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Health sciences key to reducing triggers of poverty

- Wits University

Receiving his honorary doctorate, Professor William Pick tells new doctors they have a much bigger role to play than keeping their patients healthy.

As future custodians of the health of South Africa’s people, the over 500 graduands of the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences carry a huge responsibility to their country.

This is according to Professor William Pick, Emeritus Professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, who addressed about 500 graduands of the Wits Health Sciences Faculty in December.

Speaking at their graduation ceremony, where he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine Honoris Causa, Pick told the graduands that as doctors, they can help people to be healthier, and therefore reduce the triggers into poverty.

“As we celebrate best and brightest in society today, I ask the custodians and future custodians of healthy populations to look at the societal context in which you practice your craft. In the context of the world population – 50% cannot afford housing and healthcare, 25% don’t have enough food to eat.  People are triggered into poverty through illness, injury and death. Yet we know that as healthcare practitioners our intervention can make a difference,” he said.

Pick who is also the former head of the School of Public Health, and retired interim president of the Medical Research Council, added that the improved health of a country results in higher GDP of countries.

“Health is no longer confined to provide cure, care or encouragement. It has a far more profound contribution to make to improving the human condition. Our job is to ensure that the craft that we practice is to promote, sustain and contribute to a bigger social endeavor,” he said. “You are the leaders of tomorrow and the problems you face have many challenges. But as a graduate of this great African University, you can to rise to the challenge, armed with the commitment to improve the human condition, you will find real fulfillment every day.”

In reading out Professor Pick’s citation, Professor Martin Veller, Dean of Health Sciences, lauded Pick, for his distinguished leadership in public health and whose life and work has been devoted to improving healthcare for all South Africans.

The ceremony saw over 500 students graduating with degrees in health sciences, including in dentistry, medicine, medical and health sciences, clinical medical practice, nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and pharmacy.  The faculty also conferred 134 Master’s degrees in science and medicine and 31 PhDs.