Van Heerden: a passion for medicine

Dr Jennifer van Heerden, the recipient of Stellenbosch University’s (SU) coveted Chancellor’s Medal for 2019, passed every year of her study with distinction, and obtained distinctions in every one of the 11 domains of the final-year examinations.

Van Heerden, who was awarded the degree MB,ChB cum laude this morning, passed every one of the 29 theory modules in the six-year programme with distinction, completing the programme with an average percentage of 87,8%.

The awarding of this year’s medal was also a significant moment for the University as it is the first time that an earlier Chancellor’s medal recipient awarded the Chancellor’s medal to another top performer.

Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor, also graduated in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in 1983, and he was the recipient of the Chancellor’s medal in that year.

Van Heerden said she felt honoured to have received the medal and said none of her success would have been possible without a support system in place. “My success has been made possible by the support system I have had around me. I absolutely love what I study and my passion for medicine has helped me to go the extra mile, even during the tough times while studying towards my degree,” Van Heerden said.

The prestigious Chancellor’s Medal is awarded annually to a final year or postgraduate student who has not only excelled academically, but also contributed to campus life in various ways and worked hard at developing co-curricular attributes.​ In addition to the Chancellor’s Medal, Van Heerden has scooped several other awards during her academic career. These include:

  • Various awards for Excellent Achievement in Academics – 2014; 2016; 2017; 2019;
  • Certification of recognition for exceptional contribution to the MBChB academic programme – 2019;
  • Huis Francie Van Zijl Honorary Colours for exceptional performance in academics – 2016;
  • Golden Key International Honour Society – 2015;
  • Merit bursaries for the top 5% achievers per faculty (minimum requirement of 75% average in the preceding academic year) – 2014–2018.

She has also occupied student leadership positions and served on committees, including President of Friends of Médecins Sans Frontières, a society in support of the non-profit organisation Médecins San Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders). In addition to all of the above, Van Heerden also made time to participate in a wide range of developmental activities, such as completing an  elective course at Antonio Lorena Hospital in Cusco, Peru where she worked in the paediatric ward in a resource-limited environment, and attending the Msinga Outreach Camp, a medical and community outreach in rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Van Heerden plans to intern at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg and her dream is to specialise in paediatrics one day.

photographer: Stefan Els

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