A 2021st for Women: Dr Sheena Geness
Dr Sheena Geness looks like she’s just stepped off the set of Grey’s Anatomy! She’s a combination of brains and beauty AND has a heart of gold. Sheena runs a family medical practice in Johannesburg and teaches 5th year medical students. The mom of two daughters also finds time to run the Geness Foundation and make small talk with the likes of Oprah and Barack Obama. But she’s had her fair share of struggles and heartbreak in recent years. Sheena tells media personality Uveka Rangappa about being Fearless in the face of illness and grief.
You deal with sickness every day, have suffered your own health scares and the loss of your Mum last year. What would you say was your 1st Fearless moment?
It was when I had to give my dying mother, who was in the ICU with Covid19, the permission to close her eyes and let go of her life. Before that, I was adamant she fight the battle and be strong. Being a doctor, I am used to fixing people, and in this moment of letting her go, I literally had to use every bit of strength I had left
What did it take to overcome that?
It honestly took the sight of her pain and suffering, and the realisation that this wasn’t a problem I could fix or heal.
How did you deal with your own health issues these past few years?
Living with chronic lung disease and tumours growing all over my body has certainly taken a toll on the quality of my life. It has taken the courage to face impending death, that has finally given my mind a break. This has culminated in a form of healing, mindfulness and living in the present
You grew up working in fashion, you were a model – you could easily have opted for a life of glamour yet you ended up a medical doctor – why that path?
I always knew that I was going to be a healer, even from the tender age of 12, and I put all my effort into a medical career. I enjoyed modelling; it gave me pocket money and great work experience. Even after I qualified as a doctor, I still modelled for various charity events and campaigns. I’ve learnt to enjoy the best of both worlds, but the reason I get up every day is to don that white coat! It is my first passion
You’re busy with patients every day, yet you still find time for philanthropy through your foundation – which causes are close to your heart?
The Geness foundation has helped thousands of South Africans in education, entrepreneurship, sport and health but I hold a special place in my heart for the bursary recipients. It is most endearing to witness these young women grow, knowing that I have made an impact on their futures. As they say: You educate a girl, you educate a village!
What do you tell your daughters about living their best lives?
I want passion to be the driving force of their aspirations. They need to do what activates them. Not everyone is going to be a doctor, scientist or astronaut. That would be a boring world! We need fashion designers, teachers, artisans, etc. so I would like them to follow their dreams, double down their efforts to fulfil them, and trust the process as they grow.
You’ve spent time with Oprah and Barack Obama (swoon!). What impression did they leave on you?
I have followed Barack Obama’s orations since he was a senator, so to hear that baritone up close and personal was surreal! He emphasised his work in his foundation and shared notes about philanthropic work which reiterated its relevance in my life. Oprah has a “sage-like” presence and has left an indelible mark as my mentor. Through her wisdom I have made peace with my extraordinary life and embraced the value of my experiences.
You seem to be a woman who has everything – what keeps you awake at night?
I started studying again, so I lie awake thinking about upcoming exams. I’m gripped by the fear and anxiety of being a student at this ripe age.
What do you most want to be remembered for?
I would love to be remembered by my patients as a doctor who has had a holistic impact on their lives. It would be a great honour to leave behind a legacy of aspiration to all the beneficiaries of the Geness Foundation. Finally, I hope my daughters will remember me for my work ethic and caring nature.