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Division of Physiotherapy




SU bursary a launch pad for successful career in sport physiotherapy bursary a launch pad for successful career in sport physiotherapyFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie – Sue Segar<p>​A physiotherapy graduate from 2012 has been selected as one of the Mail & Guardian newspaper's Top 200 South Africans for 2021, an honour which has led to him paying warm tribute to his lecturers and mentors at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University.<br></p><p>Nicholas Pereira (32), who founded the physiotherapy practice, Enhanced Physio, in KwaZulu-Natal, was honoured for his commitment to creating resources that many people can access.<br></p><p>In an interview, he said he feels “incredibly proud and humbled" to have made it to the prestigious Mail & Guardian list which is now in its 15th year. The list showcases South Africa's eminent and accomplished young people – the “incredible innovators and trailblazers" in the country.<br></p><p>“There are a lot of really good professionals out there and not all of them are recognised," Pereira said. “In receiving this award, I'd like to point out that nobody does it on their own. Many people helped me to get here. I hope I am doing them proud and that they can see I'm making the most of the opportunities I was given."<br></p><p>He added that he has had a great deal of contact with his FMHS lecturers and the physiotherapy staff since his graduation. “They have been a massive part of my career success."<br></p><p>Born and raised in Mitchells Plain and the southern suburbs of Cape Town, Pereira played cricket at primary school and at high school, before moving onto the hockey fields. He attended Westerford High School where he excelled in sports and was offered a recruitment bursary to attend Stellenbosch University. <br></p><p>“It made the fees a lot more affordable for my folks and me," he said. He worked part time while his parents assisted him with the remaining fees.<br></p><p>Pereira completed his BSc Physiotherapy at the FMHS in 2012, and went on to complete his MSc Exercise and Sports Physiotherapy at the University of Cape Town in 2019.<br></p><p>“During the undergraduate years, we had a mentorship, through which every student was assigned a lecturer as mentor. I had Dr Marianne Unger as my mentor and she was able to see things in me which I couldn't see in myself. When I left university, and during my community service year, we kept in touch. It has been such a valued connection."<br></p><p>After leaving university, Pereira went to Queenstown in the Eastern Cape to do his community service.<br></p><p>“I did volunteer work at Queens College, a boys' high school, doing job shadowing for the boys' rugby. I learnt a great deal there.<br></p><p>“I then got a job in Pietermaritzburg working in sport and with outpatients in physiotherapy. From there my career took off."<br></p><p>Pereira started as a junior physiotherapist at the Maritzburg United Football Club in 2014, and has moved from the junior teams, to first team physio and subsequently head of physiotherapy. He opened his first practice at Hilton College in 2017, and still serves as their head of physiotherapy currently.<br></p><p>He opened his own physiotherapy practice in KwaZulu-Natal in 2017, which currently operates at multiple venues in the KZN Midlands – Hilton College and Maritzburg College. It also services various professional sports teams – Maritzburg United Football Club and Hollywood Bets KZN Tuskers, the cricket team.<br></p><p>He has also been the research consultant for South African Schools Hockey since 2019.<br></p><p>“My biggest contribution to my field in South Africa, which likely led to the recognition by Mail & Guardian, was my blogging/vlogging and social media presence which I have pioneered to create resources for the public, my clients, and colleagues. I've used social media to teach the philosophy of preventative healthcare to the youth and to professional athletes, as well as to create awareness around physiotherapy in South African and to incite meaningful dialogue. I am also a lecturer for EduPro health an online professional education company."<br></p><p>Pereira said his career highlights include attending two hockey world cups tournaments with team South Africa, becoming team physio for Bafana Bafana in 2015 and working in professional soccer in South Africa with Maritzburg United in the PSL since 2014.<br></p><p>On his World Cup experience, he added: “Just representing South Africa at a global event was incredibly special and to do that at an early part of my career was so fortunate. I was at the right place at right time, doing the right thing."<br></p><p>But it was undoubtedly the opportunities he had early on in his career that really made the difference.<br></p><p>“The bursary to Stellenbosch University changed the course of my life. I am so grateful for the opportunity it has afforded me and for the quality of education I was given, which has helped set me up with an incredible career in sports physiotherapy. I managed to start my working life without massive student debts – a huge advantage in today's economic climate." <br></p><p>Pereira is married to sports scientist, Roslyn and has a new baby daughter Olivia, born in July this year.<br></p><p>Most of his spare time is spent doing sports activities. “I am an exercise enthusiast. I enjoy running and Crossfit. Working with athletes as I do, I like to be fit and as disciplined as I expect them to be!"<br></p><p>Asked about his future plans, he said: “I believe my practice will continue to grow and I hope to meet, collaborate, interact with and reach more people and further promote health and wellness. I would love to attend the Olympic and Commonwealth Games with South Africa and maybe come back to Stellenbosch University for a PhD – but I'm more than grateful and content with my career thus far, and am excited to see how the future of physio in South Africa is shaped by my generation!"​<br></p>
New head of Physiotherapy an advocate for profession head of Physiotherapy an advocate for professionFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie - Tyrone August<p>​As a child, Conran Joseph used to fantasise about being a physiotherapist standing on the side of a sports field. Then, as a promising cricket player at high school, he was injured and ended up receiving treatment from a physiotherapist.<br></p><p>This first-hand encounter with the profession was a life-changing experience. "I realised that being a sportsperson is very risky; the stakes are quite high," he recalls. "And, given the extent and type of my injuries, I thought: being a physiotherapist will keep me close to the sporting arena."<br></p><p>Today, Associate Professor Joseph is Head of the Division of Physiotherapy in the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.</p><p>His journey in academia started at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), where he enrolled for a Bachelor of Science degree in physiotherapy in 2005: "That was the starting point for me to realise I wanted to be in academia," he says. “I held my lecturers in high regard because of their passion for the profession and cognisance of the importance of physiotherapy as a vehicle to address health and wellbeing issues in our nation.<br></p><p>"And once I understood the physiotherapy programme, I realised how essential and specialised movement is and I became aware of the capabilities of the human body to recover from disease and injury. I became completely fascinated by the scientific premise and evidence base underlying physiotherapy."</p><p>After he graduated in 2008, Joseph did his community service at the TC Newman Community Health Centre in Paarl, where seeing patients with strokes, traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries ignited his interest in adult neurology: "It shook me a bit, treating people who were my age, while recognising the limitations of the healthcare system.<br></p><p>"I thought: this is what I want to do – make a small contribution to understanding the nuances of rehabilitation in our context, and helping people to regain their ability to engage in activities and roles central to their lives."<br></p><p>In 2010, Joseph became an associate lecturer at UWC and went on to complete a Master's degree in physiotherapy there in 2012. Four years later, he completed a doctorate in Medical Science at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, on spinal cord injuries.</p><p>He became a lecturer at UWC in 2016, where he stayed until he joined Stellenbosch University in January, initially to teach neurology. When the position of Head of the Division became available, he applied: "It is a wonderful opportunity, and I was lucky to be successful."<br></p><p>Joseph was confronted almost immediately by the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic: "We have made a lot of changes in how we deliver the programme at the moment. We are still trying to figure out how to continue providing students with a transformative learning experience, albeit via virtual means.</p><p>"Yet in all these situations we think are so overtly negative, there are always good stories and lessons to be learnt. So the idea is to have staff reflect on the changes we were required to make and identify which lessons we can take forward in the future."<br></p><p>At the same time, Joseph is implementing some of the plans he inherited. "Many of our programmes are currently undergoing a process of curriculum renewal," he explains. "I will see that these are implemented."<br></p><p>However, he adds, his team will ensure that their programme will reflect "our current context, our current stories, our current healthcare system, so that our graduates can be social assets. So that what we teach is actually what our students then go out to experience and manage once they are graduates – they must be enquiry-focused as well as reflective and empathetic in their approach."<br></p><p>Joseph is brimming with other ideas as well: "Another interest of mine is around cultural competence. We can only be critical and reflective, and demonstrate empathy, if we are culturally sensitised and consciously engage in cultural encounters. In South Africa, we are very fortunate to be as diverse as we are, but we need to use that as a tool to promote transformative learning and equip students with the necessary skills and attitudes.</p><p>"That is high on the agenda of Stellenbosch University. In line with what I need to do, and discuss with powers higher up, is how we balance the diversity profile at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I see the representation of our diversity as a social responsibility, but also as an asset in terms of promoting a culture of transformative learning. </p><p>"We come from diverse backgrounds, with our own belief systems and values and societal norms. Once we tap into these kinds of resources in each and every person, only then can we try to help instil an appreciation of others, an appreciation of multiple perspectives. That is what I would like to see more of, that we truly embrace patient-centred care."<br></p><p>Joseph contends there is currently a mismatch between the perspectives of the physiotherapist – trained in evidence-based Western medicine – and the worldview of patients. "Hence we need to learn skills of cultural competence in order to act in an empathetic way," he stresses. "That is the driving force in delivering patient-centred care."<br></p><p>Joseph is clearly passionate about his field. "Physiotherapy is not seen as an essential service," he points out. "It's almost [regarded as] a luxury. As advocates of the profession, we should raise awareness of the role of physiotherapy and its contribution to improving people's health."<br></p>
Grant will make 'meaningful contribution' to the care of stroke patients will make 'meaningful contribution' to the care of stroke patientsSue Segar<p>A R2.2 million research grant from the British National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will bring Professor Quinette Louw one step closer to achieving universal health coverage for people with strokes.<br></p><p>The grant, which will run over ten months, is aimed at strengthening health systems in South Africa to achieve universal health coverage for people with strokes through research, partnership, capability building and stakeholder engagement.</p><p>“We will explore the opportunities and challenges within public health to offer appropriate stroke care to all who need it," said Louw, who heads the Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Stellenbosch University.</p><p>Louw said the work they will focus on is closely linked to the National Health Insurance (NHI). "It is aimed at helping us to identify the elements necessary to be included in those essential healthcare packages for people with strokes."</p><p>Louw said the grant would form part of a partnership between South Africa and the United Kingdom represented, respectively, by Stellenbosch University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Louw will be the Principal Investigator (PI) – along with co-PI Professor Tracey Smythe from the LSHTM.</p><p>Included in this grant are also Professor René English from the FMHS' Department of Global Health and Professor Portia Jordon, head of the Department of Nursing and Midwifery.</p><p>"We also have other collaborators, including a health economist and a health systems experts at the LSHTM," said Louw.</p><p>She said the funding mechanism is structured so that the first part of it is aimed at establishing partnerships that will work together to pursue a larger grant with the NIHR. However, there is some research linked to the first part of the funding mechanism.</p><p>Louw said the work with the LSHTM was a "brand new collaboration" for rehabilitation for her department.</p><p>"It has been a very positive experience for us, as the LSHTM is one of the biggest schools doing work in lower-middle-income countries.</p><p>"It has been a pleasure working with the team at LSHTM. They have good practices in place for working with institutions in lower-middle-income settings."<br></p><p>Louw said the plans for their work have been hampered by the COVID-19 restrictions. “We had planned to bring the two teams together for five days but it has not been possible. We have however had some online seminars with colleagues from the LSHTM aimed at capacity building from both sides and our entire research team has benefited from these.</p><p>"In June we will present our work, which is aimed at helping the LSHTM team to better understand the South African context."</p><p>Challenges aside, Louw said she and her team are very excited about the outcomes linked to the grant. “The grant offers capacity development opportunities. We also hope to make a meaningful contribution to the care of people with strokes in South Africa."</p><p><br></p><p><em>Photo credit: Stefan Els</em><br></p>