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Five Ways UWC Physiotherapy Is Making The World Healthier (And Happier)

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

UWC Physiotherapy trains students not only to participate in the increasingly online and digital culture of the 21st century, but to lead it - and produces graduates who’ve gone on to champion sport, education and research all over the world.

(Published - 10 September 2020)

Physiotherapists are not just the people you go to when you’ve pulled a muscle, sprained an ankle, or need a massage. Physios study the human body and how injuries, disease and disability affect all aspects of a person’s life - and they’re here to help patients regain function in order to more fully participate in the activities they find most fulfilling.​​ That’s why the University of the Western Cape is proud to have one of the most unique - and innovative - Departments of Physiotherapy on the African continent.

“A physiotherapist is an important member of the healthcare team, taking responsibility for assessing and managing patients' return to functional activity - and that’s more important now than ever,” said Prof Michael Rowe, Chairperson of UWC’s Department of Physiotherapy. “That’s why students in the programme are trained to not only participate in the increasingly online and digital culture of the 21st century, but to lead it.”

Here are a few reasons why UWC Physio is so interesting.

Teaching With Tech (And Heart): UWC Physio has embraced technology-mediated teaching and learning as a way to prepare students for a digital age, and has significant expertise in using emerging technologies as part of the teaching and learning experience, including everything from MOOCs to blended learning. As one of the few departments in the country with a programme for admitting students with visual impairment (VI), and with more than ten years of experience in supporting students with visual impairment, in 2017 UWC Physio became the first department in the country to successfully place a VI student in the ICU.

Game-Changing Research: UWC Physiotherapy is committed to conducting the highest-level research across a wide range of relevant knowledge domains." The department has a strong postgraduate research programme, and staff members present at conferences all over the world and publish regularly in both local and international journals - like the open access and innovative Open Physio journal. Even undergraduate students are included, helping to research everything from lower limb amputations and prosthetics, to physiotherapy education and the effects of artificial intelligence on clinical practice.

Going Global: UWC Physio may be based in Bellville (at the new CHS building), but the department has a proud history of community engagement and the professional development of physiotherapists from all over the African continent. The department has graduated physiotherapists from Honours to PhD all over Africa, and has an active internationalisation focus in the undergraduate programme, aiming to place South African students in contact with peers from other countries. UWC Physio has collaborations running with physiotherapy departments in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden.

Producing Legends: If university physiotherapy departments are judged by their fruits, then UWC Physio has to receive an exceptional grade. UWC Physio alumni have broken ground by becoming the first professional cricket physiotherapist in the country, helping the South African team hoist the William Ellis cup at the Rugby World Cup, being honoured by SA’s Minister of Sport - and that’s just for starters. And did you know that not only is the Chair of UWC Physio a UWC Physio graduate, but both the Dean of CHS and the former Dean (and now UWC’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research & Innovation) were among the programme’s first graduates?

Caring For The Community: The Department of Physiotherapy at UWC has a proud history, going back to the earliest years of the University. Most staff are graduates of UWC who have chosen to return to help develop the next generation of healthcare professionals for this country. And that spirit of community has not been lost: The UWC Physiotherapy Student Representative Council, made up of both third- and fourth-year physiotherapy students, aims to promote an environment conducive to educational and personal development. Also, UWC Physio students have volunteered at sporting events and elsewhere, hosted Physiotherapy Exercise Days, and helped the Department host a course on lower limb amputation rehabilitation for rehabilitation community care workers.


Visit the UWC Physio website and learn more about the staff, programmes, resources and more.

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