A team comprising academics and professional services staff from three of the four Schools within UKZN’s College of Health Sciences (CHS) came together in a workshop to start reimagining what it would take to produce not only agile and fit-for-purpose but also future-ready medical doctors to address South Africa’s context-specific public health needs.
These include working within a dynamic healthcare system, emergency preparedness and access to care.
The Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine is known for producing highly competent medical doctors and this is reflected in its academics and alumni’s impressive achievements over the years. In terms of programme design, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) students have to navigate a comprehensive curriculum that involves training offered by the Schools of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, Nursing and Public Health, and Clinical Medicine.
It is critical to remain abreast of new developments and renew the curriculum’s content, process and outcomes. The workshop, which aimed to begin this journey, included participants from UKZN’s MBChB Curriculum Task Team, the MBChB Coordinating Committee, heads of departments in the Disciplines teaching in the MBChB programme, Module Coordinators for all years, student representatives, and representatives of the Department of Health (DoH).
The facilitators, who adopted a participatory approach, were Professors Dianne Manning (Emeritus Professor for health professions education at the University of Pretoria) and Julia Blitz (retired Deputy Dean from Stellenbosch University) and the Head of UKZN’s Family Medicine Department, Professor Bernhard Gaede who is the Convener of the MBChB Curriculum Review Task Team. Gaede said the time has come to begin a process to renew the current programme to train fit-for-purpose doctors for the rapidly-changing healthcare environment.
‘As educators, we are entrusted with a profound responsibility to shape the future. Our curriculum serves as the blueprint for that future, influencing the minds and hearts of the next generation. We need to commit to refining and enhancing it to better meet the needs of our students and the broader society that we serve,’ said Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the CHS, Professor Busisiwe Ncama in her welcome address. She reminded attendees about UKZN’s 2014 Memorandum of Understanding with the KwaZulu-Natal DoH on community-based training in a Primary Health Care (PHC) Model (CBTPHCM). This requires a PHC-driven curriculum, accelerated PHC research, and decentralised clinical teaching platforms to train health science professionals, which the CHS has implemented. These and other positive developments in the current MBChB programme were acknowledged at the workshop.
The workshop was attended by all three Deans and Heads of Schools involved in the MBChB offering, Professors Ncoza Dlova, Musa Mabandla and Anna Voce. Ncama said she was excited about future possibilities. ‘I am grateful for your commitment to a more equitable and effective healthcare system. Let us embark on this journey of innovation, education, and healthcare transformation together.’
The participants agreed that engaging over two days was not enough, but worthwhile in terms of vision-boarding the MBChB curriculum.
In closing the workshop, Gaede said: ‘It is exciting to see the energy that this workshop has created – it is clear that there is a need to include the whole range of competencies outlined by the Health Professions Council of South Africa more explicitly in training our graduates such as communication, health advocacy and leadership, which go beyond a biomedical focus.
‘We need to create space for aspects like the electives where students have greater choice in their areas of interest, traditional health approaches and developing meaningful relationships with patients and communities. This resonates strongly with the University’s focus on improving the student experience and strengthening our commitment to social justice.’
Words: Lunga Memela
Photograph: Sethu Dlamini