Family Medicine Specialist Graduates with Doctorate in Education
Recipient of the prestigious Order of Baobab (Silver Medal) and lecturer and Principal Specialist of Family Medicine, Dr Andrew Ross, has graduated with a PhD in Education from the College of Humanities.
Ross’s research stemmed from the Umthombo Youth Development Foundation (UYDF) scholarship scheme which he founded in 1999. The Foundation identifies, trains and supports youth in their quest to become qualified healthcare professionals and as a way of addressing staff shortages at rural hospitals.
Thus, his research focuses on the experiences of rural youth, training to become health care professionals (HCPs) and returning to work in rural areas. He believes his research has the potential to impact on society ‘if we are committed to finding students who will be “change agents”.’
According to Ross, using a life history approach complemented by arts-based methods generated stories for his thesis which provided an understanding of the complex, multidimensional, multi-layered lives of HCPs, who grew up in rural areas, their personal lives in relation to others, and the context in which they grew up (time, person and place).
‘Their developing identity is seen in their performances through the choices they make in response to everyday situations. Their learning experiences are complex and reveal that as active and critical thinkers they adopted a range of strategies to succeed at institutions of higher learning.
‘They’ve found platforms and communities to develop as those with knowledge and agency to change/challenge dominant and stereotypical ways of being. The HCPs demonstrate their willingness and ability to work in rural contexts, leading transformation in the healthcare setting,’ explained Ross.
The findings of his study point to a new understanding of rurality – that of home and a sense of belonging where the possibility for better healthcare services exists.
A junctional hub is presented as a theoretical ‘model’ to frame lived experiences and to understand rural origin HCPs’ personal and professional identity and work in a complex, interconnected, negotiated space where different forces are negotiated. ‘This provides a platform to open up the opportunity for other ways of being, knowing and practising,’ said Ross.
Some of the highlights of Ross’s research include hearing the stories of those who participated in his study and getting his article accepted for publication. ‘I found it really interesting looking at the data from different angles.’
Ross, who received funding from the Discovery Foundation for his research, further reflected on his PhD journey as one of a family commitment. ‘My family were very supportive and encouraging. My parents read and reread my articles and gave constructive feedback. Everyone was happy when the PhD was completed! To my family and friends, thanks – you are stars!’
His advice to other masters and PhD researchers is: ‘Find a topic that you are passionate about. Work to deadlines but do not be fixated on these time lines, recognising however that there must be a time line to finish your PhD. Find a good supervisor who you can work well with and accept that it will be a lot of work – but ultimately enjoy the journey.’
* South African President, Jacob Zuma bestowed the Order of Baobab – Silver on Ross, last year. National orders are the highest awards that the country, through its president, can bestow on its citizens or eminent foreigners for exceptional contribution and distinguished service that goes beyond the call of duty.