Former rector chairs committee to probe viability of a NWU Medical School

Annette Willemse -- Fri, 12/04/2015 - 14:07

Former rector chairs committee to probe viability of a NWU Medical School

South Africa needs to train more doctors and it seems as if the North-West University (NWU) may step up and fill this void in the near future.

This is according to Prof Thanyani Mariba, former Rector of the Vaal Triangle Campus and Chairperson of the NWU Medical School Committee.  According to Prof Mariba the University is already a well-established research university that can only be enhanced by sharing technology, improving health outcomes and using resources more effectively and efficiently.


Prof Thanyani Mariba, former Rector of the Vaal Triangle Campus and
Chairperson of the NWU Medical School Committee


Rumors about a medical school for the University have been the source of great excitement for many years and more recently, the NWU Medical School Committee has been appointed to investigate the viability of establishing such a facility. Other members of the committee include Prof Mashudu Davhana-Maselesele, Rector of the Mafikeng Campus; Prof Awie Kotze, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences on the Potchefstroom Campus and Hannes Malan-Scriber of the Institutional Office. External members include representatives from the Provincial Health Department, Sefako Makgotho Health Sciences University and the Wits Medical School.This very capable committee is already in negotiations with government and other important role-players to make the dream of an NWU Medical School a reality.

The committee was appointed by the new Head of the Department of Health of the North West Province, Dr Andrew Lekalakala, earlier in 2015.

Government an important role-player

There is no doubt that the establishment of a medical school in the province will alleviate the low doctor-patient ratios in this province and in South Africa. We know that the establishment of a medical school is an expensive exercise for the NWU, the province and the country, but training outside South Africa, for example in Cuba, is even more expensive,” says Prof Thanyani.

“This is why I cannot overemphasise the need for close collaboration between the university and government. Neither the government nor the university can establish the facility on their own because of the huge expenses involved.”

He says the North West Province Department of Health already has a committee, called the North West Department of Health Services Committee. This committee has published a document which suggests that the province must work on establishing a medical school with tertiary hospitals in Klerksdorp and Rustenburg.

Great benefits for the NWU

The university already has a Faculty of Health Sciences and the founding of a medical school will improve the utilisation of some expensive research equipment. The research and training that would be done at the medical school would result in publications in high-impact journals, enhanced status and increased funding from government in terms of subsidy and student fees.

Two options to choose from

The choice of curriculum will have major resource implications in terms of staff and facilities. There are basically two types of curricula that are considered for the medical school: 

  • Traditional six-year curriculum: The traditional six-year post-matric curriculum, that is the outcome-based, student and patient-centered curriculum that most medical schools are using in South Africa.
  • A postgraduate four-year medical course which Wits introduced a few years ago as a second stream of medical training. This is tailored for graduate students. Taiwan has a similar programme, and Swaziland is sending a number of graduate students there to study medicine.

As this is purely an academic curriculum issue, the NWU will have to investigate each of these programmes and decide which one to adopt. The decision on the curriculum will also influence the facility and staff needs. Inputs from Wits and Sefako Makgatho will assist with the decision on the curriculum, seeing that both groups are already members of the provincial committee.