#8 Building a career in HPE with Vanessa Burch

In this wide-ranging conversation, Vanessa and I discuss her 25 years in health professions education and research. We look at the changes that have taken place in the domain over the past 5-10 years and how this has impacted the opportunities available for South African health professions educators in the early stages of their careers.

“That for me is probably the most rewarding thing about my own career; not what I’ve achieved but what I’ve seen others achieve.”

In this episode, we take a slightly different perspective to the topic of health professions education. Instead of speaking to someone who has completed a PhD in HPE, I talk to Vanessa Burch, who has spent almost all of her career establishing HPE as a field of study in the South African context.

Vanessa has a National Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award from the Council of Higher Education and the Higher Education Learning and Teaching Association of South Africa (HELTASA), and holds a Teaching at University (TAU) fellowship from the Council for Higher Education of South Africa. She is a Deputy Editor at the journal Medical Education, and Associate Editor of Advances in Health Sciences Education. Vanessa was Professor and Chair of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cape Town from 2008-2018, and is currently Honorary Professor of Medicine at UCT. She works as an educational consultant to the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.

In this wide-ranging conversation, Vanessa and I discuss her 25 years in health professions education and research. We look at the changes that have taken place in the domain over the past 5-10 years and how this has impacted the opportunities available for South African health professions educators in the early stages of their careers. We talk about developing the confidence to approach people you may want to work with, from the days when you had to be physically present at a conference workshop, to explore novel ways to connect with colleagues in a networked world. We discuss Vanessa’s role in establishing the Southern African FAIMER Regional Institute (SAFRI), as well as the African Journal of Health Professions Education (AJHPE) and what we might consider when presented with opportunities to drive change in the profession.

Finally, we talk about Vanessa’s method of writing. As a prolific researcher and author, I thought it’d be useful to learn how she approaches writing and publishing, and she shares some really practical advice on how to write intentionally. Even though we didn’t cover Vanessa’s own research interests, you can get a sense of her research activity by visiting her profiles at ResearchGate, LinkedIn and Google Scholar.