Maties passion for medicine pays dividends

Young medical student receives chancellor’s medal

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.

Three from SU under most cited in the world

Stellenbosch University (SU) is proud to announce that three of its academics have been named Highly Cited Researchers, according to the Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list from the Web of Science Group, released earlier this week.

Prof Linus Opara

Professors Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs (Cross-Field), Linus Opara (Agricultural Sciences) and Dave Richardson (Environment and Ecology) are among the world’s most cited researchers.

Prof David Richardson

Biggs is the incumbent of the DSI/NRF Research Chair in Social-Ecological Systems and Resilience; Opara of the DSI-NRF South African Research Chair in Po​stharvest Technology, while Richardson is the Director of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology and Professor in the Department of Botany and Zoology.

The highly anticipated list identifies scientists and social scientists who produced multiple papers ranking in the top 1% by citations for their field and year of publication, demonstrating significant research influence among their peers.

The methodology that determines the who’s who of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts from the Institute for Scientific Information at the Web of Science Group.

“Stellenbosch University is extremely proud of these three prolific researchers,” states Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research, Innovation and Postgraduate Studies. “It is not only proof of our academics increasingly receiving recognition from their peers globally, but also indicative of the University – in line with is vision – being globally recognised as excellent, inclusive and innovative, amongst others.”

Prof Reinette Biggs

The data are taken from 21 broad research fields within Essential Science Indicators, a component of InCites. The fields are defined by sets of journals and exceptionally, in the case of multidisciplinary journals such as Nature and Science, by a paper-by-paper assignment to a field based on an analysis of the cited references in the papers. This percentile-based selection method removes the citation advantage of older papers relative to recently published ones, since papers are weighed against others in the same annual cohort.

David Pendlebury, Senior Citation Analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information said: “Recognition and support of these exceptional researchers represents an important activity for a nation or an institution’s plans for efficient and accelerated advancement. The Highly Cited Researchers list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that contributes disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge. These researchers create gains for society, innovation and knowledge that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure.”

The full 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list and executive summary can be found here, and the methodology can be found  here.

photographer: Stefan Els