28 December 2020 | Story André Damons | Photo Supplied
Dr James Fortein

Dr James Fortein, who had to overcome multiple failures and almost quit his dream, is now a qualified cardiologist after passing his final examination in August 2020.  

Major achievement 
Says a proud Dr Fortein: “It is a relief to have qualified as a cardiologist. This is a major achievement for me and my family. I can make a difference in many ways through this qualification. It is a blessing to be entrusted with a gift that can affect humanity.” 

According to him, his journey started in Grade 11 when he had already made the decision to improve his life. However, it was not an easy road. He grew up in a single-parent home with limited resources and role models. An all-inclusive bursary was withdrawn after he obtained a D symbol in Mathematics (higher grade) in Grade 12. Dr Fortein, who at the time wanted to study engineering, was forced to work in retail for a year while he improved his Mathematics mark. 

He called this his ‘gap year’.

On becoming medical doctor

“I registered for a BComm (Human Resource Management) at the University of the Free State.  I enjoyed it and did well. I stayed in House Khayalami, where I met three medical students who inspired me through their hard work and dedication. They are now all UFS-qualified doctors. I attended some of their discussions and later changed my course, applied for Medicine and was accepted,” explains Dr Fortein. 

Overcoming multiple failures

“I never repeated a grade in school. Then I came to Medical School and things changed. There was an increase in time spent studying and a decrease in the marks obtained. I missed a test in Paediatrics in my third year and had to do an oral test. It didn’t go well, and I failed the year. I couldn’t give up and had to regroup and go back to complete my medical studies. The failure had its positive side. I was more confident in my work after that.”

“The failures I experienced during my postgraduate training were more intense.  My situation changed. The failures now affected my wife and children.  I had a full-time job and bills to pay. Failure at this level places unnecessary strain on your family life. You invest so much time and effort into work and studying and then you fail.  It was heart-breaking,” says Dr Fortein.

He was on the verge of depression and wanted to quit after failing the Cardiology Certificate examination twice.

“It was through encouragement from my wife that I picked up the pieces and gave it another try.  Sharing the pain with friends and Cardiology Certificate candidates helped me to get closure and courage to prepare for the exam again.”

He passed the exam in August 2020 after it was postponed from May due to the lockdown. 

What kept him going?

There are factors that helped him to push through. God’s hand was in this process, says Dr Fortein. “Friends and family encouraged me. My focus and determination for a better life drove me to the last leg of the journey. I knew there was untapped potential in me that I had to use.”

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