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SMU-MEDUNSA Alumni Association (SMAA) launched the Limpopo Alumni Chapter on 17 March 2018 at the picturesque Meropa Casino. The event brought together young and old graduates spanning the various epochs the university went through, as MEDUNSA, a campus of the University of Limpopo (UL) it was merged with, and as a stand-alone comprehensive health sciences, it is currently.

Though different in terms of generations, they belong to SMU as alumni and all pay allegiance to the SMU flag. They attended the launch to be apprised of developments at their alma mater. Dr Solly Motlanthe, Chairperson of the SMU-Medunsa Alumni Association (an umbrella body to which all provincial alumni chapter affiliate) gave an overview of alumni highlights for 2017.

Dr Motlanthe told them about the benchmark visit to a university that boasts a more vibrant alumni sector that contributes millions to its coffers. He said the take home message from this visit was that alumni need to have passion in the university that gave them the opportunities to study and to acquire a qualification that enables them to make a living.

He outlined fundraising plans that SMAA will be embarking upon in 2018. First on the agenda will be to reach out to neighbouring industry of Rosslyn, pharmaceutical industry and cell phone networks to forge relationships first, before attempting to raise funds from them.

Prof Chris de Beer, the Vice-Chancellor of SMU delivered his speech. He thanked the alumni for their commitment to SMU by attending the alumni launch and congratulated them for being the first province to successfully launch SMU Alumni Chapter.

Whilst SMU is a fledgling university, it is a national asset that contributes rare skills to the health care sector of South Africa and beyond. SMU cannot continue depending on government grants. It needs to maximise third stream income in the form of corporate social responsibility urgently.

Though the SA government has thankfully committed R1.85 billion for infrastructure development over five years, the university however has a deficit of R150 Million. So, third stream income is vital. He lauded SMU alumni who are occupying influential positions in public and private sectors and called upon them to use those strategic positions to open doors for SMU to forge relationships with those companies. These relationships will be used to explore funding opportunities from the corporate social responsibility budgets of these companies. .

SMU has grand plans not only to be a benchmark health sciences university providing holistic health sciences education to meet the health needs of the individual, the family, community and the population. But also to seize the opportunities opening up in the country and in the knowledge economy the university is operating in. Alumni need to embrace the 2017-2022 strategic plan, which will be made available in due course, to turnaround the fortunes of the SMU. Knowing the university strategy will go a long way to ensure alumni and the university work towards a common goal.

The university is changing its business model. A lot of institutional adjustments need to be made by students, staff and stakeholders to ensure the university responds operationally to achieve maximum level of performance. He added that the future for SMU is exciting and called upon alumni to join hands with the university to build SMU into a formidable university.

Alumni also had the opportunity to connect with Dr Phophi Ramathuba, alumna and Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Limpopo Health, giving updates on health status in Limpopo. In her typical enthusiastic fashion, Dr Ramathuba, explained that Limpopo’s department of health did a remarkable job in uniting the former Lebowa, Gazankulu, Venda and Whites only health departments into a unitary health department to cater for all in Limpopo. The department rolls out Antiretroviral Viral Treatment to (ARV) to 322 369 patients of all ages. 23 098 300 male condoms were distributed while 61 135 male circumcisions were performed in the third quarter of 2017/18. Mother to Child Transmission has reduced from 2.1 % in 2015/16 to 0.96% in Q3 of 2017/2018. A very important indicator toward towards AIDS free generation.

The TB treatment success rate of 82.1 % was achieved in the third quarter of 2017/18.This was as a result of strengthened tracing of patient with the involvement of partners and community care givers. Multi Drug Resistance Tuberculosis (MDR TB) services are being decentralised to accredited hospitals in the province.

The Antenatal 1st visit before 20 weeks rate was 62.8%, An improved Maternal Mortality rate of 142.7/100 000 live births against a target of 164/100 000 live births was realised. Child under 5 years mortality has been reduced with diarrhoea case fatality rate at 2.8% against the 4.5% target. Pneumonia case fatality rate was 2.9% against a target of 4.3%.

Severe acute malnutrition was 6.4% against a target of 14% in 2016/17 (Annual indicator). Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine coverage continues within schools targeting young girls. This process will assist patients and relatives in terms of accessibility of services. The benefits of access to all for Limpopo residents are beginning to show as life expectancy increases to 70 years.

Ramathuba also lamented the inadequacy of the budgets. Given the scale of health needs, services such as anti- Malaria fumigation are being sacrificed to make ends meet and this has the unintended consequence of Malaria outbreaks. Low staff moral and poor sense of urgency remain the bane of the department.

After all was said and done, alumni voted for the Limpopo Alumni Chapter Working Committee. The committee will serve for a period of two years. The committee composition represents a generational mix of young and old alumni. The following were elected unopposed:

  1. Dr Seshoka Muila, Chairperson, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) Graduate
  2. Ms Innocentia Selepe, Deputy Chairperson, BSc Honours Graduate
  3. Dr Lincoln Moloto, Treasurer, MBChB Graduate
  4. Dr Putswana Johannes Senwamadi, Resource Mobiliser, an MBChB Graduate
  5. Ms Maserole Luzzette Montjane, Secretary, graduated with a BSc in Speech language, Audiology    Pathology (BSLPA).