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Change the world


Can Nelson Mandela University’s new medical school contribute healthcare change that benefits communities in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro and Eastern Cape?

The answer is a resounding yes. A major strength of having a medical school and faculty of health sciences is advocacy.

The metro’s clinical healthcare platform, comprising hospitals, community health centres and primary care clinics — where medical students receive their training — is holistically linked with the medical school.

When we push for resources for the medical school, we automatically push for resources for hospitals within the metro.

This serves as an additional strong voice for our communities.

The medical school has representation at local, provincial and national level, such as the SA Committee of Medical Deans which engages with the national department of health and the minister on health matters of national importance.

Recently, when there was a worrying report in the media on critical shortages in the metro’s health institutions, we added our voice to the question of what could be done.

We engaged directly with the Eastern Cape department of health to hear how these problems could be addressed to strengthen the clinical healthcare platform for all departments in the public hospitals and clinics in Nelson Mandela Bay and the rest of the Eastern Cape.

The health department responded with advertisements for urgently needed clinical staff, which is the best way to make a lasting positive change.

From mid-2023, the medical school’s academic departments will be aligned to the clinical departments already in existence in the metro’s health institutions.

This is where the university’s medical students will do their clinical training from fourth year to sixth year.

In preparation for this, several specialists have been appointed as professional and research associates, and the recruitment of academic heads of clinical departments is under way.

The plan is to collaborate with the department of health to have joint appointments of staff to run the clinical services in the hospitals and clinics while also teaching fourth- to sixth-year students.

This will add impetus to the recruitment of much-needed health services staff in the metro.

Community engagement is a crucial part of how we teach and learn, and it is important to ensure our students adopt the ethos of “learn as we serve” and “serve as we learn”.

This interaction is key to ensuring we deliver on the social compact we have with the communities we serve and live in.

The medical school is deliberately situated on the Missionvale Campus for accessibility.

It also means young people growing up in the townships and nearby rural communities can live the dream of having access to a medical school within their reach and include the choice to study medicine as a realistic part of their plans.

We make sure the majority of students accepted into the medical programme are students from quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools, with emphasis on the Eastern Cape.

All of NMU’s medical students do community visits from their first year, starting with home visits.

This gives them insight into the communities they serve and the healthcare challenges they face.

In the third year, the students learn how to do a clinical examination and procedural skills to prepare them for their clinical years.

The idea is to get them ready to visit clinics and emergency departments, and to assist with doing observations such as blood pressure, weight and urine tests.

From the fourth year, the students will rotate at community clinics and district hospitals in Nelson Mandela Bay and some rural areas of the Eastern Cape, including Makhanda, Humansdorp and Graaff-Reinet.

In addition to the school, NMU has numerous health science departments in the faculty, all of which have community engagement projects.

Departments include nursing, emergency medical care, psychology, social work, human nutrition and dietetics, radiography, pharmacy, human movement science, medical laboratory science and environmental health.

Our approach is interdisciplinary and all our health sciences students recognise each other’s professions as equally important to the holistic treatment of patients.

We teach students to take a “whole life” view of a person’s health status, who they are, and where and how they live.

In the case of children, we include the role parents/caregivers and teachers play in the child’s health.

We teach students how to communicate and interact with patients, teachers and parents/caregivers from all communities to get the whole picture about how to help that person manage their problems as we support them with treatment.

Several communities in the Bay are visited by our Zanempilo mobile health clinic, with students from health sciences to assist in this community health care.

The Zanempilo mobile clinic has examination and counselling rooms.

Healthcare services are offered weekly in Seaview, Kleinskool and Fairview, and at certain shopping centres.

Community services extend to the field of mental health.

The clinics on the South Campus in Summerstrand and the Missionvale Campus provide access to therapy for all community members.

The KaziBantu project in the department of human movement science is designed to improve the health, nutrition and physical activity of schoolchildren and teachers.

Knowing how poor nutrition and inactivity negatively affect children’s ability to achieve in the classroom and reach their full potential, we do our part through this project in supporting communities to address these health challenges.

These are just some of the community engagement initiatives the faculty of health sciences has in the different disciplines.

Adding the new medical school expands the university’s input and contribution to the community.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 21 September 2022 written by Prof Zukiswa Zingela, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Nelson Mandela University


Contact information
Prof Zukiswa Zingela
Executive Dean
Tel: 041 504 2815