombings; and to Banda Aceh following the tsunami that killed 160 000 in that city alone. He is also in the navy's submarine escape, abandonment and rescue medical team. 

Paul is the medical advisor to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the body responsible for Search and Rescue in the Australasian SAR Region – 11% of the surface of the globe. He teaches the medical aspects of SAR to police teams, and is asked for real-time advice on survivability during SAR operations across Australia and parts of the Pacific.

His roles in St John Ambulance have included Director of Training, Director of Medical Services Branch, and Senior Medical Officer at big music festivals, which primarily entail many drug and alcohol overdoses.

He has been invested as a Member of the Order of Australia, AM, for his work in emergency medicine and Search and Rescue, and as a Commander of the Order of St John, CStJ.

How do you look back on your training at Wits?
With gratitude. In awe of the people who taught me. My training at Wits, particularly in trauma, is the reason I have been able to do many interesting and rewarding things, and the reason the Navy has deployed me in trauma teams. I led a group of Australian doctors on a tour of SA a few years ago; when visiting the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital one of them said" Gee, I wish I could have trained here!"

Wits left me with something else; a complete inability to tolerate racism, or bullying, or discrimination against those who have less.

It also taught me that life is fragile; at the end we have only our faith, our family, and our friends.

A definition of success?
Success to me is believing I have done my best, hoping I have made a contribution. A successful day, in the Navy, in Search and Rescue, in St John – and in anaesthesia – is one where everyone goes home alive.

Beverley Chalmers

Professor Beverley Chalmers (BA 1970, BA Hons 1971, MA 1974, PhD 1980, DSc (Med) 1999) is a true Witsie4life and has five degrees from Wits.  She married Bernard Chalmers (MA 1971) in 1971 and they have three daughters. In 1991 she was awarded a Council Research Fellowship allowing her the opportunity to spend a year collaborating with the WHO Regional Office from Europe in Copenhagen while examining childbirth in the former Soviet Union countries.  She remained a short-term consultant for the following two decades, working primarily in the former Soviet Union but also in parts of Europe, Africa and South America. She emigrated to Canada in 1992 and is currently based in Ontario. Beverley Chalmers

While in South Africa she was involved in the initial developments of the Association for Childbirth and Parenthood and later became its national chairperson. Beverley is an independent scholar who has held full professorial positions. She has dedicated her life’s work to examining the birth experiences of women in difficult religious, social, political and economic situations. In the past few decades, she has turned her attention to Jewish and German women during the Holocaust.  See more from her website at 

She writes that she remains indebted to Wits for her education “that provided her grounding in independent thought, challenging the status quo of knowledge and practice in perinatal care, and initiating and stimulating innovation and sensitivity in care”.

What is your definition of success?
Winning awards such as the Wits Council Research Fellowship, the Canadian South African Women for Women Award, or being nominated as one of Canada‘s Women in Global Health,' are all wonderful indications of success. But for me my real feelings of success come from achieving whatever goals I set for myself and enjoying the process of getting there. 

What inspires you?
Having fun!  For me, work is fun.  I love what I do, and I am really happiest when working on my books – often with a cat asleep nearby on my desk!

What is the best part of your day?
The first (and only) Coke of the day: full-bodied Coke original of course.

Kevin Brooks

Kevin BrooksLast November Dr Kevin Brooks (BSc Eng 1980, PhD 1986) was appointed as Advanced Process Control Global Lead at Hatch, the global multidisciplinary management, engineering and development consultancy. He was appointed as visiting adjunct professor at the school of chemical and metallurgical engineering at Wits in July 2019 and assists in teaching and post graduate supervision in the field of process control.He has specialised in computer control of chemical and metallurgical manufacturing operations. In this capacity, he has worked all over the world, including in Eastern Europe and was in “Snowmaggedon” in St Johns, Canada. Kevin has been involved in the South African Council for Automation and Control since 2007 and was president of the body between 2013 and 2014.  He is currently Industry Vice-Chair for the Metals, Mining and Minerals technical committee of the International Federation of Automatic Control. He is married to fellow alumna Siân Dennis (BA 1980, CPIR WBS, 1986).  He has two children (Daniel and Nadine, BSc Hons 2009) and six grandchildren. Nadine is a third-generation Witsie since Kevin’s late father Dave studied dentistry at Wits. 

How have you used your skills/values, if any, you learned at Wits?
The skills I learned at Wits (particularly during my PhD) have meant that I have the confidence to tackle any engineering problem using a fundamental framework.  My teaching days gave me the ability to present effectively. Being part of Wits during some dark years sharpened my beliefs in the values of tolerance and justice.

Do you have a definition of success?
Success for me is a combination of a sense of fulfilment and pleasure from the work I do, together with giving back through involvement in the profession.

What inspires you? Or what's the best part of your day?
I am inspired by technology (especially space travel) and also by music (rock).  On those days when I have the energy, I love getting into the kitchen to prepare fresh food, particularly Italian.

Marjie Thorne

Marjie Thorne (BA 1979) lives in the village of Sonning, west of London. She is a full-time writer, working on three different book projects: a novel set in the mid-19th century, a family history and a memoir. She is also editing a book on surviving cancer and is married with two adult sons.Marjie Thorne

After graduating from Wits majoring in psychology, with sub-majors in English and German, she went on to study German at the University of Cape Town. This enabled her to work as a travel agent in a Johannesburg agency in their department that catered for German tourists visiting South Africa. She left South Africa in 1987 and ended up as the personal secretary to the Consul at the South African Consulate in New York. She married and moved to California. While waiting for a green card, she studied journalism, and began a new career, first as a journalist for Metro Newspapers in San Jose, and then as Associate Editor at DBMS, a high tech magazine.

After a long hiatus to have children and move to the UK, Marjie worked as a librarian, and then a Marketing Manager. She retired from full-time work in 2019, to begin a new phase as a writer. Her first book was published last year – the history of a local Catholic girls’ school.

How have you used the skills/values, if any, you learned at Wits?
The skill that has served me best from my time at Wits, particularly as a journalist/writer, has been the ability to conduct effective, relevant research for any project, writing or otherwise. Also, by studying German and Portuguese at Wits, I discovered a love of learning languages, and have gone on to study French, Spanish and Italian.  Both of these are, I guess, to do with enhancing communication.

Do you have a definition of success?
My definition of success is being able to make a living doing something that you love.

What inspires you? Or what's the best part of your day?
Professionally, I’m inspired by good writing. Socially, I’m inspired by good people.  The best part of my day is sitting down to write with that first cup of tea.

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