Stellenbosch University
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Spes Bona Initiative uplifts medical students
Author: Development & Alumni Relations
Published: 09/07/2024

While working in Cape Town hospitals for a year, Belgian medical doctors and Stellenbosch University (SU) international medical graduates Edouard Hosten and Charlotte Maillard were struck by the poor living conditions of some local medical students. They decided to do something about it.

“My wife (Charlotte) and I worked in SU affiliated hospitals in Cape Town in 2019-20 where we witnessed first-hand the dire living and training conditions of some medical students. We wanted to make a difference by financially supporting these students to improve their living conditions and support them in their studies. Thus, we created two nonprofit organisations (NPOs) in Belgium and South Africa in order to collect money and distribute bursaries to medical students in need," says Ed.

This led to the establishment of the Spes Bona Initiative for Medical Education in 2020 by Ed along with 15 other young South African and Belgian colleagues and friends.

“Almost everyone involved in the initiative lived and worked in South Africa at some point and has an innate love for the country and its people," he says.

The Spes Bona Initiative offers top-up bursaries to qualifying Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, BSc in Physiotherapy and Bachelor of Speech-Language and Hearing Therapy students from several South African universities, including SU, for the duration of their studies. The scholarship covers accommodation, food and other basic expenses such as toiletries, stationery or textbooks. Mentorship and moral support are also provided. So far 16 students have benefited from the initiative since 2020.

 In June this year, the Spes Bona Initiative for Medical Education awarded a further six bursaries to medical students from SU.

Students' selection is primarily based on their financial situation, but they must also have demonstrated commitment to altruism, including involvement in charity work, community projects or academic mentorship.

“We raise money by organising charity events and by selling our own beer and chocolate (we're Belgian after all!). But our main source of funding comes from the financial support of several private donors in Belgium and internationally," Ed says. “We recently organised a 20 km run in Brussels in which 35 people participated and which raised more than 5000€ (R95 000)."

The certified emergency medicine (EM) physician who has for the past seven years been involved in acute clinical care, says his involvement in the Spes Bona Initiative has brought him immense joy and fulfilment.

“It has allowed me to bring together many of my friends around the crucial issues of healthcare studies, accessibility and workforce development."

In addition to being a staunch advocate of high-quality EM resident education in Belgium, Ed also developed a particular interest in the health impacts and the adaptation of health systems to climate change.

​“Developing systemic and multidisciplinary thinking around these fundamental issues in order to build supportive, resilient and sustainable healthcare, is the focus of my endeavours," he says.