For Black History Month, this This Doctor Can blog focuses on the life and career of physician associate, Silothabo Dliso.
Growing up, I was all about my sports – I lived and breathed it. I played all sorts of sport, from football to rugby to hockey. I knew from a young age that whatever my career was going to be, it was going to be in sports. With this in mind, when I finished school, I studied a BTEC National Diploma in sports and then went on to study sports therapy as my first degree. I proceeded to work as a sports therapist with local football teams, and then eventually became a sports development officer. I even became a director and sports manager in a community interest company, started by people who would become my friends.
Life was going reasonably well when I had my first child, Lindiwe. Unfortunately, a few weeks after she was born, she became very unwell and was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease and she passed away shortly thereafter, when she was 2 months old.
Some time after that I had another daughter, Sithabile, who was also diagnosed with mitochondrial disease like her sister, and passed away when she was 9 months old.
Although this may sound like a cliché, the care both my daughters received at Birmingham Children’s Hospital was so incredible, I was inspired to go into healthcare so that I could someday help people in the same way. First, I wanted to get a better understanding about what had happened with my daughters, so I went to do an MSc in biomedical science. In the process, I learned about the PA role. As an older student, what attracted me most was that the role offered me an alternative route into medicine without having to spend four more years in university. I also liked how dynamic the role can be – a lot of the time you are able to shape the job in way that best suits your interests.
After completing my MSc, I applied to the PA course in Liverpool and was accepted. My first job as a qualified PA was at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, working in gastroenterology, where I learned a lot and worked with many amazing people. Although working through this COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, it has also been very rewarding.
I have now been fortunate enough to be offered employment at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital as the country’s first physician associate in paediatric clinical research. This is a job that I hoped to do later in life, but thankfully the opportunity presented itself earlier – and I was ready for it.
In my new job I will have the opportunity to help many families who are currently experiencing similar circumstances to those I faced with my daughters, and hopefully the insight I gained will be to their benefit.