22 February 2022 | Story Lacea Loader | Photo Sonia Small (Kaleidoscope Studios)
Dr Nicholas Pearce
Dr Nicholas Pearce, Head of the Department of Surgery, and recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal.

At a meeting held on 26 November 2021, the Council of the University of the Free State (UFS) approved the awarding of the UFS Chancellor’s Medal for outstanding service to Dr Nicholas Pearce, Head of the Department of Surgery in the Faculty of Health Sciences. 

Heading the Free State Province COVID-19 Task Team 

Dr Pearce completed his undergraduate medical studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2002 before pursuing an MMed, FCS (SA) in Surgery and a Vascular Fellowship at the UFS. Since 2003, he has been employed at the Universitas Hospital in various capacities and was the Head of the Department of Surgery at the UFS, before heading the COVID-19 Task Team at the Universitas National Hospital in Bloemfontein and sitting on various national and provincial COVID-19 task teams. 

From the onset of the pandemic, Dr Pearce was one of the champions who worked with a team of colleagues to address the COVID-19 needs of the UFS community, Bloemfontein, and the Free State. His leadership and drive during the initial stages of the pandemic, and continuously thereafter, ensured the successful roll-out of treatment plans and the training of staff and students for the comprehensive management programme (vaccination, treatment, screening, etc.) in the Free State.

Dr Pearce was convinced that it was critical to vaccinate not only front-line healthcare workers, but all members of society as well as the university community, to prevent staff members from getting ill and reducing the workforce behind the fight against the virus. He has also been instrumental in finalising clinical environment policies for hand hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), patient visits, referrals, and procedures in various clinical environments. Dr Pearce visited all the Free State health institutions to provide expert advice on readiness to accommodate COVID-19 patients, resources and equipment, dedicated wards, and overall plan implementation.

Advisory role to Free State and Northern Cape governments on COVID-19
Dr Nicholas Pearce played a key role in establishing and implementing the Free State vaccination programme.

Dr Pearce played a key role in establishing and implementing the Free State vaccination programme by training staff in PPE use, high care, theatre, and intensive care unit protocols. In addition, he advised the MEC for Health in the Free State on field hospitals and assisted the Northern Cape Province with advice. During a period of high demand and low supply, Dr Pearce ensured the acquisition of masks, sanitiser, gloves, and visors for hospital and faculty staff and students who worked in clinical areas. 

The university recognises and commends his valuable contribution and outstanding service at community, local, and national level. His dedication has optimised the safety of health-care workers as well as the patients they care for.

“Thank you to the university community for this great honour; I feel humbled by receiving such a prestigious acknowledgement. It would be amiss if I did not acknowledge the teams that I have led and the support I received from the University of the Free State, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Department of Health in the Free State in my endeavours. With teamwork, so much can be achieved – our endeavours are summed up in the concept of the Batho Pele (People First) approach,” said Dr Pearce.

The Chancellor’s Medal will be presented to Dr Pearce during a graduation ceremony in 2022.

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