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Master of Medicine in Community Health

Introduction

The Wits School of Public Health offers the degree of Master of Medicine (MMed) in the specialty of Community Health. The MMed is a medical specialist training programme that is an important component of the postgraduate training programmes of the WITS School of Public Health. The MMed is a 4 year full-time training programme that admits medical graduates with some clinical experience in public sector health services. Two fields of study are offered – the field of Public Health Medicine (PHM) and the field of Occupational Medicine. The MMed training aims to equip trainees (registrars) with knowledge and skills in specific subject areas that are defined in the regulations of the College of Public Health Medicine (CPHM) of South Africa. The training programme has produced numerous high quality graduates achieving both local and international recognition.

Objective

To develop and graduate quality medical specialists capable of meeting the public health medicine and occupational medicine requirements of the country, within the context of the African and global public health community.

Fields of study

The MMed (Community Health) in the field of Public Health Medicine is managed by the Department of Community Health in the School of Public Health, while the field of Occupational Medicine is managed by the Division of Occupational Health in the School of Public Health.  

The MMed in the field of Public Health Medicine was started in the late 1980s to meet the growing need for medical professionals with public health training who could contribute to disease prevention and strengthening of health care delivery. The training aims to equip MMed students (registrars) with competencies in a range of subjects including: research methods, health measurement (epidemiology, biostatistics, demography, health informatics), occupational health, the epidemiology and control of communicable diseases, environmental health, the epidemiology and control of non-communicable diseases, and organisation and management of health services. As part of their training, registrars work in various settings (under supervision of Public health medicine specialists in the Department of Community Health) in a range of areas including: policy development, planning, monitoring and evaluation of health services and programmes, disease prevention, and hospital management.   

The MMed in the field of occupational medicine was started in the mid 2000s in response to the growing need for medical professionals with occupational health and medicine training who could contribute to the prevention of occupational disease and the promotion of the health of workers. The training aims to equip registrars with knowledge and skills in public and occupational health measurement sciences; social and behavioural aspects of occupational health; occupational toxicology; occupational medicine; occupational hygiene; occupational health services management; environmental health; and the legal and political environment of occupational health. Clinical occupational medicine is a substantial subject area. Registrars and specialists get involved in policy formulation, teaching, setting up and evaluating occupational health services and a variety of research activities (including grant writing, undertaking research, as well as publishing research articles and presenting at national and international conferences) at all governmental levels and private enterprises.

Admission Requirements

The minimum requirements are: MBChB, MBBCh or equivalent qualification acceptable to the Health Professions Council of South Africa for registration as an independent medical practitioner in South Africa, at least three years of supervised medical practice which may include the two years of internship and a year of compulsory community service. 

Intake of new registrars ordinarily occurs twice a year (in January and July), subject to availability of a vacant registrar post. Registrar posts fall vacant when the incumbent completes her/his four year contract.

Course Structure

MMed in Community Health (field of Public Health Medicine)

During their training registrars are appointed in salaried posts that are held jointly with the university and a public sector institution (Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, the National Health Laboratory Service, a health district in Gauteng province, or the Gauteng provincial Department of Health). During the four year training registrars rotate on a six monthly basis through a number of rotation sites including a national centre for environmental health research, national institutes for occupational health and communicable diseases, the provincial health department, district health services, and academic hospitals. Public health medicine competencies are gained largely through self-directed and experiential learning in these rotation sites under specialist supervision, but also through a semi-structured academic programme (lectures, tutorials, journal club and seminars).

 

MMed in Community Health (field of Occupational Medicine)

Once accepted by the School as potential registrars, appointments are made by the National Health Laboratory Services where posts are held. Provision can be made for those with own funding to assume supernumerary registrarship depending on availability of such posts. Registrars undertake rotations over their four years of training. Typically, for the first two years, registrars spend four days a week at the rotation site and one day at the University for their Friday academic programme. The rotation sites include the National Institute for Occupational Health; academic hospitals; private large occupational health services sites; provincial wellness and occupational health services; Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases and Rehabilitation services.

On completion of the four years, registrars submit a Masters of Medicine (MMed) research report which is assessed by the University. Registrars also complete a short report to document work they have done to apply occupational health and medicine skills to investigate an occupational health or a patient with an occupational disease (or public health medicine skills to investigate and report on a public health problem). The short report includes practical recommendations for policy and practice. Registrars also write a College of Medicine Fellowship exam which consists of written papers and an oral examination and case presentations.

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