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29 January 2019 | Story Xolisa Mnukwa | Photo Anja Aucamp
Prof Francis Petersen speech
“We can create an institution that operates and lives in the times of embracing and celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and academic excellence by ensuring that students own their time at university,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

25 January 2019 marked the official welcoming of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) first-year students, as they moved into their respective residences and were warmly welcomed on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus. This day also marked the start of the registration process for first-year students.

According to first-year Psychology student Keisha Claasen, who moved into her residence earlier on 25 January, her first experience of the UFS was daunting but exciting, as she had never been in a similar environment. According to Given Gwerera, who dropped his son off at the Karee residence earlier the day, “the UFS is an institution with great culture and an overall good academic record.” He further explained that he trusts his son to make full use of the opportunities presented to him, as he has a cool head on his shoulders.

On the evening of 25 January, an eager group of millennials, joined by their parents, took the first sip from their cup of varsity life as they assembled on the Red Square of the Bloemfontein Campus to meet the Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Francis Petersen, members of Rectorate, the deans of all faculties, and the Student Representative Council (SRC) of the UFS.

“2019 will be a year of continued change; the UFS is thrilled about the prospect of bringing about opportunities for adaptation and realignment to the future,” said Prof Francis Petersen.

He further explained that the university prides itself in moulding its students into well-rounded individuals who will develop into globally competitive graduates as required in a diversity of landscapes. Prof Petersen urged first-years to remain open to the technological developments that go with globalisation, because of its permanent effects on society today.

First-years were further advised to take advantage of the rich pool of academic research and knowledge that is characteristic of the university and is piloted by UFS scholars, by engaging with and learning from them.

The inspiring night concluded on a colourful note, as the audience enjoyed an artistic laser show in front of the Main Building. Caption:

“UFS academics conduct research that forces the world to take note,” said Prof Francis Petersen at the official first-year welcoming ceremony on the UFS Bloemfontein Campus.

News Archive

Heart diseases a time bomb in Africa, says UFS expert
2010-05-17

 Prof. Francis Smit

There are a lot of cardiac problems in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the largest population of rheumatic heart disease patients in the world and therefore hosts the largest rheumatic heart valve population in the world. They are more than one million, compared to 33 000 in the whole of the industrialised world, says Prof. Francis Smit, Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Free State (UFS).

He delivered an inaugural lecture on the topic Cardiothoracic Surgery: Complex simplicity, or simple complexity?

“We are also sitting on a time bomb of ischemic heart disease with the WHO (World Health Organisation) estimating that CAD (coronary artery disease) will become the number-one killer in our region by 2020. HIV/Aids is expected to go down to number 7.”

Very little is done about it. There is neither a clear nor coordinated programme to address this expected epidemic and CAD is regarded as an expensive disease, confined to Caucasians in the industrialised world. “We are ignoring alarming statistics about incidences of adult obesity, diabetes and endemic hypertension in our black population and a rising incidence of coronary artery interventions and incidents in our indigenous population,” Prof. Smit says.

Outside South Africa – with 44 units – very few units (about seven) perform low volumes of basic cardiac surgery. The South African units at all academic institutions are under severe threat and about 70% of cardiac procedures are performed in the private sector.

He says the main challenge in Africa has become sustainability, which needs to be addressed through education. Cardiothoracic surgery must become part of everyday surgery in Africa through alternative education programmes. That will make this specialty relevant at all levels of healthcare and it must be involved in resource allocation to medicine in general and cardiothoracic surgery specifically.

The African surgeon should make the maximum impact at the lowest possible cost to as many people in a society as possible. “Our training in fields like intensive care and insight into pulmonology, gastroenterology and cardiology give us the possibility of expanding our roles in African medicine. We must also remember that we are trained physicians as well.

“Should people die or suffer tremendously while we can train a group of surgical specialists or retraining general surgeons to expand our impact on cardiothoracic disease in Africa using available technology maybe more creatively? We have made great progress in establishing an African School for Cardiothoracic Surgery.”

Prof. Smit also highlighted the role of the annual Hannes Meyer National Registrar Symposium that culminated in having an eight-strong international panel sponsored by the ICC of EACTS to present a scientific course as well as advanced surgical techniques in conjunction with the Hannes Meyer Symposium in 2010.

Prof. Smit says South Africa is fast becoming the driving force in cardiothoracic surgery in Africa. South Africa is the only country that has the knowledge, technology and skills base to act as the springboard for the development of cardiothoracic surgery in Africa.

South Africa, however, is experiencing its own problems. Mortality has doubled in the years from 1997 to 2005 and half the population in the Free State dies between 40 to 44 years of age.

“If we do not need health professionals to determine the quality and quantity of service delivery to the population and do not want to involve them in this process, we can get rid of them, but then the political leaders making that decision must accept responsibility for the clinical outcomes and life expectancies of their fellow citizens.

“We surely cannot expect to impose the same medical legal principles on professionals working in unsafe hospitals and who have complained and made authorities aware of these conditions than upon those working in functional institutions. Either fixes the institutions or indemnifies medical personnel working in these conditions and defends the decision publicly.

“Why do I have to choose the three out of four patients that cannot have a lifesaving operation and will have to die on their own while the system pretends to deliver treatment to all?”

Prof. Smit says developing a service package with guidelines in the public domain will go a long way towards addressing this issue. It is also about time that we have to admit that things are simply not the same. Standards are deteriorating and training outcomes are or will be affected.

The people who make decisions that affect healthcare service delivery and outcomes, the quality of training platforms and research, in a word, the future of South African medicine, firstly need rules and boundaries. He also suggested that maybe the government should develop health policy in the public domain and then outsource healthcare delivery to people who can actually deliver including thousands of experts employed but ignored by the State at present.

“It is time that we all have to accept our responsibilities at all levels… and act decisively on matters that will determine the quality and quantity of medical care for this and future generations in South Africa and Africa. Time is running out,” Prof. Smit says.
 

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