A new unit to support Masters of Medicine (MMed) students with research projects was recently established at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).
The new MMed Unit of the Research Development and Support Division (RDSD) will also assist in strengthening capacity for supervisors in clinical research.
The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) requires MMed candidates to complete a research component to qualify and register as a medical specialist in South Africa. According to Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, the Deputy Dean of Research at the FMHS, this poses a challenge in the clinical environments for a number of reasons.
“Both the specialist trainees and their supervisors have to invest a significant amount of time whilst already faced with high patient loads. Furthermore, most MMed students have never done any or very little research and they therefore need to improve their research skills,” he explained.
“This is a significant problem, because students who do not submit their research component at the end of their studies cannot be awarded the MMed degree and cannot register as specialists with the HPCSA.”
Distinguished Professor Robert Gie, who retired from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the end of last year, was appointed as head of the new MMed Unit.
“Prof Gie is a well-known and respected clinician researcher,” said Gey van Pittius. “I am grateful that he is willing to plough back many years of experience in clinical research, to ensure that we capacitate and develop the clinician researchers of the future.”
Gie will support all MMed students and their supervisors with research projects, from the planning and implementing phase to the successful completion. He will also be responsible for the development of a plan around the larger support and capacity development of MMed research within the FMHS.
“We are still working on the format of the support, but we envisage dedicated time and space for proposal writing and research for all registrars; the development of modules and courses to enhance research skills; and building the capacity of supervisors and mentors of MMed students to enable them to efficiently guide students,” said Gey van Pittius.“I am looking forward to seeing our MMed research grow from strength to strength in this Faculty, and to many publications emanating from our registrars’ work in future,” he said.