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Jakes Gerwel Award 2016 Action Through Knowledge

Action Through Knowledge: Pharmacy and public health at the 2016 Jakes Gerwel Awards

“One of the most important things I learned at the University of the Western Cape is that we should commit to action through knowledge. Not unconsidered actions, or knowledge for the sake of it, but knowledge that translates into action that causes change in people’s lives.”

So said Evans Sagwa, a graduate of UWC’s School of Public Health ((SoPH) at the University of the Western Cape, part-time doctorate student in the Utrecht-WHO Pharmaceutical Policy and Regulation programme at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, Country Director for two USAID-funded pharmaceutical systems strengthening projects in Namibia, and 2016 recipient of the prestigious Jakes Gerwel Award for Public Health*.

His acceptance speech, delivered to an audience of public health officials, students, academics and other interested parties on Wednesday, 17 February 2016, delved into A holistic approach to strengthening national pharmaceutical systems, with particular reference to his experiences in Namibia.

From basic issues such as the very definition of health systems and pharmaceutical systems to the frameworks that guide the relevant structures and organisations, to capacity development, implementation, service delivery, and even technological interventions (SMS reminders for patients and doctors alike, making all records digital and searchable, and so on), Sagwa explored how actions at the top of the system can influence the everyday experience at its base.

“It’s about looking at the whole system,” he explained. “Namibia has a small, dispersed population, and it can be difficult to provide services far away from population centres - so we need to do what we can to make sure that people get the services and medications they need.”

A Shining Example of Achievement

The Jakes Gerwel Award honours and recognises the late Prof Jakes Gerwel’s central role in promoting public health practice, and is open to all graduates of the SoPH who have demonstrated outstanding work in some aspect of public health.

“Since the time of his MPH studies Evans has been instrumental in supporting the Namibian Government through a range of initiatives to strengthen the public sector health services, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector,” said the SoPH’s Dr Hazel Bradley, reading the award citation. “For his enthusiastic and energetic commitment and contributions to Public Health, especially in the field of pharmaceutical health, Evans Sagwa is a worthy recipient of the Jakes Gerwel Award in Public Health.”

UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius, added that the Award is a celebration of the achievements made possible through philanthropic support, thanking the Mauerberger Foundation and Gerwel family for their ongoing relationship with UWC. But it also serves as a reminder of the intellectual impact of universities, and of the School of Public Health in particular, on society at large.

“In a society where public space is dominated by negativity, and where a cult of mediocrity is becoming pervasive, this Award adds to the tapestry of excellence at UWC,” he said. “As a university, our reputation is largely dependent on the successes of its graduates, its alumni - and Evans Sagwa is a shining example of achievement and aspiration. We are very proud of his efforts - and we look forward to welcoming him back after that stint in the Netherlands…”

The Rewards of Hard Work

The Award also came with a R50,000 cheque, made possible through a grant by the Mauerberger Foundation Fund and presented by Heinrich Gerwel, son of the late Jakes Gerwel - and himself a graduate of UWC (along with seven of his father’s siblings and several of his cousins).

Dianna Yach, Chairperson and Director of the Mauerberger Foundation Fund, congratulated Sagwa and spoke about the positive working relationship between the Mauerberger Foundation Fund and UWC - a relationship that will only deepen with time.

“As a donor - a small but committed and enthusiastic donor - I feel that now more than ever before is the time for us to support universities,” she said. “Students have given us an opportunity to think about who we are and what we want to achieve - and what is important is that we are all engaged in the discussion about the future of higher education and society.”

Want to know more about Evans Sagwa’s contributions to public health? Download the full Jakes Gerwel Award citation here.