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Leaving no one behind

- Wits University

Scott Smalley instrumental in the safe return of students and staff, and the vaccination drive on campus.

The sudden strike of the COVID-19 pandemic presented an urgent need for crisis management and solid leadership to navigate organisations through “the new normal”.

Scott Smalley, the Head of the Division of Clinical Associates, at the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), is nominated as one of the Wits Covid-19 Heroes for his leadership throughout the pandemic, particularly in the initial stage of the “the unknown”.

Only a week after the first COVID-19 case was reported in South Africa, Wits University also reported its first case in the School of Clinical Medicine (SOCM). Smalley became part of an informal group of leaders to develop the FHS COVID-19 Staff and Student Handbook. The guidelines quickly became an essential reference for members for protocols to help minimise the spread of the virus.

To ensure the accessibility of the handbook, he reached out to various colleagues within the University such as the marketing team and the Wits App and SAKAI helpdesks who assisted by digitising the tool. “Once I had the structure in place and sections build, I reached out to my colleagues in the FHS logistics team and beyond to start including content. Richard Cooke was invaluable for the Testing and Screening Section, Clinical Training Section and PPE information” says Smalley.

He stepped in as the Chair of the FHS Logistics Planning Team which was formed to act as an overall structure and central point of command in managing the effects of the pandemic on the Faculty. The handbook became an instrumental tool for the team in the phased-in return of over 6000 Faculty students and staff after the level 5 lockdown. “To date, this team is one of my proudest community accomplishments,” says Smalley.

Wits Hero Scott Smalley (front) and Mande Toubkin from Netcare were in charge of the Wits vaccination site’s operations. Pic credit - Wits Vuvuzela

Together with the Head of Department of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Adjunct Professor Richard Cooke, Smalley co-authored the “Return to Campus Guidelines” for clinical students. The guideline document was adopted as a template by the Ministries of Health and Higher Education and Training, respectively. It was used for clinical students nationwide to reengage in clinical training.

“This document presented various risk mitigated options with multiple variable considerations for how to re-integrate the clinical students safely within the hospital clinical platform in the midst of rising COVID-19 patient case, for both training and service” explains Smalley.

Furthermore, to address the shortage of health care workers during the pandemic, he recommended the implementation of the FHS Volunteer Programme which matched faculty students with healthcare facilities to provide clinical and/or non-clinical tasks.

More than 692 students registered to volunteer, 425 of whom were placed at 30 host sites. Their placements in community health centres provided both direct and indirect patient care to South Africans as a response to COVID-19.   

 “The past 18 months is unprecedented with challenges, but also affords opportunities for service, collaboration, breaking down barriers, and growing stronger as a Faculty, Department and Division. I am proud of the contributions I am making to the Wits Community in response to COVID-19 and will continue to lend a hand where needed” says Smalley.

Smalley has played a key role in initiatives to protect staff and students by organising accessible vaccination sites.

Read more about these:

 Students place trust in Wits as they vaccinate

Campus vaccination site to fight Covid-19

About Wits Covid-19 Heroes

The Wits Heroes Series celebrates staff and students who went beyond the call of duty at the onset of Covid-19 in 2020. Wits Heroes were nominated by members of the Wits community. Discover other Heroes.