Best publication award 2018

This award is made for a full-length article or a chapter, published in the five years to 31 Dec of the previous year, with a South African first author. (This will change in 2019 with Zimbabwe joining as a region). This year, for the first time, a joint award was made.

Müller, A. (2013). Teaching lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health in a South African health sciences faculty: addressing the gap. BMC Medical Education, 13: 174.

This publication summarises empirical research on the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity-related health disparities and health concerns in the health sciences curricula at the University of Cape Town. Understanding the exclusion of these topics has direct practical relevance to South African health professions education: sexual orientation and gender identity are important social determinants of health (Logie, 2012; Pega and Veale, 2015), and healthcare providers thus need the knowledge, attitudes and practical skills to provide competent care to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients. The American Association of Colleges of Medicine released a detailed guide on how to integrate topics related to sexual orientation and gender identity into medical curricula (Eckstrand and Sciolla, 2014). Understanding the current gaps in our curricula is the first step full-length curriculum reform that meaningfully incorporates these topics.

Badenhorst, E., & Kapp, R. (2013). Negotiation of learning and identity among first-year medical students. Teaching in Higher Education, 18(5), 465-476.

This paper addresses the identity shifts that students in an academic development programme undergo.  Whilst such programmes endeavour to support the notion of widening access, and thereby offering students support to overcome learning barriers, cognisance should be taken of the psychological toll this has on students’ well being.  The transition from school to university poses particular problems, specifically with regards to alienation.  Many students encounter an unfamiliar dominant academic culture that does not foster a sense of belonging. Educators should be aware the alienation could impact negatively on students’ performance – especially if these students are further put into support programmes that separate learning activities from the majority of the student body.

Prof. Fatima Suleman – Winner of the 2018 Distinguished Educator Award

The 2018 SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award was made to Prof Fatima Suleman. Fatima is Professor in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, in the School of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She has demonstrated a commitment to the development of teaching, mentoring and supervision skills in new academics and assisting other academics with developing their Teaching Portfolios for Performance Management and Promotion. She has developed international partnerships for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, within and beyond Africa. At UKZN, she conceptualized and coordinated the development of two completely online Masters programmes in Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Fatima has been involved in various international grants to develop health professions education. With a NORHED grant, she facilitated the development of online or blended Masters programmes in Mozambique and Malawi; she was involved in the Medical Education Partnership Initiative grant; she was a panel member on WHO Technical Working Group on Health Workforce Education; and Principle Investigator Council for AFREhealth.

Other awards she has garnered include the Distinguished Teacher Award for UKZN in 2010; the Distinguished Teacher award by Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa in 2011; and a TAU Fellowship 2015 (Teaching Advancement at University (TAU) Fellowships).

SAAHE 2016 Distinguished Educator announced

It is with great pleasure and pride that we award the 2016 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award to Professor Marietjie de Villiers, from the Family Medicine and Primary Care Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.


From the nomination:

A true health professions educator is one who facilitates learning in every possible way from introducing a group of excited first-year students to the field of medicine, through supporting postgraduate students in their endeavours to become masters of their craft, to engaging a group of practicing clinicians around their continued professional learning. In addition, a true educator functions as advocate and activist for learning and teaching, challenges accepted norms with a view to enhancing teaching practice, and fosters the establishment of enabling environments where potentially transformative learning can take place. Marietjie de Villiers is such an educator. In a career of over 35 years (23 in academic medicine at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University), Professor de Villiers progressed from being a lecturer to full Professor in 11 years and to Deputy Dean: Education in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in 2006. More importantly, however, she has been the catalyst for a whole range of learning and teaching innovations and projects that through the years have established the FMHS as a pioneer in the field of medical and health professions education. Her work is characterised by a dedication and commitment to her students and the staff with whom she works, and is informed by an enduring commitment to the provision of quality health outcomes within a socially just context. In this submission, we track the career of this remarkable educator and teacher, and present it as motivation for why she would be a worthy winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator award.

After matriculation at the Paarl Gymnasium in 1973, Marietjie spent a year at the SA Women’s Army College in George before embarking on her medical degree at Stellenbosch University in 1975. After graduation and internship she joined a general practice in Kuilsriver in the Western Cape before moving to Mfuleni where she worked in the local township for six years spurred on by a commitment during the apartheid years to care for the poor and the oppressed. As teacher at heart, however, she eventually took up a position in the FMHS at SU in 1993 having obtained her Master’s degree in Family Medicine (1988). Later she obtained her PhD in Family Medicine which focussed on the development of content and appropriate methods for maintenance of competence for generalist medical practitioners working in rural areas (2004), which was the first research on rural medicine in South Africa at the time

It is, however, her work in educational leadership and management – at faculty, institutional, national and international level – that sets Marietjie de Villiers apart as advocate for health professions education. Prof de Villiers is not only an educator who makes things happen, she is also a teaching scholar and is regularly called upon to present plenaries at national and international scientific meetings. More than 25 of her peer-reviewed publications focus on an aspect of education, with community based education being a strong theme in her research. She regularly presents her work at local and international health professions education conferences and has attended ten SAAHE meetings and conferences through the years. She was the FMHS representative on SAAME (the SAAHE precursor) and led the transition from SAAME to SAAHE at the FMHS at the time.

Prof de Villiers has earned international, African and national standing as a leader in health professions education. She has presented 172 papers at international and national conferences, and published 89 publications of which 40 original research articles and 12 book chapters. Marietjie de Villiers is a believer – she believes in people, she believes in the power of education to influence health outcomes, and she believes in South Africa. In 2007 she co-authored an article in Medical Teacher entitled: Medical Education in South Africa: Exciting times. The closing paragraph in that article says the following:

Despite all the odds, medical education in South Africa continues to produce excellent doctors using up to date educational strategies. We are proud of our political, economic and social changes. We are not complacent about further changes that need to take place. Watch this space and watch this country.

Since the publication of that article, Marietjie has continued to strive towards effecting the ‘further changes’ that are needed in health professions education on the African continent, influencing practice in the FMHS and beyond, doing so in a generative and meaningful way, taking others with her along the way. There can be no doubt that she would be a worthy winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award in 2016.

2015 SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award

Update: the deadline for the 2015 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award has been extended to 30th June. Please download the nomination form below.

I am happy to announce that applications for the 2015 SAAHE Distinguished Educator Award are now being accepted.

The annual SAAHE distinguished educator award recognises an academic in health science education who has made a significant contribution either in teaching in the health sciences or who has contributed to the development of scholarship in the discipline of health science education. The award seeks to recognise excellence at a national level and to create awareness of what constitutes excellence in health science education.

Click here to download the nomination form. Note that applicants are asked to pay particular attention to the scoring rubric on page 3 of the form, and to ensure that your submission addresses these items.

Winner of the SAAHE Distinguished Educator award


It is with great pleasure that SAAHE congratulates Professor Ian Couper as the winner of the 2014 SAAHE Distinguished Educator award. In recognition of his tireless efforts and significant contribution to health professions education in South Africa and abroad, Professor Couper is invited to present a special address at the 2014 SAAHE conference.

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Julia Blitz and Abigail Dreyer for nominating Prof. Couper, and for writing the text for this post.

Professor Ian Couper - SAAHE Dinstinguished Educator for 2014.
Professor Ian Couper – SAAHE Dinstinguished Educator for 2014.

Ian Couper, Professor and Director of the Centre for Rural Health at the University of the Witwatersrand has long been seen as a maverick. He started contributing to a community of practice in 1988 when he completed his internship at Livingstone Hospital. His service as a doctor extended to Dora Nginza Hospital in Port Elizabeth, Paraguay, South America, and Boksburg-Benoni Hospital. His time spent at Manguzi Hospital in Northern KwaZulu-Natal demonstrated his commitment to rural health care where he inspired and supported many others working at this facility to improve community health and where he engaged directly in primary health care planning. During this time he also became involved as a part-time lecturer in the distance-based Masters in Family Medicine programme of Medunsa, a programme that produced many leaders in both family medicine and health professions education in South Africa, subsequently moving to work as a joint appointee of Medunsa and the North West Province. From July 2002, Ian has been at the Centre for Rural Health at Wits and Principal Specialist for Rural Medicine in the North West Province. His work has been acknowledged in the form of significant awards that have demonstrated his individual achievements but also the achievements of the team he leads.

In 2003, the team established a scholarship scheme, the Wits Initiative for Rural Health Education (WIRHE), for disadvantaged rural students who want to become health professionals, in partnership with the North West provincial department of health. Students are linked to their local district facilities, working there during their vacations, are supported and mentored during their training, and are required to work back in their districts on completion of their studies. By the end of 2012, there were 33 graduates already serving their communities, or completing internships prior to undertaking this service, and 57 students being supported across 7 health science programs. In 2007, the Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award for Academic Citizenship was received from University of the Witwatersrand for this programme. In 2008, he received an Honorary chieftainship awarded by the Okoyong Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs in Nigeria, for his role in supporting Calibre to host the 8 th WONCA World Rural health conference as well as his ongoing contribution to rural health care internationally.

In 2008, the Vice-Chancellor’s Team Teaching Award was received for the Integrated Primary Care block at Wits. The Integrated Primary Care (IPC) rotation is a unique 6-week clerkship for final year medical students, which integrates the learning from all other disciplines at primary care level, in rural and underserved sites, with a focus on the management of patient problems rather than disease, in the context of understanding and seeking to improve health systems and the health of communities. Seven departments in the faculty work together to deliver this program, under his leadership. With this support, the IPC rotation has been adapted and is being used in district-based medical student rotations in two other countries in the region, at the University of Malawi College of Medicine and the Universidade Catolica de Mozambique in Beira. The IPC rotation continues to be innovative, constantly experimenting with new approaches to learning for and assessment of medical students.

In 2012, the Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award for Academic Citizenship was received by the Rural Health Advocacy Project (RHAP). In cooperation with the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) and the AIDS Law Project, the Centre for Rural Health has launched an Advocacy Project. The aim of the project is to address specific identified high priority issues in rural health in South Africa by systematically bringing them to the attention of relevant stakeholders in order to achieve measurable improvements in rural health services. This is done through providing a voice for rural health care workers and patients, Rural-Proofing Policies, examining the financing of health care, addressing the Human Resource needs of rural communities, and monitoring the implementation of policies. In addition to chairing the steering committee, Ian’s particular contributions are in the areas of human resource development and research.

Ian was involved nationally in developing the curriculum framework for the Clinical Associates (midlevel medical workers), launched in 2009. This involves students becoming involved in patient care at district hospital level from early in their first year and integrating theoretical input (including basic sciences) around patient problems, with a single integrated course being delivered per year. Ian led the development of the Bachelor of Clinical Medical Practice (BCMP) degree at University of Witwatersrand with the team of staff who received the Vice-Chancellor’s Team Teaching Award in 2013. The curriculum objectives are structured around the needs of district hospitals, based on a national collaboration. The programme places medical and clinical associate students in remote and rural areas, where they are supported by a network of local generalist medical and nurse practitioners. In one of these sites, Lehurutshe Community Hospital, the team has established a district training centre, in collaboration with the North West provincial department of health, where students from a range of programs – medical, clinical associate, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and dentistry – are accommodated and can learn together. This model is being rolled out to other districts.

Ian initiated the adaptation and roll out of two educational programmes for practising rural doctors in South Africa, viz. a neonatal resuscitation training program and the Basic Emergency Skills Training (BEST) program, in collaboration with Australian and local colleagues. Both followed a training-the-trainers model by identifying and equipping locally based trainers who have continued to provide the training to doctors and nurses in their districts, with minimal fees involved. This demonstrates his Midas-touch when it comes to the teaching, development of teaching expertise, the innovative educational processes and the development of excellent educators in the team. Ian has been a visiting professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, and the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, and an adjunct faculty member of James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. He has been invited to conducted evaluations of educational programmes at Flinders University (2006) and at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Canada (2008). He is a founding member of the Collaboration for Health Equity through Education and Research (CHEER),which has advanced the cause of education for equity in health care in South Africa and developed a peer review approach to cross-institutional learning and development.

Recently he was one of only seven recipients of an international Special Award for Outstanding Health Professional Educators, presented by the annual Prince Mahidol Award Conference (PMAC) 2014, in Pattaya, Thailand. Upon receiving this Award Ian was quoted as saying: “The Centre for Rural Health is seeking to develop and nurture STAR health workers in rural areas, through Service support, Training, Advocacy and Research in rural health care, thus impacting on the health of rural people. I could not have done it without the team and the award is a reflection on the people I am privileged to work with!”

Ian has helped to develop the field of medical education by advancing and delivering on the concepts of community based medical education, service learning, and aligning the curriculum and schools’ programs with priority health needs in South Africa, particularly rural areas. Recently he was approached by Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University to develop a blueprint for the creation of a new medical school which would deliver on these fundamental concepts, and is part of a team developing a plan for a health professions school in the North West province on behalf of the provincial Department of Health. He is a member of the editorial team that, over the last 5 years, has developed an international Guidebook on Rural Medical Education, with 71 chapters written by 74 volunteer authors (including himself), which launched this month (April 2014) as a free, open access, online educational resource.

He currently serves on 5 different faculty committees at the university and contributes to the leadership on these committees with tireless engagement. He has a record of 66 publications, membership of 5 professional organisations, and has delivered over 50 presentations at local and international conference in the last three years, many of these as an invited keynote speaker. The projects and awards received demonstrate Ian Couper’s leadership impact and his contribution to teaching and administration of the discipline of health science education in South Africa. It is the teaching he does in the classroom, the field, the boardroom and the office that really warrants him receiving this award.


SAAHE Distinguished Educator and Research awards

Update: The deadline for nominations has been extended to 11th March. Please ensure that your nominations are submitted by midnight.

The annual SAAHE distinguished educator award recognises an academic in health science education who has made a significant contribution either in teaching in the health sciences or who has contributed to the development of scholarship in the discipline of health science education. The award seeks to recognise excellence at a national level and to create awareness of what constitutes excellence in health science education.

It’s that time of year again when we are accepting nominations for the SAAHE Distinguished Educator and Research awards. Please download a nomination form below and let us know who you think is most deserving of this recognition.

The closing date for nominations is the 31st March, 2014 and winners will be announced at the 2014 conference. Please submit completed nomination forms to Michael Rowe (

Click on the links below to download the relevant forms: