Westville Boys’ High School was extremely privileged to welcome Dr Chris Young, Old Boy from the Class of 1999 as the Guest of Honour at the recent All-Round Excellence Awards Evening.

Chris, a world leader in the field of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery, was delighted to be back at WBHS, almost 20 years to the date since he attended his final assembly as a Matric student. Chris congratulated the Grade 8 to 11 achievers who have excelled during the year in the four major aspects of Academics, Sport, Cultural and Service, and then undoubtedly captivated the audience of 1 500 guests, with his address on the theme of ‘Time’ and its implications for students of today.

“Time is the great equalizer.  No matter who you are, the richest person in the world or the poorest, Bill Gates or a casual labourer, you have exactly the same 60 seconds in one minute, 60 minutes in one hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year.”  Chris encouraged all to be generous about time for the important stuff and reminded everyone that “life is a contact sport. It’s hard…. But if you are able, do what you can to make the world a little bit better than you found it.”

Chris has a most impressive CV. Whilst at WBHS, he was active in Cricket and Softball and a member of the Debating team. The Interact Club was his passion and he served as its President. He was a Prefect and the Chairman of the Learners’ Representative Council (LRC).  He received the Governing Body Chairman’s Award for contribution to school governance, earned a full set of distinctions in the NSC exams, was awarded Academic Honors and received the subject prizes for History and Biology.

He went on to study medicine at the University of Cape Town, where he won a full scholarship, and graduated with First Class Honours in 2005. He remained active in student affairs, serving as the Chairperson of the Health Sciences Students’ Council and later the Vice President of the Student Health and Welfare Centres Organization, a student-run charity which operates some 300 free clinics in under-serviced areas on the Cape Flats each year.

Following internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and community service on the Cape Flats, Chris received the Rhodes Scholarship and spent four productive years at the University of Oxford (UK). At Oxford he obtained a Master’s degree in Neuroscience, followed by a PhD in Francis Szele’s lab investigating the use of neural stem cells for brain repair after stroke. He was awarded the Sherrington Prize for the best presentation by a graduating doctoral student.

After a brief stint in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Cape Town, Chris joined his family in the USA in 2015 to commence his neurosurgery residency in Seattle at the University of Washington where he is currently the Chief Resident. Chris is pursuing a career as a surgeon-scientist with particular interest in cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke and brain bleeds. His research focuses on prevention and early detection strategies. For his work on the genetics of brain aneurysm formation, he was recently awarded the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Cerebrovascular Research Award.

The Awards ceremony was also the perfect opportunity for the Headmaster, Mr Graham Steele, to present Chris with a Pro Meritis Blazer, in recognition of the degree of excellence that he has achieved in his life.

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Click here to download Chris’s speech

Dr Chris Young

Dr Chris Young with 2020 Head of School, Abande Mthembu