Vice Deans work towards quality health care for all

Prof Julia Blitz was appointed to Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching and Dr Therese Fish was reappointed as Deputy Dean: Community Service and Interaction.
“Visionary leaders” is how Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University (SU), described the two Vice Deans recently appointed to the faculty’s management.
 
Dr Therese Fish, who has held the position of Deputy Dean: Community Service and Interaction for two terms, has been reappointed in the renamed portfolio Vice Dean: Clinical Services and Social Impact, and Prof Julia Blitz, an associate professor in the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care since 2011, has been appointed as Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching. Blitz takes over the reins from Prof Marietjie De Villiers who held the previous portfolio of Deputy Dean: Education.
 
During her next term Fish intends to strengthen existing partnerships. “The importance of committed partnerships cannot be underestimated to ensure that as a Faculty our research and our graduates contribute to a health system which enhances universal health care,” says Fish, who was instrumental in the delivery of the first Rural Clinical School in South Africa.
 
“My vision for the post is to align our activities with both the international and national health and development agenda. This resonates with the repositioning of social impact policy in the university through which the university commits itself to reciprocally influence, motivate and activate stakeholders both in the university and in society towards equitable social change,” says Fish.
 
She is a trained medical doctor (MB,ChB) and also holds a Master of Business Administration (cum laude) from SU. She completed a course in Health Policy and Planning at the Nuffield Institute of Health in Leeds, United Kingdom, a Health care Financing Course at the University of Cape Town and a Diploma in Community Health at SU.
 
Blitz believes that her background in Family Medicine and a quarter century of experience in different roles in academia have prepared her for her new role as Vice Dean: Learning and Teaching. She holds BSc and MB,ChB degrees from the University of the Witwatersrand as well as a Master in Prax Med from Medunsa and a post-graduate certificate in Higher Education from the University of Pretoria.
 
“This faculty has a well-established tradition of support for learning and teaching, which positions us well to respond to the current challenges that we face in terms of both our health systems and the South African higher education environment. We also have a strong tradition of research which gives us the ability to construct evidence-based, context-relevant educational responses,” says Blitz. 
 
“We have an imperative to respond to the need for fit-for-purpose medical and health sciences graduates for our country. In order to do that, we need to maintain a process of curriculum renewal so that in addition to identifying relevant outcomes and competencies, we can also put in place the most effective ways to promote students’ learning. In this, it will be important to foster the sort of trusting, respectful and collaborative relationships upon which innovative and responsive learning and teaching activities can be built.
 
“I look forward to engaging with teaching staff, support staff and students as we pursue our mission of producing graduates who are able and willing to advance the health and equality of South Africans,” says Blitz.
 
Wilma Stassen