In the tenth edition of Conversations with Old Boys we chat to Dr Chris Young. Chris, who matriculated from Westville Boys’ High School in 1999. He is a Clinical Fellow in Neurosurgery at Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town. He is a previous winner of the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship which allowed him to read for a DPhil at the University of Oxford.
“I have been impressed by the phenomenal achievements at Westville Boys’ High School in the classrooms and on the sports-fields…It excels because of the fantastic alchemy of talented learners, dedicated teachers and committed parents and friends.”
Biography of Chris Young in Brief
Junior School Westville
School Leadership Chair of LRC, Prefect
School Awards Governing Body Chairperson’s Award
Tertiary Qualifications MBChB (UCT), MSc (Oxford), DPhil (Oxford)
Scholarships Rhodes Scholarship
Conversations: Who was your favourite teacher at school?
Rev. Alan Miller – he challenged his students and never let us settle into a comfort zone.
Conversations: Was there an important life lesson that you learnt at Westville Boys’ High School?
Life, like school, is full of opportunities. It's up to you to make the best of it.
Conversations: What advice would you give to a primary school boy considering his high school options on why he should attend Westville Boys’ High School?
Don't think too hard about it. It's a great school.
Conversations: Have you kept up with any of the achievements of Westville Boys’ High School in recent times?
I have been impressed by the phenomenal achievements at Westville Boys’ High School in the classrooms and on the sports-fields. What always struck me was the extent to which Westville is a community school. It excels because of the fantastic alchemy of talented learners, dedicated teachers and committed parents and friends. In this way, I think Westville can serve as a model to schools across the country. As much as the government has a political responsibility to provide education, all of us as individuals have a social obligation to take part and contribute to the education of the next generation.
Conversations: Why did you choose medicine as a career?
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
“I think Westville Boys’ High School can serve as a model to schools across the country.”
Conversations: What do you love about your career?
Operating on the human brain, knowing everything you do, or don’t do, have enormous consequences.
Conversations: What advice would you give to a high school learner considering a career in medicine?
Medicine is a tough and long journey, but the potential rewards and personal satisfaction unparalleled. I would advise aspirant medics to spend time finding out what medicine is all about. It is a lot more Scrubs and less Grey’s Anatomy. Speaking to your GP and spending time at the practice would be a good place to start.
Conversations: Are there any particular ambitions you have for your career in the future?
I would like to develop a career in academic neurosurgery, and as a clinician-scientist, pursue my interest in neural stem cell for the treatment of brain injury.
Conversations: Describe what your experience at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar meant to you, and how has it contributed to where you are now in your career?
Oxford was an incredible experience, and I met some remarkable people. I was able to solidify my nascent interest in neuroscience and spent four years immersed in the global efforts to understand our brain. For my doctoral thesis, we investigated the activation of endogenous neural stem cells in rodent brain after injury. The burden of history was rather invigorating. I lived on a cobblestoned street where the first accurate anatomical drawings of the human brain were made in the 16th century, and worked in a complex where the clinical use of penicillin was discovered during the Second World War. I am excited to take what I have learnt and experienced in Oxford, to develop a career in academic neurosurgery, in a manner relevant to our developing context.
Conversations with Old Boys is a project of the Westville Boy’s High School Foundation, in partnership with the Westville Boys’ High School Old Boys’ Association