Meet Gill du Toit – a keen adventurer and passionate physiotherapist
Having worked in London, Scotland, Northern Zambia and spent three months on a Kibbutz in Israel, Gill du Toit has joined the Debbie Cameron Physiotherapy team at Centenary Medical Centre in Gillitts.
After 10 years of practising in the UK, physiotherapist Gill du Toit has returned to South Africa and joined Debbie Cameron Physiotherapy.
She was born and raised in Johannesburg and her love for physiotherapy started at the age of 12 when she became very involved in gymnastics, even progressing to represent Gauteng in the sport. She started late because of her involvement with ballet but the moment Gill pursued gymnastics, ballet didn’t stand a chance.
“I got a minor gymnastics’ injury and went to see a physiotherapist and was completely taken with the profession. The thought of one day having a career which involved working with people physically, as well as mentally and emotionally, and helping them to recover in order to reach their full potential, excited me greatly. With my desire to engage with new people and my zest for adventure, an office job was not an option for me. Physiotherapy is and will always be my passion.” explains Gill.
When she was 16 her family moved to Australia and completing school there was a big adjustment for Gill. “The education focus is on analysis and interpretation as opposed to the theoretic approach which I was used to. After matriculating, I returned to Johannesburg and, with physio being more difficult to get into than medicine, I did first year science at WITS and transferred to physio in my second year.’’
Gill qualified in 2007 and completed her community service year at JHB General Hospital which she found extremely beneficial. “I was part of a team of 10 permanent physios and four interns. Being exposed to so many different conditions I learnt so much, and I had the support of senior physios to nurture my development.”
During this year Gill covered Musculoskeletal Medicine (MSK medicine) which is the diagnosis and treatment of problems arising from the musculoskeletal system. This includes injuries and diseases affecting the muscles, bones and joints of the limbs and spine. Paediatrics, neurology, surgery, burns, complex trauma had to be treated by the team, so the year provided expansive experience for Gill.
In 2009, Gill went into private practice for two years before moving to the UK in 2011. During this time she volunteered as a physiotherapist in a missionary hospital in the middle of Zambia for two months.
“I flew into Ndola and then travelled by bus for 11 hours before getting onto a hospital vehicle and travelling for another two hours. The remote area in Northern Zambia where the hospital was, had only had electricity for a year when I arrived.”
Gill stayed in a missionary houses in the hospital village and met two other nurses her age and in their spare time they cycled, walked and baked.
“Baking is what you did for fun. It was a very simple but rewarding way to live while gaining invaluable experience in physiotherapy and learning about a different culture,’’ explains Gill.
It was all hands on deck for the healthcare workers with every doctor doing every type of surgery and Gill assisting not only with the recovery process but running to get the antidote for a snake bite when required!
Before returning to the London, Gill spent three months on a Kibbutz in Israel and doesn’t understand why more people don’t pursue this opportunity. Her jobs on the Kibbutz varied from pulling in huge nets of fish to cutting lemons in the kitchen.
The first two years of her time in the UK was spent with Nuffield Health working at different practices. Interestingly her mentor during this time was a South African. “The most valuable thing he taught me was how to think when approaching a patient, an injury, a pathway to recovery. Being strategic and thorough in your approach sets the excellent physios apart of the good ones.”
From 2013 to 2016, Gill worked for JP Morgan - still as a Nuffield Health physio contracted to the corporate’s medical centre. “The professionals I treated worked extremely hard and the majority of their injuries were as a result of ergonomics – bad posture, long hours at their desks – and stress. With bright, dynamic, hardworking patients, there was always something interesting to chat about during the treatment sessions.”
Scotland was next for Gill who recalls having a list of words on her fridge with their meanings because, with all the unique and quirky Scottish sayings, she often had no idea what they were talking about.
Here she was a clinical leader at a private practice which focussed on women’s health. “It was challenging managing the practice and mentoring the physios but it not only solidified my knowledge but it made me realise how much I knew, which is fantastic for your confidence as an experienced physiotherapist.”
For the next two years Gill was contracted to various private practices and in her spare time she played tag / touch rugby going on to represent the UK in this sport. “I loved every minute of it – on and off the field. It was a real, active, social community to be a part of.”
When COVID hit and the contract work stopped, while all of us were trying to stay as far away from the pandemic as possible, Gill volunteered in the ICU ward at a hospital in Reading.
She returned to South Africa in July and started working for Debbie Cameron Physiotherapy at the Centenary practice in Gillitts.
“Although the practice continues to grow it has the credibility of 18 years of caring for patients in the upper highway area. The physios and admin staff live out the values of being patient-focussed, pursuing excellence, being accountable, communicating openly and honestly, and truly caring, which really resonates with me,’’ concludes Gill.