Becoming a Professional


Supporting Public Health in South Africa 

In the first year medical students complete a 32 credit module, Becoming a Professional (BAP), which is an integrated, multidisciplinary module which provides students with basic knowledge and skills in their learning path within academia. 

With MEPI support, the value of education and research within the Discipline of Public Health Medicine is being further enhanced. Here’s how…


Undergraduate Medical Education 

The BAP module for first year medical students has been strengthened by focusing on graduate attributes from first year by building foundation concepts and skills.


‘HIV and MeWorkshops

Conducted since  2012, these have since been reinforced by offering training for the facilitators. The workshops comprise of five two-hour sessions with the first focusing on building self- awareness, discovery and creativity whilst practising active listening skills in first year students. 

During the 5th workshop ‘Accepting, Coping, and Living with HIV & AIDS’, people living positively with HIV engaged the class with their story whilst people representing the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Intersex (LGBTI) community shared their insights with students. 

Student discomfort and responses varied, demonstrating the importance of this exposure for students early in their medical training and necessitated a separate focus on ‘classroom etiquette’.  This proved to be a difficult but very important issue to address and will become part of this programme in the future. 

One of the objectives of these workshops is to ‘Know my Status’ resulting in more than 2/3 of the class being  tested and now know their HIV status.


Making a Difference: Group community service activity. 

Students interviewed strongly voiced the value of this experience in bridging theory and practice. This includes an electronic journaling assignment in which students reflect on their understanding of health and disease after interviewing community members, as well as reflecting on either good or bad emotive experiences. Reflective learning is a key graduate attribute enhancing scholarly competence.


The Selectives Programme 

Here the skills of medical students are developed within a population perspective on health utilising a community oriented primary care approach (COPC). Selectives addressed many of the ‘core-competencies’ or graduate attributes required in SA. The objectives and assignments have been refined this year ensure compliance with these. Reflective journaling has also been introduced. All assignments, assessments and student feedback are submitted electronically – a truly successful paperless programme.


Postgraduate Education 

Postgraduate students have benefitted from the following learning opportunities: 

  • A module on Qualitative Research offered to 30 graduate students and co-convened by a MEPI appointee.
  • PhD Training Cohort: Quarterly week-long workshops have been conducted for students and well attended by local and international students and UKZN staff, which proved to be an excellent example of adult learning in research methods.


MEPI Lecturer/Research Contributions 

Valuable contributions by MEPI lecturers and researchers towards improving the quality of education of healthcare professionals include: 

  • Contribution to orientation activities for all health science students;
  • Reviewing and strengthening first-year community service student and facilitator activities;
  • Building transformational learning and problem-solving skills in medical students;
  • Conducting literature reviews and gathering evidence with respect to curriculum enhancement;
  • Promoting focus on reflective skills for medical students and design of curriculum components;  and
  • Engaging in research activities, including the quarterly journal club on medical education, participating in teaching and learning conferences and assessing social accountability at UKZN. 


Abstract 1[1]  

‘HIV and Me’: An HIV, AIDS and sexuality education programme for first year medical students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2012.



The province of KwaZulu-Natal has the highest burden of HIV and AIDS in South Africa with an estimated HIV prevalence rate of 27.9% amongst people of reproductive ages between 15 and 49 years, and 3.4% amongst university students, according to the latest HIV report. 

Against this background, a series of four workshops on HIV, AIDS and sexuality were conducted with 208 first-year medical students at UKZN during their first two weeks of study. 

Facilitated groups of 10 students using innovative and participatory methods covered topics that included myths and realities about HIV and AIDS, attitudes and stigma to AIDS and sexuality, practical HIV prevention strategies, accepting, coping and living with HIV and AIDS.



Qualitative and quantitative data was obtained from these students as part of on-going education programme evaluation using ‘Moodle’ - a free open-source learning management system or e-Learning platform, that serves educators and learners across the globe. 



A pre-workshop evaluation revealed that only 30% of the students had been tested for HIV. Misconceptions abounded; 42% were not sure that HIV could be transmitted through oral sex and a quarter of those sexually active had unprotected sex. After the workshops evaluations showed a substantial increase in knowledge about HIV and AIDS as well as changes in perceptions. 

Students valued the opportunity to learn more about sexuality and AIDS and many indicated their intention to be HIV tested.



An innovative “HIV and Me” programme resulted in improved knowledge about HIV and AIDS, a decrease in misconceptions and improved attitudes to people living with HIV and AIDS. 


Abstract 2 

Transforming medical students into socially accountable agents of change: a description of community service activities.



The challenge for educators in the 21st century is to enhance education to ensure health professionals are socially accountable and strengthen health systems in an interdependent world. 

The UKZN introduced an innovative community service activity for first year medical students in 2012. Self selected groups of students identified disadvantaged communities close to their term-time residence in which to carry out 16 hours of community service in a programme called ‘Making a Difference: community service group activity’. 



This education systems research used an observational descriptive cross sectional study design. Posters produced by the 55 groups of students were assessed and the type of community service activity categorised summarised and described.



Group of 3 or 4 students produced a poster describing their 16 hours of

community service conducted in a self-selected disadvantaged community. The posters were displayed and assessed by their peers and two other groups of students.



In an innovative approach to formative education, first year medical students self-selected a variety of disadvantaged communities which formed the site for a wide range of community service activities to be conducted. This is an attempt to move away from facility or home-based informative learning and involve students in a formative and transformative learning experience.

These are abstracts presented at conferences.  Should we include this here or under a separate tab that says conference abstracts

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