This year’s winners of the PHILA awards are Prof Maila John Matjila and Prof Eric Buch.
The childhood living conditions in the village where John grew up, generated and sustained his interest to serve marginalized communities. After completing his postgraduate Community Health training at University of Natal, John took a post of Regional Director of services at the ODI Health District where he oversaw the services of 15 clinics and other health programs. He later took a post of lecturer at Medunsa. During his 15 years at Medunsa, he used the knowledge and experience gained in the training programs he attended at the University of London (UK) and the CDC (USA) to support service providers with information for the improvement of services to marginalised communities.
His services included the assessment of the quality of drinking water in Winterveldt and the villages of Lebowa, evaluation of the services rendered by the National AIDS Programme of the Progressive Primary Health Care Network (NPPHCN), mapping of the social-exclusion of the under-5s in Gauteng Province and the introduction of IMCI.
He was appointed Deputy Dean at the University of Natal and left after 3 years to take a position of Head of Public Health Medicine at the University of Pretoria where he spent his last 10 preretirement years. He served in a number of national committees which include, the Clinical Trials Committee of the MCC, SA Law Commission’s Project Committee on HIV/AIDS, SANAC’s M&E Task Team and the National Polio Expert Committee where he still serves as a chairperson.
Eric’s passion for public health began as a student co-ordinating clinics and rural electives in underserved communities and through an MRC epidemiology fellowship. His career has afforded him rich opportunities to contribute to social justice and equitable health care and to the growth of the discipline of public health. In the 1980’s he co-founded the Wits Rural Health Services Development Unit in Bushbuckridge and later became a founding co-director of the Wits Centre for Health Policy.
Simultaneously and continuing into the 1990’s he was active in the National Medical and Dental Association’s (NAMDA) anti-apartheid programmes and served as General
Secretary of the National Progressive Primary Health Care Network . As the country moved to democracy Eric became Executive Director for Health, Housing and Urbanisation of Johannesburg and later Deputy Director General for Health Care of Gauteng. In 2000 he joined the University of Pretoria as Professor of Health Policy and Management and concurrently served as the Health Adviser for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) until 2010, when he became Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Over many years, Eric has contributed as an organisation builder and on the structures of a number of entities in the broad discipline of public health.
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