Prof Hanneke Brits


A specialist in Family Medicine on the joint staff establishment of the Free State Department of Health (DoH) and the University of the Free State (UFS)

I’m a specialist in Family Medicine on the joint staff establishment of the Free State Department of Health (DoH) and the University of the Free State (UFS). I started my research career in 1995 when I had to do a mini-dissertation for my Master’s in Family Medicine (MFamMed) studies. Although I did not publish the research, it stimulated me to do further research.

I soon realized the importance to know your own environment, to know, compile and implement appropriate guidelines and to monitor the effect thereof. My first article was on the evaluation of the new Essential Drug List and Standard Treatment Guidelines (1998) for asthma and chronic obstructive airway disease.

When I received the submission back from the reviewers, it became clear that research and the writing of an article are an art and that you need guidance and experience. My first article was published in 2003.

Since 1998 I’m actively involved in a collaborative project of the National Department of Health to develop and update Standard Treatment Guidelines for South Africa and together with that compile an Essential Drug List for use at different levels of health care in South Africa. I contributed to the 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2014 editions. I also compiled a Kangaroo Mother Care guideline from research in my unit that was implemented in 23 facilities in the Free State.

I supervised numerous undergraduate student projects that looked at baseline data regarding child health in our setting. These data were used to plan and implement guidelines to address the MDG’s and included studies on oral rehydration, malnutrition, HIV, jaundice and prematurity. The postgraduate students that I supervised focused on guidelines to improve mortality and morbidity, like the Triage system at National District Hospital and practical guidelines on the management of rape and assault in a primary health care setting.

My personal research focussed on guideline development and implementation to specifically address MDG 4, which was the reduction of child morbidity and mortality with two thirds by 2015. Paediatric palliative care (PPC) is necessary to address both morbidity and mortality and therefore the PPC approach in the research. South Africa is a world leader in PPC for children with HIV and other diseases of poverty, like malnutrition. As an executive member of the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), I collaborate and support people from all over the world to compile guidelines and render quality palliative care for children.

All clinicians are not necessary good educators and assessors. Education and training is my other interest. With a guideline development background, as well as active involvement in student training I believe that assessment is crucial, especially the way that we assess. In 2014 I published an assessment rubric for mini-dissertations for postgraduate students in Family Medicine, to assess research projects. During 2015 and 2016 I was a co-supervisor of Dr A Ogah who obtained her PhD in Health Professions Education at the UFS.

Her study was on the Psychometric assessment of Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE’s) and guidelines for resource poor countries. I am enrolled for a PhD in Health Professions Education to specifically to compile guidelines to ensure valid and reliable assessments in clinical medicine.

At a local level I’m involved in research as a member of the Health Sciences Research and Ethics Committee, was the Chairperson of the Faculty of Health Sciences Research forum and am currently a clinical evaluator for the Faculty research forum.

On a National level I’m a reviewer for the South African Medical Journal, I ‘m a regular presenter at the South African Academy of Family Physicians yearly conference and won the price for the best poster in 2014.

On an International level, I was a member of the scientific committee for the 1st and 2nd International Children’s Palliative Care Network conferences in Mumbai and Buenos Aires. I’m a reviewer for the African Journal for Primary Health Care and Family Medicine. In the past 8 years, I presented at 10 International conferences, twice at plenary sessions.

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