In the fast-paced world of medicine, where the lines between saving lives and enhancing them is often blurred, the role of a plastic surgeon is nothing short of remarkable. Dr Nikita Blake, the Acting Head of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department at Universitas Academic Hospital, shares her fascinating journey into this field, the delicate balance between beauty and medical solutions, and her profound impact on patients’ lives.
Dr Nikita’s passion for surgery and the human body was ignited early in her medical studies. “Learning and mastering new skills is extremely satisfying to me,” she says.
Her journey into plastic surgery was driven by her desire to make a lasting difference in patients’ lives. “Working as a plastic surgeon, I very rarely save lives anymore, but I save quality of life, and that is arguably more important,” she states.
In the world of plastic surgery, the perception often leans toward aesthetics. Dr. Nikita, however, explains that the two aspects, beauty and medical solutions, are not mutually exclusive. “During reconstructive surgery, my priorities are always function, then form, then aesthetics; in that order,” she explains. She uses breast reduction surgery as an example, illustrating how the process involves ensuring functionality and symmetry while leading to a beautiful aesthetic result.
While many may associate plastic surgery solely with aesthetic enhancements, it encompasses a vast array of medical and reconstructive aspects. Dr Nikita notes that the new generation of plastic surgeons are also involved in microsurgery, where advanced techniques are used to transplant tissues, all with the aim of improving patients’ overall well-being beyond cosmetic enhancements.
Dr. Nikita’s fascination with the human body developed early in her life. “I knew I wanted to study medicine, but my love for surgery developed later,” she shares. She emphasises the importance of purposefully exploring the areas of medicine that genuinely interest you, reiterating that one must fall in love with the work rather than the idea of being a plastic surgeon.
Balancing a demanding career with family life is a universal challenge. Dr. Nikita, a working mother, acknowledges the struggle but strives for balance. “Balance is a dynamic concept and is something to work toward rather than something you achieve,” she says. Prioritising and managing time are key elements, but sometimes, emergencies can disrupt the equilibrium – something that she accepts graciously.
Dr Nikita shares some memorable patient stories that showcase the profound impact of plastic and reconstructive surgery.
According to her, she has been involved with the Universitas Smile programme for seven years, where she personally knows cleft lip and palate children and their families. “The look on the mother’s face when her baby comes back from surgery with a repaired lip is indescribably beautiful to me. Watching these kids develop normally in terms of speech and feeding is also very special,” she expresses.
“Another aspect of reconstructive surgery I am passionate about is limb salvage and over the years our department has saved many patients from amputation. These patients are in hospital for long periods so you become quite close to them and witnessing them walk after their reconstructive and rehabilitation journey is extremely fulfilling,” she adds.
In addition to her surgical expertise, Dr Nikita actively commits to research and education. She keeps up with the latest advancements in her field by attending conferences, workshops, and seminars, as well as through research collaborations with colleagues. Dr Nikita believes that when you strive to practice cutting-edge medicine daily, staying up to date comes naturally.
Every day in her life is a unique blend of clinics and surgeries, as she balances her roles at Universitas Academic Hospital, in the public health sector, and at Mediclinic Bloemfontein, where she runs a private practice.
“My days vary between clinics and surgeries and have the potential to be very orderly and scheduled or complete chaos,” she says.
As a mother of twins, she cherishes the early mornings she spends with them, relishing those precious moments.
Her life outside work is a testament to her vitality. She enjoys being active and spending time outdoors, with her extroverted nature thriving on interactions with friends and family.
Dr Nikita says she truly loves for her job, and she describes being in her “happy place” when operating.
Text: JUSTINE FORTUIN Photography: GYPSEENIA LION