About the Faculty

The University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences, located in Johannesburg - the hub of the South African economy, offers a real world training experience that prepares students for a future in the health care sector across the globe.

Undergraduate teaching programmes in the Faculty are student-centred, internationally recognised, socially responsive and exemplify excellence in all dimensions. Approximately 600 health sciences professionals graduate each year and are sought-after, both nationally, regionally and globally. Students who wish to undertake professional degrees in health sciences are offered nine different undergraduate programmes to choose from. In addition, the Faculty boasts a unique programme, the Graduate Entry Medical Programme, which allows students with tertiary qualifications degrees to enter into the Medical degree in the third year of the programme.

Once you have graduated from the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences, you may look to further your studies through our various postgraduate training and research programmes.

The Faculty is highly cognisant of - and responsive to - the healthcare challenges facing South Africa. Our clinicians and researchers selflessly choose to work in the public sector, where they strive to understand and develop solutions addressing the pressing healthcare concerns of our country. Staff and students are offered the opportunity to make a lasting contribution to the health and wellbeing of communities both locally and across our borders.

The Faculty provides excellent support and an intellectually stimulating environment for the training of postgraduate students. Through postgraduate research and training programmes, you could contribute to solutions that address some of the major challenges such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and diseases of lifestyle.

The Faculty of Health Sciences is well known for its internationally recognised, cutting edge research, which is conducted through 18 research entities and a Centre of Excellence, five DST/NRF South African Research Chairs and many individual researchers who are involved in relevant basic and applied research in all fields of health sciences. The Faculty is one of only two Health Sciences faculties in Africa to have been published extensively in high impact journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and Cell.

A number of programmes for the training of the next generation of academics are provided through the Faculty. One such programme is CARTA (Consortium for Advanced Research Training in Africa ).  CARTA is a multi-disciplinary programme aimed at growing professional, academic and research capacity in Africa in the field of public and population health. Its Pan-African focus of research includes reproductive health and sexuality as well as killer diseases in Africa, notably TB, HIV and malaria.

The Faculty also hosts a Carnegie Academic Medicine Fellowship programme for the training of specialist clinicians working towards a PhD degree. This Fellowship ensures the provision of clinician scientists for the future. These two programmes will achieve significant inroads in training the next generation of health professionals, particularly in the area of research, throughout the African continent.

The Faculty comprises seven Schools.  These are in the disciplines of Clinical Medicine, Therapeutic Sciences, Oral Health Sciences, Public Health, Pathology, Anatomical Sciences and Physiology.

The School of Clinical Medicine (SoCM) is the largest school in the Faculty with nine departments and about 40 divisions, which include sub-specialities. The SoCM trains its undergraduate and postgraduate students at a number of teaching platforms, one of these being Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the largest hospital on the Africa continent. In addition, training is also undertaken at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, the Helen Joseph Academic Hospital and the Rahima Moosa Hospital, bringing the total number of beds serviced in these hospitals to approximately 5 000.

Demographics of the student body in this School are similar to the demographics of the country. The SoCM prides itself on the high throughput of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery students. In addition, the School’s candidates constitute the majority of those sitting for the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa (CMSA) Examinations, with a pass rate often above CMSA average.

The SoCM hosts four recognised centres, with the Centre for Rural Health and the Steve Biko Bioethics centre being pillars of the Faculty’s social accountability stance, addressing matters of access to health care for all South Africans.

The Wits School of Public Health (WSPH) enjoys an exceptional national and international reputation in teaching, research, academic service and partnerships.  The School’s endeavours reflect its values of academic excellence, diversity, equity, human rights, social justice and responsiveness to the population health needs of South Africa and Africa.  The 80 full time academics in the School are from different disciplinary backgrounds that range from the social to the bio-medical sciences, enhancing multi-disciplinary approaches essential for public health. WSPH academic activities are also supported by more than 100 honorary staff members.

The School’s new state-of-the art building consolidates its research and training divisions, boasting an environment for cross disciplinary intellectual engagement. The School’s postgraduates are critical thinkers who are influential and able to advance public health and social transformation

The WSPH has an impressive research record with more than 500 peer reviewed journal publications and book chapters published between 2005 and 2012. The School has produced two special editions of international peer-reviewed journals:  Journal of Public Health Policy in 2011 and Global Health Action in 2013. WSPH hosts two MRC research units, the Agincourt Rural Public Health and Health Transitions Research Unit (Agincourt) and the Centre for Health Policy (CHP), both of which are internationally renowned with a long track record of supporting transformation initiatives to improve population health and the performance of the health sector. 

The PRICELESS SA (Priority Cost Effective Lessons for Systems Strengthening South Africa) has produced research which demonstrated the relationship between high salt intake and hypertension which can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke.  The research findings directly impacted health policy when the Minister of Health signed regulations in March 2013 to make salt reduction in the food industry mandatory.

The staff, students and partners of the School of Therapeutic Sciences are committed to inquiry, the search for knowledge and excellence in teaching and service provision. The academic departments in the School have a rich history steeped in the traditions of professional education. In 2013 the Nursing Department celebrated their 76th Anniversary, the Physiotherapy Department celebrated their 75th Anniversary and the Occupational Therapy celebrated their 70th anniversary.

The year has been an exceptional one with regards to the achievements of the staff in this School. The 2013 Pharmacology Educator Award was presented to Mrs Shirra Moch by the SA Society of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology "in recognition of contributions to excellence, expertise, and demonstrable achievement in pharmacology education".   The Phillip V Tobias Medal and Convocation Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Mrs Juliana Freeme of the Occupational Therapy Department for the most distinguished teacher in the Faculty.  The prestigious Vice-Chancellor’s Research Award for 2013 was awarded to Professor Viness Pillay.

The Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform (WADDP), which is at the heart of drug delivery research in South Africa, has a dynamic foundation for the best postgraduate scientific training and innovation in drug delivery.  In 2013, the WADDP won the Best Research Publication Award for Pharmaceutics at the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences Conference.

The School of Pathology provides excellence in pathology in the form of service, teaching and research. It has responsibilities to the Faculty of Health Sciences and the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) with staff offered dual appointments within both. The School contributes to the public health in South Africa through the provision of cost-effective, high quality diagnostic laboratory services to the public sector.

The Wits Research Institute for Malaria (WRIM) has been formed to consolidate malaria research in the existing fields as well as in the fields of epidemiology and clinical medicine.  It is headed jointly by Professor Maureen Coetzee and Professor Thérèsa Coetzer in the Wits School of Pathology and Professor Robyn van Zyl from the School of Therapeutic Sciences.

An important recent research finding describing the engineering of a new class of proteins (TALENs) to disable genes of hepatitis B virus were recently published in Molecular Therapy, the official journal of the American Society of Gene and Cell Therapy.  In addition, a ground breaking discovery entitled “Chromosomal Contact Permits Transcription between Coregulated Genes” was published in the journal Cell one of the world’s most prestigious research publications. This is only the fifth South African-affiliated article that has ever been published in Cell, and one of just two articles in three decades to feature an all-South African-based cast.

The School of Oral Health Sciences is a leader in Dental Education in South Africa. The University of the Witwatersrand has the proud history of having qualified the first dentists trained in South Africa in 1927. Since that milestone, Wits has graduated thousands of oral health care experts, whether as dentists, oral hygienists or specialists, making a significant contribution to the oral health of the community.

The degrees and diplomas are taught in an integrated curriculum designed to ensure that comprehensive clinical and didactic exposure is secured for every student in all aspects of Dentistry. The Wits School of Oral Health Sciences was the first to extend into postgraduate specialty degrees with Maxillo-Facial Surgery and Orthodontics leading the way. A number of the School’s graduates currently hold or have held top academic positions in leading institutions worldwide.  The School’s postgraduate programmes allow patients the opportunity of receiving specialist care, whether in surgical procedures, in orthodontics, in oral medicine or other specialties and including advanced oral rehabilitative procedures  such as facial reconstruction. 

The Wits Dental Hospital is located within the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and offers affordable quality health care to all individuals at any age. Primary Dental care is provided comprehensively by the undergraduate students of the School who are under the close supervision of experienced faculty members. The School also supports extensive oral health care services to distant communities, through initiatives such as The Transnet-Phelophepa Health Care Train, hosted by the Transnet Foundation.

The School of Physiology is the largest entity teaching physiology in South Africa and plays a significant role in the training of physiologists.  The School has approximately 1000 students registered for its courses and contributes to the teaching of more than 500 other students.

The School houses three University-recognised research entities namely the Brain Function Research Group, the Cardiovascular Pathophysiology and Genomics Research Unit and the Bone Research Laboratory.

The School is well known locally and internationally for its quality teaching and research, and includes top-rated scientists as well as many globally renowned experts in their fields. This year alone, research conducted within the school has caught the attention of highly rated scientific journals. The article by the School’s Richard McFarland entitled “Coping with the cold: predictors of survival in wild Barbary macaques, Macaca sylvanus” has been published in the journals of Nature and Scientific American. Another renowned publication Biology Letters has published the work of Professor Robyn Hetem entitled “Cheetah do not abandon hunts because they overheat”, which achieved huge interest both locally and internationally.

The School of Anatomical Sciences currently comprises three academic divisions, namely morphological anatomy, structural biology (histology), and biological anthropology. Undergraduate students are instructed on the structure and development of the human body, in addition to human biology and cell biology. The current research activities of the School are broad, covering the fields of Biological Anthropology, Comparative Neurosciences, Adult Neurogenesis, and Reproductive Biology.

A Taphonomic Research Facility is currently under development in collaboration with Professor Lee Berger of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, and will focus on establishing a Forensic and Paleo-Taphonomic Research Facility in Gauteng, with specific application to forensic casework and hominin palaeontology. Taphonomy is the science of post-mortem processes.

Also under development in the School is the Human Identification Unit (HIU), which will offer a professional forensic anthropological and archaeological service of the highest international standard.

Forensic anthropology research and casework has led to a number of collaborations. Currently collaborators include experts from Duke University, University of Dundee, University of Nottingham, Mercyhurst University La Trobe University and the University of Bradford to name but a few.