Boehringer Ingelheim, a world leader in pharmaceutical research and development, launched the Boehringer Ingelheim Care Foundation in Cape Town on 19 March 2010. The foundation formalises and endorses Boehringer’s ongoing commitment to Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives.
Although a number of projects are supported by the Boehringer Ingelheim Care Foundation, one of the major initiatives is a Medical Student Programme established by Boehringer Ingelheim in 1992 to fully finance 12 medical students a year from disadvantaged communities. The 2009 graduates were congratulated at the launch of the Boehringer Ingelheim Care Foundation.
R6.4 million invested
To date, Boehringer Ingelheim has invested R6.4 million in the programme, which entails sponsorship of academic and residence fees for the seven-year study period. In line with its ongoing vision to add value to the lives of its patients, its people and its communities, the company has committed to continue the programme indefinitely and ensure that there will be 12 students participating in the programme at all times.
Dirk van Niekerk, Country Chairman of Boehringer Ingelheim, South Africa commented: "Doctors and pharmacists are the lifeblood of the health industry. At the forefront of improving the lives of their patients, they play a crucial role in the communities they serve – and yet, until 1994 there were few or no doctors from previously disadvantaged communities in South Africa, as a result of political barriers, inadequate secondary education and poverty."
Lerato Melato, a third-year medical student who has been on the Boehringer Ingelheim Programme for one year, said: "The sponsors from Boehringer Ingelheim encourage the students to excel without pressuring us beyond our abilities. They are sincerely interested in our education and personal growth, and like to see us pursuing our lives as well-rounded individuals."
Initially from Port Elizabeth, Lerato was orphaned at a young age and took on responsibility for her two younger siblings. She became interested in studying medicine after following a job shadowing programme at Livingstone Hospital during her Grade 11 year.
"It inspired me to understand how things happen in the human body," she said. "After qualifying as a general practitioner, I hope to specialise in paediatric psychiatry. Boehringer Ingelheim has given me the opportunity to realise my dreams."
Dr Shumani Phaswana graduated in 2005 and embarked on practical training in the medical field. Dr Phaswana has not lost her passion for acquiring knowledge and is currently doing her third year as a post graduate student in occupational and environmental health at the University of KwaZulu Natal. Dr Phaswana will also be starting her research project to obtain her MMED. The eldest of four children, Dr Phaswana grew up in rural Venda. Her single mother, a teacher, couldn't afford the university education her daughter needed to pursue her goal of becoming a doctor.
"Being a part of the Boehringer Ingelheim student programme not only educated me but also gave me an opportunity to educate my siblings and I am truly grateful for this as my mom was not able to do the same for me," said Dr Phaswana. "Boehringer Ingelheim's continuous support and interest in my life is incredible. Nothing beats the feeling of being a Boerhinger family member."
Since its inception, the programme has sponsored 22 students who have graduated and are now registered general practitioners. Together, they care for hundreds and thousands of patients each year. In 2006, the Boehringer Ingelheim sponsorship was extended to include two pharmacy students.
"One of South Africa's challenges is to combat the ongoing shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas, and to ensure that health services are spread across the country giving every person in South Africa access to adequate healthcare," said van Niekerk.
"Boehringer Ingelheim is proud to be playing its part through its commitment to growing the national medical base, thereby adding value to the lives of the patients and communities it serves." - (March 2010)
Source: Press release issued by Boehringer Ingelheim.