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Prof Jose Frantz Champions Research and Transformation

I Am UWC: Prof Jose Frantz - NRF Research and Transformation Champion

University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Dean of the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences, Prof Jose Frantz, believes researchers should identify common interests and work together, driven by a bigger vision to change the lives of people and society. And living out those ideals has earned her the prestigious Champion of Research Capacity Development and Transformation Award at this year’s National Research Foundation (NRF) awards ceremony in Polokwane.

Prof Frantz makes it her business to help students and researchers make a meaningful impact on the health of South African society. Being considered for this award is a special honour for her.

“My life is all about developing others, and I enjoy seeing others thrive,” she says. “The most rewarding part of my job is when others thrive and succeed. Being honoured and recognised like this is just an added bonus for me - and a humbling experience.”

Statements like these mark Frantz as an important advocate for greater transformation of South Africa’s science community and landscape.

Frantz spent her formative years in District 6, where she attended Zonnebloem Girls Primary School and Harold Cressy High School. She joined UWC in 1996 as a lecturer, obtained her doctoral degree in 2005 from UWC's Department of Physiotherapy - the first black female researcher to obtain a PhD from this department - and headed the department for three years before becoming Deputy Dean of Research in the Faculty, and ultimately Dean.

A C-rated NRF researcher with dozens of publications, Prof Frantz's work focuses on the prevention of chronic lifestyle diseases in young people through appropriate health education. Her commitment to human capacity development is reflected in the number of Master’s (37) and PhD (7) students she has supervised - more than 30 of whom have converted their work to publications - and in her tireless activities to promote evidence-based and current teaching and learning.

“Sharing of my knowledge across disciplines has been a rewarding exercise and is reflected in my drive to develop T-shaped graduates and academics,” she explains. “Besides helping young academics obtain higher degrees, I’ve tried to help them take the academic journey further in terms of publication, promotion and rating. That  way, they can make a meaningful contribution to the research landscape - and perhaps help others to do the same as well.”

A Sense Of Community

It isn’t only the community and health sciences that capture Prof Frantz’s interest, though. She is also involved in her local church in Hazendal, Athlone, where she enjoys helping talented young people developing their acting abilities.

“I love spiritual dancing,” she remarks, “and until about three years ago, I used to write Christian plays for young people to perform in church - though this has taken a back seat for now.”

By bestowing awards on South Africa's leading researchers, the NRF celebrates research excellence, benchmarking the country’s researchers against the best in the world - a key driver in the aim to build a globally competitive science system in South Africa.

Frantz gratefully acknowledges the contributors to her own success.

“Nothing in life is ever achieved on one’s own,” she says. “I'd like to thank God for blessing me with talent and wisdom, and  I’m especially grateful to my family, parents, husband and children and colleagues who have been my support and cheerleaders on my journey.”

Prof Frantz is currently the editor of the South African Journal of Physiotherapy and the Journal of Community and Health Sciences, and co-editor for the African Journal of Health Professionals Education. She is also an international lecturer for the Foundation of Advancement in Education and Research, and is involved in implementing and evaluating the effects of a health education programme relating to risk factors for chronic diseases of lifestyles in schools in the Western Cape, as part of the Life Orientation Curriculum.