Nelson Mandela University is a comprehensive university situated in multiple campuses in Port Elizabeth and George.

The university has a fairly large Faculty of Health Sciences with about 4000 students in ten departments. All these departments, through our Interprofessional Education (IPE) project with the theme: transforming health sciences education to support equity in health’; work together in an integrated learning, research and health service delivery platform in serving communities that are in need.

This is the same approach that has been recommended by both the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Health (NDOH). Under our IPE projects, we have a university-sponsored mobile clinic called ‘Zanempilo’ (‘bringing health’), and are very involved in the the Phelophepha Train Support initiative. There is also a faculty-initiated and driven Interprofessional Health Research Network (IPHRN). This research network focuses on interdepartmental research and mentoring of budding researchers by established faculty researchers in an integrated fashion.

The Missionvale Campus runs the ‘Zanokhanyo’ (‘bring light’) Clinic that focuses on developmental assessment and management of behavioural problems in children, occupational health and rehabilitation of needy communities in Zwide, Missionvale, Algoa Park and other communities of the Port Elizabeth Metropole.

Another flagship project of the faculty is the Disease, Activity and Schoolchildren’s Health (DASH) project, which addresses peri-urban health issues with particular focus on the health and well-being of school children and their teachers in previously disadvantaged and resource-deplete schools. This project runs in collaboration with Basel University in Switzerland and is currently funded by Novartis. Out of this project, students from various departments of the faculty and those from Basel University have obtained and continue to have sponsored studies in honours, masters and doctorates through both universities.

The faculty, together with Faculties of Education and Science; engages in initiatives that are geared towards improving high school performance of learners in Mathematics and Science to improve access to graduate programmes at the university. Other interfaculty (transdisciplinary) initiatives include concentration on service learning, research and community engagement projects. These include the tablet and mobile phone health education apps through the Centre for Community Technologies in the Department of Information Technology. They also include the Community Aquaponics Garden on the Missionvale Campus that produces green vegetables and fish that are supplied to resource-deplete schools in the townships of Port Elizabeth.

We hope to expand all these projects in line with the vision and mission of the United Nations’ Global Sustainable Development Goals, National Development Plan ‘vision 2030’ of the Republic of South Africa, Strategic Goals and 5-year Plans of NDOH and DHET.

Most exciting is that plans are far advanced towards the establishment of a Medical Practitioner training programme which is set to commence in 2020 – part of the development of our Medical School, the 10th in South Africa.

In our agenda of ‘recurriculation’ and ‘Africanization’ of our programmes, and in training health practitioners that are ‘fit-for-purpose’, we are revisiting the training platform of all our students. We must ensure that health practitioners (including medical practitioners) are trained in the setting where they are most needed, i.e., in the primary healthcare setting.

We need to embrace and be part of all these initiatives together as a family; as Madiba once cautioned: The important thing is that no single person can do everything.’ (June 2001).

Your Dean

Professor Lungile Pepeta

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