18 January 2022 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
Prof Andries Stulting
Prof Andries Stulting, who obtained an MBA at the age of 73, believes it is a great privilege to be able to be useful in your home, community, and workplace and to add value to your own life and to the lives of other people around you in an effort to grow and to keep your mind active.

Prepare, act, adapt, and conquer. The MBA qualification that Prof Andries Stulting, former Head of the DDepartment of Ophthalmology at the University of the Free State (UFS), obtained from the university at the age of 73, taught him about the importance of these four aspects in the marketplace. 

Bridging the gap

Although an ophthalmologist of note who has changed the lives of hundreds of patients over the years, working as the Hospital Clinical Manager at a private healthcare facility in the Northern Cape reminded Prof Stulting that he had a gap in his knowledge of finance, economics, and budgets. He took this position as Hospital Clinical Manager after his retirement from a career of 31 years at the UFS. 

“I was capable of solving the clinical problems of the private practitioners working in the hospital. But when management had budget meetings or discussions on making the hospital more profitable, I was at a loss of words and completely out of my depth,” he explains. 

Prof Stulting says he enjoyed the MBA course. “I enjoyed being a student again and to work with a younger generation of people who accepted me as part of their group. Although it was a challenge for me to learn how to work online, how to submit assignments online, and how to listen to the endless Zoom conversations, I learned a lot about modern technology from my younger classmates.”  

He believes the MBA is a huge commitment, and his advice to prospective MBA candidates is to start within yourself. “Ask yourself if you are prepared to balance your current job and your part-time studies for the next two years of your life; to stretch your boundaries beyond what is known to you, and to leave your comfort zone; for your mind to be stretched; and do you have a supporting family or group of friends?” 

A defining moment

Besides the day-to-day classes, operations, and research, Prof Stulting trained 47 ophthalmologists during his career at the UFS, served in several management positions, including as member of the Executive Committee of Senate and acting head of the School of Medicine, was named Bloemfonteiner of the Year in 1996, and received an Honorary Degree from the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa. 

But where did it all start?

He recalls that while doing his two-year internship after qualifying as a medical doctor in 1973, he gave the anaesthesia for a corneal transplant operation at the Military Hospital in Pretoria. “For the first time in my life I was exposed to an eye operation! I was so intrigued by the micro-surgery being performed through an operating microscope that I almost forgot to wake the patient up after the operation! That was one of the defining moments in my life,” he says. 

Making a difference

Prof Stulting says he still takes pleasure in seeing people with eye problems. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it was strange for him at first to work with ‘masked people’. “However, one of the good things about the pandemic was that we, as eye-care practitioners, have learned to listen better to our patients and customers and to spend more time with the patient than before the outbreak.”

He strongly believes that it is a great privilege to be able to be useful in your home, community, and workplace and to add value to your own life and to the lives of other people around you in an effort to grow and to keep your mind active.

Reading and the near future

Acquiring an MBA is not the end of the story of his career in academia. Prof Stulting is already looking forward to doing a PhD degree on leadership in the health-care environment, while he still wants to continue practising in what he calls the queen of specialities, namely ophthalmology.  

And when he is not studying or enabling more people to experience the wonder of sight, he loves to read – both fiction and nonfiction. Some of the last books he has read include Thinking the Future by Clem Sunter and Mitch Ilbury (unfinished), Mercy (David Baldacci), Viral (Robin Cook), Over My Dead Body (Jeffrey Archer), and The Midnight Lock (Jeffery Deaver). “I also enjoy motivational books by Robin Sharma, John Maxwell, and Ken Blanchard,” he adds. 

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