‘It feels great to be chosen by the Foundation for the Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER),’ said UKZN’s Professor Mergan Naidoo after he received the FAIMER scholarship. 

Every year, approximately 20 candidates are chosen from the international community for this fellowship. Naidoo is the only recipient from South Africa and one of two from the continent. 

Over the past few years, he has attended numerous courses in medical education, including the UEIP and Train the Clinical Trainer Course. He came to realise that there is a need to change one’s teaching methods to improve student engagement, and ultimately improve graduate competencies and healthcare worker quality.

FAIMER aims to train its fellows from the health professions in educational methods and research.

The Foundation also aims to develop leadership, management skills as well as to foster global collaboration among global partners. The programme’s other goals include the emphasis of practical knowledge application e through individual innovation projects at the Fellow’s own institution and the development of expertise in assessment and accreditation. 

‘These are very important objectives which if realised, will allow me to enrich our local programmes,’ said Naidoo.

The fellowship involves a three-week contact session in Philadelphia, followed by an online session from April to December and a second contact session in March 2020.

He will start a distance learning programme in health profession’s education through Keele University in the UK. ‘One has the opportunity to extend this certificate programme to a Master’s in Health Professions Education if one is interested. I will see if I have the energy when I get to that point,’ he said.

Naidoo’s research interest is on developing an educational intervention programme that will assist with behaviour change. He has a special interest in patient safety and one of the challenges he faced is the poor uptake of safety measures by healthcare providers.

‘I am working on a project under the mentorship of Professor Eliana Amarel from Brazil to implement a programme that, hopefully, will explore both qualitatively and quantitatively reasons for poor adherence to safety measures and we will, hopefully, develop an intervention strategy that will work,’ he said.

He is currently supervising 16 master’s and PhD students, and is working on improving written assessments, registrar throughputs and the management of sepsis in the Ilembe District, convening the SAMA conference in Durban which is appropriately themed Leadership and Quality in Healthcare: Let’s Close the Gap.

He recently tested high for intuition in the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. ‘As a leader, I think it is important for one to be innovative and determined to not become disillusioned when one method of approaching an issue fails,’ he said.

He has a supportive wife who is an obstetrician in the public sector. His family is ecstatic and proud of his achievement and thinks that this is a great opportunity. ‘My daughter lives in the USA. This is also an opportunity for me to meet her.’ 

Naidoo enjoys running and hopes to do his ninth 56km Two Oceans ultra-marathon this year.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini