FHS – A faculty of firsts

Discussions during Walter Sisulu University’s latest instalment in the Global Health Conversations series saw health sciences faculty dean Dr Wezile Chitha disclosing his department’s current status in his presentation “The State of the Faculty Address”.


The fourth edition in this ever-growing series, held at the Mthatha Health Resource Centre recently, saw Chitha duteously unpacking with great detail his faculty’s trials, tribulations and triumphs with industry professionals looking on, wide-eyed with interest and enthusiasm.


WSU’s health sciences faculty has long been revered for its boisterous nature in setting industry standards and, by virtue, earning the tag of being trendsetters.


Chitha’s address was initially premised upon this notoriety, as he listed, to murmurs, applause and nods of approval, the many instances that the faculty has found itself a solitary figure as leaders and innovators in the healthcare industry.


WSU’s health sciences faculty has established itself as the “Faculty of Firsts”:


  • The First Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) in South Africa to introduce Problem-based Learning in medical education;
  • The First FHS in South Africa to introduce community-based education in medical education;
  • The First FHS in South Africa to introduce an undergraduate degree in Health Promotion;
  • The First FHS in South Africa to offer the Clinical Associates Programme;
  • The First FHS in South Africa to establish a Centre for Global Health; and
  • The First FHS in South Africa to introduce the placement of all 5th year medical students in district hospitals for a continuous period of 20 weeks.
  • First health sciences faculty in the country to be a full time member of the organisation called “Towards Unity for Health” – a global network committed to improving the health of the people and their communities.



“The Faculty does not only promote innovation and excellence in teaching, service, applied research and community engagement but serves as a trendsetter in the area of health professionals’ education for equity and social justice,” said Chitha.


Interim Vice Chancellor and Principal Prof Khaya Mfenyana challenged the faculty to push the envelope even further by identifying a community in the Mthatha area which it could adopt as a focal point of its community and problem-based medical education.


“We need to partner with the community to establish a wellness village – identify its problems, conduct needs analysis and feasibility studies, so we can, through this endeavour, craft a through strategy that will seek to address some of the social ills the community faces through the many skills we possess as an academic institute,” said Prof Mfenyana.


By Thando Cezula

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