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22 October 2020 | Story Andre Damons | Photo Supplied
Dr Marankie Swinfen was awarded the Dean’s medal for achieving the best results in respect of a master’s degree in the Faculty of Health Sciences during the year 2019.

Dr Marankie Swinfen, who was awarded the Dean’s medal in the faculty of Health Sciences of the University of the Free State (UFS) at the recent virtual graduation (6-9 October 2020), says she was completely surprised by this award and was unaware that it existed. 

Dr Swinfen, who teaches Clinical Skills to second- and third-year medical students at the UFS and received a master’s degree in Health Professions Education, says the road to obtaining her qualification was quite a bumpy ride and difficult at times.

The Dean’s medal is awarded to the student who achieved the best results in respect of a master’s degree in the Faculty of Health Sciences during the year 2019. 

“Through God’s grace, the patience of my supervisors and an eleventh hour burst of energy I managed to reach the goal,” says Dr Swinfen. 

In her dissertation title; A Student Review of Doctor Patient Communication Skills Training in The UFS Undergraduate Medical Programme she asked medical students to review the training of doctor-patient communication skills during their undergraduate programme. 

Students gave valuable insights

Says Dr Swinfen: “I was pleasantly surprised at the response rate and the students’ level of engagement in the study. They gave valuable insights into the strengths of the communication skills training and highlighted areas where the training can be improved. For instance, they accentuated the need to have more practical training in breaking bad news and managing language and cultural differences in the consultation.” 

According to Dr Swinfen she undertook this study because as an undergraduate medical student, she never formally received training in doctor-patient communication. During her postgraduate diploma in Palliative Medicine, they had role-play sessions in breaking bad news, which opened her eyes to the importance of practical, interactive communication skills training. 

“I wanted to explore how useful students find aspects of doctor-patient communication skills training in the current UFS undergraduate medical training programme.”

Challenges on her journey 

Dr Swinfen says the biggest struggle for her during her studies, was self-discipline and setting aside enough time for research. She also had formal modules to complete and found that she would devote more time and energy to these modules than to research (Especially due to having inspirational teachers such as Dr Chantel van Wyk at HPE).  

“I also had become very rusty in terms of research methodology and had to start again with the ‘ABC’ of research. I was greatly helped by Postgraduate School courses such as using Microsoft Word in research. My supervisors, Prof Mathys Labuschagne and Prof Gina Joubert had immense patience with me and saw potential in my research that I could often not see myself.”

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