On the 8th of November 2012, the Public Health Enhancement Fund (PHEF) and the National Department of Health set out on a mission to improve the delivery of healthcare, address debilitating diseases such as HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis, and improve accessibility to medical schools for disadvantaged communities. Seven years later, the two celebrate the graduation of their first cohort of medical and research students.

To date, a total of 107 postgraduate medical doctors (60 Masters and 47 PhDs) have benefited from the NDoH and PHEF’s Bongani Mayosi National Health Scholars Program.

The PHEF is a social compact formed by 22 healthcare companies, and the National Department of Health (NDOH). The main objectives of the National Health Scholars Program (NHSP) are; the expansion of health professionals, and to increase the number of medical students from rural areas, as well as to provide support for the training of Masters and PHD students who seek to develop new interventions for combating HIV/AIDS, TB and Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

The focus on medical students from rural areas is mainly based on the premise that once they have completed their studies, these individuals will go back and service their communities. This model represents a sustainable way to provide access to quality healthcare and a renewed hope to disadvantaged areas.

In a recent celebratory event, the PHEF and the NDoH celebrated the graduation of 47 students (87% of which are PHDs) and to date, this partnership has produced a total of 107 post-graduate medical doctors (60 Masters and 47 PhDs) who have benefited from the programme since its inception. The event which was presided over by the former Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi and representatives of the 22 healthcare companies that form the PHEF, was in effort to celebrate the success of this public-private partnership and the achievement of the graduates after years of studying and hard work to ensure a better future for themselves, their communities and South Africa.

To further demonstrate this public-private partnership (PPP) as a critical element to nation building, social cohesion and improved healthcare outcomes, an initial R40 million was injected into the joint fund to finance the Social Compact to fund training and mentorship for aspiring medical students from disadvantaged communities. The allocation also included the training of PhDs and Master’s degrees with much focus on HIV/AIDS and TB. To date, over R200 million has been contributed to the fund by the partners, to ensure better health outcomes.

In his key note address, Dr. Motsoaledi noted the importance of public-private partnership and said that, ‘It is therefore crystal clear that we must build human capital to ensure that we are not left behind, and I am pleased that the Public Health Enhancement Fund has been very productive and that today we can announce what we have achieved to date.’ The event was also used to pay special tribute to the late Professor Bongani Mayosi who initially spearheaded the selection process for the National Health Scholars program. To this end, the National Health Scholars Program was therefore renamed on the day to the Bongani Mayosi National Health Scholars Program.

Delivering the vote of thanks, the Chairman of the PHEF Stavros Nicolaou added that, ‘the narrative that social cohesion in our country is failing and the public and private sector are at loggerheads is not true. The PHEF is a clear example that we can work together and deliver, which is what we have done over the past 6 years.’ He further added that, ‘these graduates are going to go out to our healthcare system and society and meaningfully change our country.’