Change the world


The new Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences has a collaborative and interdisciplinary vision for the Medical School, the 12th and latest department in this flourishing faculty at Nelson Mandela University.

Professor Zukiswa Zingela, a psychiatrist whose most recent positions were Associate Professor and Head of Department (Chair) of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Walter Sisulu University and Clinical Head at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha joined the University in August 2021.

“We've got a medical programme that's really new and this is a chance to do things differently without compromising on standards and quality.

“This we will do by equipping students with practical skills which are based on a sound theoretical framework to produce innovative and affordable interventions that meet the community’s health needs.

“The focus will be on imparting essential skills such as health promotion and prevention while strengthening expertise in academic medicine through transdisciplinary learning and research.”

Nelson Mandela University’s offering therefore covers many areas in its quest to develop well-rounded medical professionals, and student input has been included.

“We have had a request from the medical students themselves who have indicated that they would like the chance to be exposed to a general practitioners’ environment. Some of our students may end up becoming managers in the public or private sector, or general practitioners. We also want to strengthen research skills because some of our medical students will become researchers.”

Caring for the carers

Prof Zingela has been recognised for her work to bolster the mental health of Covid-19 frontline workers and expand the Eastern Cape’s team of home-grown public sector psychiatrists. She highlighted the catastrophic intersection of COVID-19, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/Aids on physical as well as mental health.

“We've been through a very difficult two years which has taken a strain on everybody’s mental health,” Prof Zingela said. “That our health systems are still standing is amazing, despite the severe pressure that has been placed on healthcare workers. Often we think of staff as robots, rather than humans who also need care and time off.

“This is very close to my heart as a psychiatrist as in a lot of medical training programmes there isn't a focus on how medical students should take care of themselves, and their own mental health.

“Nelson Mandela University is bringing all of these aspects in to make sure that we've covered the different areas.

“The idea is to equip our medical students to become self-sufficient professionals who can work in any environment, with a variety of skills that they can lean on wherever they find themselves. We want to produce medical students who are ready to serve, but who do not end up self-sacrificing for the sake of servitude.”

The University’s interprofessional education and collaborative practice (IPECP) model has implicit partnerships within and across disciplines relevant to holistic primary health care, and the medical students will work alongside their peers in other disciplines.

Building the blueprint

While working at Dora Nginza Hospital in Zwide, Prof Zingela – who grew up in Zwide – was invited to become part of a team developing a blueprint for a second medical faculty in the Eastern Cape.

“We studied the viability, how it would happen, and the direction it would take,” she said, noting the significant financial investment needed to set up a Medical School, along with the interaction with other health-care programmes already thriving within the University.

At that stage however, she did not know that in 2021 she would be in Gqeberha, with the blueprint unfolding under her watch. It has been bittersweet.

“It’s wonderful to see everything turned into reality in ways that one would not have imagined. Our first class this year wre very enthusiastic, committed and ready to learn.

“The sad part is that we lost the first Dean, Professor Lungile Pepeta, who saw this literally come to fruition. We owe it to ourselves and to all those we have lost to the pandemic to join hands and lead with hope and clarity of vision to propel the Faculty to even greater heights,” said Prof Zingela.

Invitation to future doctors

She invites potential students to join the Missionvale Medical School family.

“We are committed to your learning, to making sure that by the time you leave this institution you are a well-rounded and capable leader able to go and make a difference in your field.

“This will be seen in how you serve your community in how you practise your chosen profession, in line with the values that you will find entrenched in the Faculty of Health Sciences. These are the same values that are carried in the prestigious name of our institution, Nelson Mandela University.”

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057