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- Vivus -

A name reflecting renewal, vitality and innovation

Dear Friends of the Faculty

We are pleased to launch this first issue of our new publication, Vivus. Vivus is Latin for alive, living or fresh and represents the vibrant and dynamic nature of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) of Stellenbosch University. The name Vivus also reflects our commitment to renewal, development and innovation, as well as our readiness to respond to challenges.

The FMHS has, since its establishment in 1965, grown into one of the foremost health sciences faculties in Africa. Today it is home to about 4 000 students enrolled in five undergraduate programmes and more than 80 postgraduate programmes. We are building an environment that welcomes a diversity of people and ideas, and one where staff and students receive the support they need to develop to their full potential. In addition, team work and collaboration are recognised as critical for success and are therefore actively promoted.

In this issue of Vivus you will be introduced to an exciting new initiative - the African Cancer Institute (ACI). The ACI aims to become an internationally recognised comprehensive centre of excellence conducting and coordinating multidisciplinary cancer research.
You can also watch an interview with Prof Soraya Seedat, head of the Department of Psychiatry, and winner in the category for distinguished women scientists in life sciences at the 2013 Women in Science Awards.

Furthermore, you will find news about five research projects which have attracted prestigious Flagship Project grants from the South African Medical Research Council. And you can enjoy some memories of the fun we enjoyed at the faculty’s first Gala Concert held in October last year.

These are just some of the highlights in our first edition. We invite you to indulge in these and the feast of additional interesting and informative articles included. Thank you for your engagement with our faculty and your support, which we value highly.


Kind regards

Jimmy Volmink
DEAN

Prof Jimmy Volmink
 



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High-ranking American Health Official visits Stellenbosch University

Dr Nils Daulaire, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs of the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services recently visited Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.  He was accompanied by Steven Smith, Health Attaché, Embassy of the USA in SA and Ms Nancy Knight, Director of the Centre for Disease Control SA. The two day programme included a visit Worcester where they visited the Uwkanda Rural Clinical School and the Avian Park Clinic. They attended an information session where they were briefed on the various initiatives of the Stellenbosch University's Rural Medical Education Partnership Initiative (SurMepi).

They spent the second day at the Tygerberg Campus, where they received information on USA funded projects. They also visited a Desmond Tutu TB Centre field testing facility, which was set up on campus for the day.  These TB and HIV testing facilities are set up at public places, such as shopping centres and industrial areas.  He also spent some time talking to under- and postgraduate students, researchers and student leaders.

During lunchtime, Daulaire delivered a special guest lecture on Global health: the emerging paradigm for global security and social justice. Click here for article

Visiting the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School, (fltr) Dr Rehmeth Fakroodeen (CDC), Dr Kalay Moodley (FHMS), Prof Marietjie de Villiers (FMHS) Mr Steve Smith (USA Embassy), Dr Nils Daulaire, Prof Jimmy Volmink (FMHS), Ms Nancy Knight (CDC), Dr Therese Fish (FMHS) and Prof Jean Nachega (FMHS) The Desmond Tutu TB Centre' field testing facility for TB and HIV testing was set-up on the Tygerberg campus for the day.

 

Justice and security – two sides of the same coin

Social justice and security are the Yin and Yang of global health

This is according to the Honourable Dr Nils Daulaire, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs of the United States (US) Department of Health and Human Services, who gave a special lecture at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences recently.

In his talk entitled Global health: the emerging paradigm for global security and social justice, Dr Daulaire maintains that the concept of human health is not limited to the individual, or even communities or countries, but rather is a global construct, influenced by various factors ranging from national policy, to commercial interests, and the interconnectedness of our global village.

According to Daulaire there is a dual purpose for countries such as the US to be involved in global health: “to protect themselves from health threats from the outside or to do good for others.”

The Spanish Influenza of 1918 which killed between 60 and 100 million people is a stark reminder of why it is necessary to monitor and control the spread of infectious diseases.

More recently global health security was brought to the fore with the outbreak of the West Nile Fever in New York 1997/1998, the adaptation of avian flu from birds to humans in Asia in 2003, the outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) that started in China in 2003, and in 2009 when H1N1, or Swine Flu, emerged from Mexico and spread globally.

The Institute of Medicine has forecast an emergence and re-emergence of a wide range of potentially dangerous, rapidly-spreading infections. “The dynamics of the globe is such that the potential is far greater than it had ever been before,” he said. Factors contributing to favourable conditions for the emergence of disease include: the increasing penetration of human populations into rich bio zones (particularly in the tropical rainforests); the rapid spread of infections via global transportation; the increasing reliance of the global economy on the rapid import and export of food and other products which are vehicles for carrying disease; the increase in population density in cities (particularly in the developing world).

The World Health Organisation (WHO) have taken cognisance of these potential threats to global health security and have formed a unit whose primary mandate is the rapid detection and control of infectious diseases, notably pandemic influenza.

Through a private-public partnership an influenza vaccine manufacturing facility is currently being developed in South Africa and is intended to also serve the rest of the continent in case of an influenza outbreak.

Daulaire also recognises the global threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Although commonly thought to be isolated to the individual, he argues that NCDs show similar epidemiological patterns to infectious diseases and he has therefore dubbed it “socio-communicable diseases”, suggesting that the main causes for NCDs (tobacco and alcohol use and a diet high in fat and salt) are behavioural patterns that are communicated socially. 

“While we recognise that for 200 years infectious diseases has really been the leading edge of our approach to global health, we recognise today that increasingly behavioural health is at the centre of the emerging paradigm of health in the 21st century,” Daulaire said.

He argued that these are global trends which need global action to address them, and said that the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first global effort to address a pandemic of non-communicable disease.

Another reason why countries such as the US give billions of dollars each year towards global health efforts through programmes such as PEPFAR and USAID is social justice. 

“So why do we do it?” Daulaire asked, referring to the large capital investment the US makes towards the developing world. “I believe we do it because in a just world your chance of surviving pregnancy or making it to the age of five, or dying of AIDS, TB or malaria should not be determined by where your people have settled. And we do it, because we recognise that in a densely, interconnected world there are no risks that are self-contained, and that a global network aimed at preventing and responding to outbreaks with the potential of rapid spread, serves to protect us all,” he concluded.
   
   

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Prize winning scientist - a career in research rewarded Clinical Trials Unit receives NIAID funding
Prof Soraya Seedat, head of the Department of Psychiatry, was chosen as winner in the category for distinguished women scientists in life sciences at the annual Women in Science Awards. 

vivus did an interview with her.  

Click here for article and video interview
    Stellenbosch University Clinical Trial Unit (SUN-CTU), comprising three clinical research sites at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), received a successful response to a funding application with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to join their Clinical Trials Networks. The focus areas of these research networks are HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

 

Prof Soraya Seedat: Recognition for a female leader in science and research

 
 

The national Department of Science and Technology has honoured one of the leading scientists in the SU Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Prof Soraya Seedat, as one of the top female scientists in South Africa.

Seedat is chair of the Department of Psychiatry and a foremost expert on post-traumatic stress. She emerged as the winner in the category, Distinguished Women Scientist in the Life Sciences, at the annual ‘Women in Science’ awards, presented by Science and Technology at a ceremony held in Johannesburg. These awards are aimed at profiling women scientists and researchers as role models for younger researchers, and to encourage and reward younger women who are starting their careers as emerging researchers. 

This year’s ceremony formed part of Science and Technology’s ‘Celebration of Women’ month. The theme for the event, namely The scourge of violence against women: what is the role of science and research? was derived from the the theme of 2013 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, i.e. the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

Seedat is the winner of numerous local and international awards and fellowships and holds a chair in post-traumatic stress disorders, sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation She is also co-director of the Medical Research Council's Anxiety and Stress Disorders research unit, and editor of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

Her research comprises scientific efforts to discover more precisely the root causes of post-traumatic stress disorders to develop medication and other treatments for people with these disorders.

She says the award acknowledges the contribution and commitment of the talented and aspirant young women researchers she works with. “I am thrilled that the Department of Science and Technology had made a serious investment in women scientists all levels, particularly in the health sciences.”


Clinical Trials Unit receives NIAID funding
Dr Florian von Groote-Bidlingmaier, Prof Anneke Hesseling and Prof Mark Cotton

Stellenbosch University Clinical Trial Unit (SUN-CTU), comprising three clinical research sites at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), received a successful response to a funding application with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) to join their Clinical Trials Networks. The focus areas of these research networks are HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

The network consists of 37 clinical trials units (CTUs) from seven countries which will be conducting research through 2021. Total funding for the network is expected to reach $225 million (around R2.4 billion) in 2014, the first year of operation.

The principal investigator for SUN-CTU is Prof Mark Cotton. He established the Children’s Infectious Diseases Clinical Research Unit (KID-CRU) for trials in 2003. KID-CRU now amalgamates with the Adult HIV Clinic as FAM-CRU and will focus on trials across the age spectrum, focussing on HIV treatment, preventing HIV transmission to babies, hepatitis and cervical cancer. Prof. Jean Nachega and Dr. Jantjie Taljaard will lead studies in adults.

The co-principal investigators of SUN-CTU are: Prof Anneke Hesseling from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre who works in Paediatric TB and community-based HIV prevention and treatment; and Prof Andreas Diacon from TASK whose unit focuses on adult TB (including HIV), and develops innovative treatment strategies. The reference laboratory for TB research in the networks is based in Stellenbosch University and is led by Prof. Andreas Diacon and housed in Prof. Paul van Helden’s TB research laboratories.

“With much recent progress, this is a very exciting time in HIV/AIDS research,” said NIAID director, Anthony S. Fauci in a statement. “The next seven years will be a critical period as we pursue the now-achievable goal of an AIDS-free generation, one in which new infections and deaths are very rare.”

Prof Cotton said that SUN-CTU provides excellent opportunities to collaborate scientifically with colleagues globally and to make a real difference in managing potentially severe infections. “The infra-structure will increase our capacity to conduct good research and is a good starting point for for faculty to become involved,” he said.

The additional five CTU sites in South Africa were awarded to CAPRISA in Ethekweni, the MRC in Westville, UCT in Cape Town and two at the Wits Health Consortium. Other CTUs from Africa are in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 

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Dean appointed to top postition Faculty selected as Biorepository site for sub-Saharan Africa
Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was elected as the interim president of the newly-established Southern African clinical Epidemiology Association (SACEA). 

SACEA’s inaugural meeting was organised by the Universities of Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand and Pretoria, in collaboration with the International Epidemiology Association (IEA) and International Clinical Epidemiology network (INCLEN), and was hosted by the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care (CEBHC) at the FMHS in April this year.

  The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and Tygerberg National Health Laboratory Service have been selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as the site for its first sub-Saharan Africa AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC).

The principal investigator (PI) on the project is Prof Johann Schneider, head of the Division of Anatomical Pathology with co-PIs Profs Akin Abayomi, head of the Division of Haematology, and Wolfgang Preiser, head of the Division of Medical Virology.

 

Dean elected to top postition at Southern African Clinical Epidemiology Association

Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was elected as the interim president of the newly-established Southern African clinical Epidemiology Association (SACEA).

SACEA’s inaugural meeting was organised by the Universities of Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand and Pretoria, in collaboration with the International Epidemiology Association (IEA) and International Clinical Epidemiology network (INCLEN), and was hosted by the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care (CEBHC) at the FMHS in April this year.

The association aims to:
•    promote the science and practice of Clinical Epidemiology,
•    develop the scope of practice for Clinical Epidemiologists,
•    benchmark and standardise Clinical Epidemiology education and training programmes,
•    support collaborative efforts among academic institutions for development, delivery and improvement and quality assurance of Clinical Epidemiology education and training programmes including experiential learning,
•    promote continuous professional development in Clinical Epidemiology for all health professionals, and
•    partner with other international organisations of Epidemiology and Clinical Epidemiology.

The meeting - attended by participants from various health backgrounds, including nursing, dietetics, paramedics, dentistry, and medicine attended the meeting - facilitated talks around Clinical Epidemiology and was followed by a special training meeting where academics from three South African universities and the University of Ibadan (Nigeria) shared experiences in postgraduate training.

The SACEA also elected an interim executive committee which will govern the Society until the first annual general meeting in 2014. The members of the Interim Executive committee are: Prof Jimmy Volmink (President); Dr Newton Kumwenda (Deputy President), Dr Taryn Young (Secretary) and Dr Nandi Siegfried (Treasurer) and five other members including a representative from IEA and INCLEN. Stellenbosch University will host the interim secretariat.

 

 


 

Faculty selected as Bioreposiory site for sub-Saharan Africa

 

 

Proff Nico Gey van Pittius, Johann Schneider, Silvia Silver, Wolfgang Preiser and Jimmy Volmink.

 

 

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and Tygerberg National Health Laboratory Service have been selected by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as the site for its first sub-Saharan Africa AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC).

The principal investigator (PI) on the project is Prof Johann Schneider, head of the Division of Anatomical Pathology with co-PIs Profs Akin Abayomi, head of the Division of Haematology, and Wolfgang Preiser, head of the Division of Medical Virology.

The biorepository will handle biospecimens from patients with HIV-associated malignancies enrolled in AMC clinical trials conducted in Africa, and will proactively obtain relevant biospecimens and data for ethically approved morphological, proteomic and genomic research on AIDS-related cancer.

“The biorepository is a valuable resource for researchers and is meant to boost research in Africa,” said Prof Sylvia Silver from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) and the AIDS Cancer Specimen Resource (ACSR) during a visit to the FMHS to assist with the project. Prof Silver, professor of pathology and medicine at SMHS, and director and principal investigator for the East Coast ACSR, will assist the Stellenbosch team with expert advice on best practices during the establishment of the sub-Saharan African biorepository which should be operational early in 2014.

The facility will also offer training for African scientists and provide a community outreach portal to educate the public about the implications of biobanking and genomics for the health of African populations.

“This project is of great value to the university, as well as the country and the whole African continent,” said Schneider. “Not only will it advance research, it will also play a leading role in developing best practice for establishing and sustaining a world-class bioreprository in Africa.”   

The biorepository will be closely linked with the ongoing H3Africa funded project known as the Cape Town H3Africa biorepository which facilitates studies on biodiversity, disease and pharmacogenomics of African populations.

The biorepository will be set up over a three-year period and will be funded with a R6.7 million grant from AMC.

 

 

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Tygerberg students benefit from Dean's neknomination

Sizathina Dlamini receives the contribution on behalf of the Tygerberg members of the SU choir.

In response to the Rector, Prof Russel Botman’s neknomination challenge, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, contributed R2000 to the Tygerberg members of the Stellenbosch University Choir’s  fundraising initiative. They are raising funds for their tour to the World Choir Games in Latvia later this year.
Click here for article and video

 

Tygerberg students benefit from Dean's neknomination

Sizathina Dlamini receives the contribution on behalf of the Tygerberg members of the SU choir.


In response to the Rector, Prof Russel Botman’s neknomination challenge, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, contributed R2000 to the Tygerberg members of the Stellenbosch University Choir’s  fundraising initiative. They are raising funds for their tour to the World Choir Games in Latvia later this year.

Prof Botman challenged the deans of SU's 10 faculties after donating R10000 on behalf of his family to the iShack Project in Enkanini in Stellenbosch. This is in response to a neknomination by Mr MJ Dippenaar, Chairperson of the Maties Student Representative Council.

According to Prof Volmink, students of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences are well known for their academic excellence, but not always recognized for their activities outside the class room.  The faculty encourages students to participate in extramural activities, such as the World Choir Games.

“We would like to support our students to attend this important world event and believe that this will be potentially life changing for them,” Prof Jimmy Volmink said.


 

 

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Millions for Comprehensive Family HIV Care & Treatment Faculty receives prestigious NRF funding International collaboration to present high-level workshop
The South to South Programme for Comprehensive Family HIV Care & Treatment received a $15 million USAID grant. The five-year grant will fund a training and mentoring programme developed by South2South to provide support and training to health care workers who are involved in paediatric and adolescent HIV, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) and psychosocial support. The programme will support health care workers in all nine provinces of South Africa.
Three researchers at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences received funding for the purchase of large instruments from the National Research Foundation (NRF) as part of the National Equipment Programme for 2013. The recipients are:Prof Quinette Louw from Physiotherapy for a Portable Biomechanical Analysis System; Prof Paul van Helden from Molecular Biology and Human Genetics for a Q Exactive Mass Spectrometer; and Prof Gerhard Walzl also from Molecular Biology and Human Genetics for a BD FACS Jazz Sorter. 
Profs Quinette Louw, Paul Van Helden and Gerhard Walzl
The workshop presenters in the front row, left-to-right, are Allan Wilson, Andrew Field, Colleen Wright and Nick Dudding.

A four-day workshop on Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNAB) and Gynaecological Cytology was recently hosted at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

 

 

Faculty receives prestigeous NRF funding
 
Profs Quinette Louw, Paul Van Helden and Gerhard Walzl

Three researchers at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences received funding for the purchase of large instruments from the National Research Foundation (NRF) as part of the National Equipment Programme for 2013.

The recipients are: Prof Quinette Louw from Physiotherapy for a Portable Biomechanical Analysis System; Prof Paul van Helden from Molecular Biology and Human Genetics for a Q Exactive Mass Spectrometer; and Prof Gerhard Walzl also from Molecular Biology and Human Genetics for a BD FACS Jazz Sorter.  

The Portable Biomechanical Analysis System consists of three components – the Xsens MTw Development Kit, Noraxon Electromyography and Bertech force place – that synchronise to produce comprehensive biomechanical analysis of human function. The system’s mobility enables them to transport it to any location, fostering inter-institutional collaborations with other African partners.

“The portable system will add great value by ensuring that we meet international standards for biomechanical research and have new cutting edge technology to conduct robust, pragmatic studies which will aid the transfer of research into practice,” says Louw.

The device costs in the region of R1.3 million and will be in operation by the end of the year.

The Q Exactive mass spectrometer is state-of-the-art equipment used for proteomic and metabolomic research. “It enables researchers to investigate proteins and protein changes in any organisms, be it bacteria, plants, animals or human samples,” says Dr Salome Smit. “This equipment will enable us to elucidate how these organisms react to certain situations, and therefore advance our knowledge. Proteins do the work within a cell and therefore looking at them will give us a lot of information on how the organism works. Furthermore it also has the advantage that it can investigate small molecules within the cells.”

The Q Exactive mass spectrometer will form part of the services provided by the Central Analytical Facility at Stellenbosch University and will enable the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics to compete with similar international proteomics facilities.

“Our Proteomics lab is now the most advanced proteomics laboratory in the country, and we offer our services to all universities. We strive to be world leading and innovative in proteomic research,” says Smit.

The device costs just under R10 million and is expected to be up and running by September this year.

The BD FACS Jazz flow cytometer sorter is used to characterise cells (and small micro-organisms) by viewing them after they have been labelled and activated with fluorescent dyes. The sorting capability allows the researcher to select (“sort”) specific populations of cells (or micro-organisms) based on the specified criteria for further analysis in vitro or in vivo.

“The Immunology Research Group (SUNIRG) within the Division of Biomedical Sciences performs research on the discovery of biomarkers for TB infection, treatment and disease progression,” says Dr André Loxon. “Several projects have identified different (and novel) populations of cells and cytokines playing a role during infection with TB and the treatment thereof. The FACS Jazz instrument will allow us to sort these cells of interest and do further in-depth characterisation of their role during infection with tuberculosis.”

The instrument will have a total cost of R6 149 481 which includes a three year full maintenance service contract, and is expected to be installed by early September.

 

International collaboration to present high-level workshop in Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNAB) and Gynaecological Cytology

The workshop presenters in the front row, left-to-right, are Allan Wilson, Andrew Field, Colleen Wright and Nick Dudding.

A four-day workshop on Fine Needle Aspiration Biopsy (FNAB) and Gynaecological Cytology was recently hosted at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

More than 70 pathologists and cytotechnologists from all over South Africa and southern Africa attended the workshop.

This event was a collaboration between Prof Andrew Field from the Notre Dame University in Australia, Prof Colleen Wright from the FMHS’ Division of Anatomical Pathology, and National Health Laboratory Services, Port Elizabeth. Two expert cytotechnologists from the United Kingdom, Allan Wilson, the Chairman of the British Association for Cytopathology and Nick Dudding, Chair of the the International Academy of Cytology Cytotechnologists Committee, provided interactive seminars and updates on Gynaecological cytology. 

Prof Field is also the Vice President of the International Academy of Cytology (IAC), a member of the IAC Task Force on Cytology Teaching in Developing Countries, and the appointed co-chair of the IAC Education and QA Committee with the specific directive to establish IAC Tutorials in developing countries. Prof Wright is also a member of the IAC Education and QA Committee and the IAC Task Force on Cytology Teaching in Developing Countries.

According to Prof Wright, this international workshop was held here at the FMHS to help address the shortage of pathology and laboratory skills on the African continent.
Cytology, particularly FNAB provides a means to triage patients, allowing the diagnosis of those with infectious diseases such as TB to be managed without surgical intervention and without admission to hospital. Sputum screening can identify patients with lung carcinoma and facilitate their transfer to centres for management or palliation, if available.

“There are many centres of excellence in South Africa and in Africa where cytology is practiced at a very high level,” says Wright. “With the assistance of the IAP these centres need to extend their expertise to those who are still in the learning curve.”

For the past eight years Stellenbosch University has been offering a distance-learning Master’s degree in Cytopathology, allowing access to these specialist skills to pathologists anywhere in Africa.

“Funding has been a problem, but Stellenbosch University, under the guidance of Prof Johann Schneider has recently obtained bursaries to assist these students,” says Wright.

 

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FMHS projects awarded prestigious MRC Flagship Project grants

 

The Flagship Project grants are awarded to prestigious research projects expected to have high impact. “They are the ‘big ideas, big science for big impact’,” reads an explanation of the Flagship Projects on the MRC website.

The following projects by, or affiliated with FMHS researchers received Flagship Project grants:

•    Prof Professor Soraya Seedat with the Department of Psychiatry for a project entitled “Understanding the SHARED ROOTS of Neuropsychiatric Disorders and Modifiable Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease (SHARED ROOTS)”.

•    Prof Taryn Young from the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC) and Profs Quinette Louw and Karen Grimmer with the Division of Physiotherapy is involved with Cochrane Centre project entitled “South African Guideline Evaluation Project (SAGE project)”.

•    An initiative via CPUT with Tandi Matsha entitled “Progressive research on risk factors of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in South Africa”.

•    Prof Ian Wiid and Dr Ben Baker with the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics are collaborators on a North West University project entitled “Development to the Clinical Phase of Oxidant and Redox Drug Combinations for Treatment of Malaria, TB and Related Diseases”.

 
 

 



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Faculty's Gala Evening a huge success

Beethoven and Bollywood shared the stage at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) first ever gala concert where the faculty celebrated its extraordinary diversity.

More than 120 students and staff members—including the Dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink—entertained the audience with an assortment of music, singing and dancing.

“Our faculty embraces its diversity,” said Prof Volmink. “We believe it is an attribute that makes us better and stronger, and that it worthy of celebration.”

This variety show catered to every taste – whether you enjoy the orchestral works of Tchaikovsky, the jazzy sound of Frank Sinatra, or prefer something more contemporary like Rihanna or Adele.

Among the acts were the national sêr winners, Hippokrates Ladies; Maties Talent winner, the contemporary dancer Siphokazi Nkozi; Code Red, bronze medallists at the Western Province Hip Hop Championships;  Stellenbosch University’s acclaimed Medical Orchestra, and don’t forget the Staff A Capella Group in which Prof Volmink showcased his singing prowess on the stage.

The FMHS gala concert was held on Friday 11 October 2013 at the Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium in Parow.
 

 

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New TB drug on the horizon Improving eye care with modern technology
       
Prof Andreas Diacon (left) and Dr Florian von Groote-Bidlingmaier Dr William Mapham (left) with Prof Kovin Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute

A promising new drug for the treatment of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB was recently conditionally approved by the European Medicines Agency and a research unit closely affiliated with Stellenbosch University played a central role in this process.

  

An ophthalmology registrar at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr William Mapham, recently won a R1 million research development grant from SAB to develop the “Vula” eye health mobile phone application.

New TB drug on the horizon

Photo: Prof Andreas Diacon (left) and Dr Florian von Groote-Bidlingmaier
A promising new drug for the treatment of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB was recently conditionally approved by the European Medicines Agency and a research unit closely affiliated with Stellenbosch University played a central role in this process.

The drug, called Delamanid, was developed by the Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka, and was tested by TASK Applied Science, a clinical trials unit founded and run by Andreas Diacon, professor of Medical Physiology at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“We were the first worldwide to give Delamanid to a TB patient, and we also published the first report on the use of Delamanid in TB patients,” said TASK director, Dr Florian von Groote-Bidlingmaier, a specialist physician in Internal Medicine and Pulmonology who is responsible for the MDR-TB trials at Brooklyn Chest Hospital.

Delamanid is a newly synthesised drug (a so called nitro-dihydroimidazo-oxazole) with similarities to existing antibiotics, but new for tuberculosis treatment. It is one of several drugs currently in clinical development, and is only the second anti-tuberculosis drug after bedaquiline to receive a positive opinion from an international medicines authority in decades.

A two-month trial in patients with MDR-TB showed treatment to be significantly more effective when Delamanid was added to the standard drug regimen, compared to the standard treatment alone. It also seems to have a favourable side effect profile.

“With the growing rate of drug-resistant TB we urgently need new drugs to treat our patients,” said von Groote-Bidlingmaier. “Although Delamanid alone will not be the solution – TB treatment is always a combination therapy – Delamanid could be part of a future combination regimen together with other new drugs.”

Although Delamanid is currently not approved in South Africa, Von Groote-Bidlingmaier said he is confident that it will become available to TB patients here in the near future.

Recently patient recruitment for a large phase III trial testing the efficacy and safety of Delamanid over a period of 6 months was completed with TASK being the highest contributer among approximately 20 international sites.

 
Improving eye care with modern technology  
 
Dr William Mapham (left) with Prof Kovin Naidoo of the Brien Holden Vision Institute  

 

An ophthalmology registrar at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr William Mapham, recently won a R1 million research development grant from SAB to develop the “Vula” eye health mobile phone application.

This mobile phone “app”, as these types of programmes are commonly referred to, is designed to teach people about eye health, conduct a simple eye test and can connect people to an eye health professional.

“In the future the app may also be used by members of the public to receive opinions from ophthalmologists, or to arrange appointments themselves,” says Mapham.

Mapham’s inspiration to develop the app came from working in deep rural areas in Swaziland and the Eastern Cape where people had limited or no access to eye clinics. “While conducting eye clinics in far-flung villages in the old Transkei I came across people who have been blind for many years and that needed cataract surgery to restore their vision. Hopefully the app will be used to help people with eye conditions in rural areas receive the help they need as soon as possible, rather than suffering with preventable blindness for long periods of time,” says Mapham.

Dr William Mapham previously spent time in New York and Washington where he designing mobile phone applications for healthcare. In 2008 he published “Mobile phones: Changing health care one SMS at a time” in the South African Journal of HIV Medicine.

The “Vula” app is also the focus of his MMed dissertation and he aims to use it to improve the Ophthalmology Division’s referral system, and it is also supported by the Brien Holden Vision Institute.

The name, “Vula”, means “open” and was taken from the name of an eye clinic in Swaziland, Vula Amehlo Eye Clinic. “The visionary Dr Jono Pons runs the clinic and it offers services to people from all over Swaziland as well as people from neighbouring Mozambique. Hopefully once the app is available it will be used in the clinic from which its name originates,” says Mapham.

The app will be tested in two sites: testing in an urban setting will take place at Tygerberg Hospital, and rural testing will take place in the Mosvold Hospital in Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal. Once testing is complete it will be released on app stores, hopefully by July this year. There is potential in the future to translate the app into different languages and adapt it for use in countries other than South Africa.

The R1 million award from SAB will go towards the development, programming, testing, marketing and future developments of the app.
 

 

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African Cancer Institute launched
Pictured here are (back left to right) Dr Oliver Bogler (University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center), Profs Eugene Cloete (SU Vice-Rector: Research & Innovation), Vikash Sewram (Director: ACI), Nico Gey van Pittius (FMHS Deputy Dean: Research); Jimmy Volmink (FMHS Dean), Prof Branislav Jeremic (Head: Division Radation Oncology). (front left) Dr Kathleen Schmeler (MD Anderson Cancer Center); Dr Shubhra Ghosh (MD Anderson Cancer Center).

 

Stellenbosch University (SU) recently launched the African Cancer Institute (ACI) which aims to conduct high-level cancer research and contribute to improving the prevention, diagnosis and management of cancer in Africa.

"Most cancers are treatable and many are curable. Yet many people in Africa do not have access to basic diagnostic and treatment facilities," Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

There is a critical need for interventions that will help prevent cancer and improve access to treatment and care of patients with cancer on the African continent. "Cancer is a neglected disease in Africa. We are sleepwalking into a tsunami of cancer which is going to be quite devastating," said Volmink.

SU is well-positioned to help address these challenges. The ACI will be situated at the FMHS, although cancer research at the university is not limited to this faculty and several other divisions and units at seven other faculties also conduct cancer-related research.

"By consolidating our efforts under a single umbrella, we are taking our efforts to a new level. This makes SU the leading entity in South Africa in terms of cancer research," said Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research of SU.

Click here for article and video

 

 

African Cancer Institute launched
              

Stellenbosch University (SU) recently launched the African Cancer Institute (ACI) which aims to conduct high-level cancer research and contribute to improving the prevention, diagnosis and management of cancer in Africa.

"Most cancers are treatable and many are curable. Yet many people in Africa do not have access to basic diagnostic and treatment facilities," Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

There is a critical need for interventions that will help prevent cancer and improve access to treatment and care of patients with cancer on the African continent. "Cancer is a neglected disease in Africa. We are sleepwalking into a tsunami of cancer which is going to be quite devastating," said Volmink.

SU is well-positioned to help address these challenges. The ACI will be situated at the FMHS, although cancer research at the university is not limited to this faculty and several other divisions and units at seven other faculties also conduct cancer-related research.

"By consolidating our efforts under a single umbrella, we are taking our efforts to a new level. This makes SU the leading entity in South Africa in terms of cancer research," said Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research of SU.

Prof Vikash Sewram, the newly appointed Director of the ACI, said cancer is a significant contributor to non-communicable disease morbidity and mortality in Africa. "In South Africa, cancer is already the sixth leading cause of mortality and a public health problem of considerable magnitude," he said.

Sewram further elaborated that the aim of the ACI was to become an internationally recognised comprehensive cancer research centre conducting and coordinating multidisciplinary research relevant to Africa. "The ACI will also provide a strong platform for scholarly growth and knowledge production in pursuit of high-quality evidence-based cancer care. Research at the ACI will cut across the cancer continuum – spanning prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, treatment or palliative care," he said.

Volmink emphasised the importance of collaboration, saying the ACI aims to be a champion for combating cancer on the African continent. "We can do this even better if we partner effectively with other institutions in South Africa, Africa and globally who share our vision," he said.

Ms Sue Janse van Rensburg, CEO of the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) added: "The establishment of the African Cancer Institute will not only facilitate a more extensive platform for cancer and cancer related research in South Africa and the African continent, but will further provide opportunities to address the concerning limitations in resource development and community services.

"As a leader non-profit organisation in cancer control and research, CANSA is very grateful for the opportunity to partake in this very exciting initiative created by Stellenbosch University that will surely have a positive impact on the increasing cancer burden in Africa and South Africa in particular."

It was announced that the ACI had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the prestigious University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This MOU will facilitate collaboration in developing training programmes, faculty exchanges, specific oncology courses and collaborative research projects to advance the understanding of cancer and improving cancer care.

"MD Anderson is proud to partner with the African Cancer Institute on our shared mission of eradicating cancer, and looks forward to working together on joint initiatives to build capacity for advanced cancer care in Africa," said Dr Oliver Bogler, Senior Vice President Academic Affairs at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"Cancer shows vast diversity across the geographic, ethnic, racial and cultural spectrum around the world. We are excited about the new opportunities to advance our understanding of cancer with the launch of the African Cancer Institute at Stellenbosch University," said Dr Shubhra Ghosh, Project Director of Global Academic Programs at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.


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Top honours for medical student Faculty students excel at Rector's Award evening Tygermaties accepted for Oxford elective
 
Newly-graduated medical student at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Jonas Bovijn, received the prestigious Chancellor’s Medal - and there is no better candidate for it.

Not only did Jonas receive his MB, ChB degree cum laude, he also boasts with an exceptional achievement of passing all 38 modules during his six study years with distinction, and completing the programme with an overall average of 86,21%. He is the second student is the more than 50-year existence of the faculty to pass every subject in the MB, ChB-programme with distinction.


Stellenbosch University celebrated excellence on 15 October 2013 at an awards ceremony where top academic achievers and students who excel in the face of adversity were honoured for their achievements. The students of the FMHS made us proud. On the photo are Naseeha Bhyat, Niel Adams, Salwah Salie with Ganya twins Wanele and Wandile.
Read more about the four new recipients of the 'against the odds' awards
Read more about the Award evening and recipients
Two Tygermaties are part of a group of only 50 medical students from all over the world that were selected to do an elective at Oxford University this year. Thousands of students apply for the programme annually.

Nabeela Kajee and Chad Beyer, both fourth-year medical students at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, fly to the United Kingdom in October where they will spend four and eight weeks respectively on their elective programmes.


 

 

Top honours for MB, ChB student

Prof Jimmy Volmink, dean, congratulates Dr Jonas Bovijn at the oath taking ceremony.

Newly-graduated medical student at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Jonas Bovijn, received the prestigious Chancellor’s Medal—and there is no better candidate for it.

Not only did Jonas receive his MB, ChB degree cum laude, he also boasts with an exceptional achievement of passing all 38 modules during his six study years with distinction, and completing the programme with an overall average of 86,21%. He is the second student is the more than 50-year existence of the faculty to pass every subject in the MB, ChB-programme with distinction.

“It was hard work, but I have a passion for medicine and science, and it was always interesting and stimulating,” said a modest Jonas at the MB, ChB oath-taking ceremony where he was named the best student in pathology, obstetrics and gynaecology, and urology, and also received a gold medal from the FMHS for being the best student for the six-year study period.

“I enjoy the scientific as well as the human aspect of the medical field,” said Jonas. In 2014 he will be doing his practical year at the Tygerberg Hospital and says that he enjoys interacting with people from all walks of life. “The medical field provides the opportunity to make a real difference to many people’s lives,” he said.

Apart from all these academic achievements he also received various academic merit awards and acknowledgements for his undergraduate studies, including:
•    The Chancellor’s Award in 2009 for being one of the top 30 students at SU.
•    Best student in his class every year.
•    Academic colours from the Tygerberg Student Council.
•    The Chancellor’s Award for excellent academic achievement.
•    He was one of 52 medical students worldwide to be invited to the New England Journal of Medicine’s 200th Anniversary Symposium in Boston, USA, after winning an essay competition of the medical journal.
•    He was a member of the Golden Key Society consisting of the top 15% of students at SU.
•    He received Hippokrates Res’ award for exceptional academic achievement.
•    He co-chaired the main session at the FMHS’ Annual Academic Day.

Jonas is also an active researcher and was the main author of an article entitled “Identifying predictors of mitral valve tears resulting from percutaneous balloon mitral valvotomy” that was published in the SA Heart Journal, and was also a poster presentation at the 6th World Congress for Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery. He also gave a presentation entitled “Percutaneous balloon mitral valvotomy: Why mitral valves tear” at the FMHS’ 57th Annual Academic Day.

He established himself even further in the research field by being involved with medical research workshops and projects, establishing an association for student research at the Tygerberg campus, and promoting research among other students.

Over and above his academic achievements, Jonas was also involved in various sport and cultural activities on campus:
•    From 2008 to 2011 he played hockey for the men’s second team at the Tygerberg campus.
•    He co-chaired and chaired the panel coordinating and organising the student council election.
•    He was a journalist and sub-editor at the student newspaper, t’Maties.
•    He was the chair of the Philosophy Association.
•    He served on various committees for Hippokrates Res.
•    He was involved in the Tutor/Mentor programme for first year students.
•    He served on the Cultural Committee of the Tygerberg Student Council.
•    In 2010 he was one of 99 students in South Africa attending the “BYM summit” (Brightest Young Minds).
•    He was a member of the Maties Community Service Association.
•    He was a student representative on the organising committee for the FMHS’ Annual Academic Day.
•    He was a judge at the Annual Academic Day.

In his free time Jonas says he enjoys playing guitar and spending time with his family and friends. His other interests include cooking, reading, music and sport.

In his motivation for Jonas’ nomination, the dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink writes: “It is an honour for the FHMS to nominate Jonas for the Chancellor’s Medal… there isn’t a more fitting way to reward this talented young man for his outstanding academic and other achievements than awarding him the Chancellor’s Medal.”

 

Dr Jonas Bovijn received the award for the best research project by a final year medical student for a paper “Identifying predictors of mitral valve (MV) tears resulting from percutaneous balloon mitral valvuloplasty”.  This is the second year in a row that this award goes to a research project from the Division of Cardiology.
 

 



 

Tygermaties accepted for Oxford elective  
 
Nabeela Kajee and Chad Beyer  

 

Two Tygermaties are part of a group of only 50 medical students from all over the world that were selected to do an elective at Oxford University this year. Thousands of students apply for the programme annually.

Nabeela Kajee and Chad Beyer, both fourth-year medical students at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, fly to the United Kingdom in October where they will spend four and eight weeks respectively on their elective programmes.

Nabeela is doing her elective module in general internal medicine while Chad will focus on psychiatry.

“Oxford is one of the top medical schools in the world and has a very good programme,” says Nabeela. “I look forward to becoming an Oxford student for a month and learning more about their different approach to teaching medicine.”

“I want to immerse myself in the Oxford culture,” says Chad. “They have a very strong psychiatry programme and a culture of research excellence.”

Nabeela believes that it is the “world class” training they received at Stellenbosch that helped them to get accepted at Oxford. “We were well-prepared to compete with students from some of the world’s best medical schools, because I believe Stellenbosch University is also one of them.”

 

 

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Pathology takes training to new levels

Training with a difference International funding received boost postgraduate training 
The Division of Chemical Pathology introduced a one-of-a-kind module where future pathologists are not only taught the ins-and-outs of chemical pathology, but also learn how to effectively manage a laboratory. And this programme is proving to be so useful that pathologists and laboratory technologists from all over Africa are signing up for it.

“People don’t realise that if you make mistakes in the lab, it can have effects on the patient,” said Prof Rajiv Erasmus, head of the Division of Chemical Pathology. “Therefore this lab management programme is about improving the quality of lab tests.

“Traditionally the training for pathologists and senior technologists is very academic – they look at mechanisms of disease and how they affect tests, they don’t look at how to manage a lab as such,” he said. The course covers practical issues such as the strategic and operational planning of a lab, budgeting, writing technical reports and even managing staff. “You may not think it, but all these issues add to improving the quality of tests,” said Erasmus.

The Pathology Department is one of the partner institutions selected to participate in the intra-ACP (Africa Caribbean and Pacific group of states) academic mobility scheme.

This scheme, funded by the European Union, supports higher education between countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and aims to promote sustainable development and poverty alleviation by increasing the availability of trained and qualified high-level professional manpower in the ACP countries.

The intra-ACP academic mobility scheme provides funding for postgraduate studies at one of the partner institutions, which include universities in Ghana (University of Ghana), Uganda (Makerere University and Uganda Martyrs University), Kenya (University of Nairobi and Moi University), Mozambique (Eduardo Mondlane University), Democratic Republic of Congo (Catholic University of Bukavu), South Sudan (University of Juba), Lesotho (University of Lesotho) and Burundi (University of Burundi). The funding allocated is €2.5 million.

 


Training with a difference
The Division of Chemical Pathology introduced a one-of-a-kind module where future pathologists are not only taught the ins-and-outs of chemical pathology, but also learn how to effectively manage a laboratory. And this programme is proving to be so useful that pathologists and laboratory technologists from all over Africa are signing up for it.

“People don’t realise that if you make mistakes in the lab, it can have effects on the patient,” said Prof Rajiv Erasmus, head of the Division of Chemical Pathology. “Therefore this lab management programme is about improving the quality of lab tests.

“Traditionally the training for pathologists and senior technologists is very academic – they look at mechanisms of disease and how they affect tests, they don’t look at how to manage a lab as such,” said Erasmus. The course covers practical issues such as the strategic and operational planning of a lab, budgeting, writing technical reports and even managing staff. “You may not think it, but all these issues add to improving the quality of tests,” said Erasmus.

The programme was also recognised by the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry (IFCC), who for the past three years, have been sponsoring technologists and pathologists from other African countries to attend the course.
 
A section of the programme also focuses on measuring the level of efficiency of a laboratory by means of a clinical audit where you measure it to a benchmark. “By doing this ‘gap analysis’, a lab manager is able to find out where the problems are, and to correct them,” said Erasmus.
 
“Laboratories in Africa are challenged in many ways,” said Dr Annalise Zemlin who coordinates the programme. “But through the lab management course and lab audits they can identify the problems in their labs and rectify them.” According to Dr Zemlin, one of last year’s participants has just published research from the data she collected after conducting an audit after attending last year’s course. “That research can in turn be used to improve the quality of laboratory testing there.”
 
One of the international participants sponsored by the IFCC, Raphael Chileshe, from the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, said that the programme sets a standard that they can apply back in their countries. “The time is gone where we just work as we wish. Being part of a global health care environment there are demands for standardisation. This programme helps African labs conform to international standards in their own-resource constrained environments,” said Chileshe.
 
The Division has also been approached by the Royal College of Pathologists in the UK to develop a lab quality management and leadership programme for pathologists in Africa. The first of these courses will be presented at the end of the year in Kenya.

Prof Rajiv Erasmus with
international students

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

International funding receives to boost postgraduate training
The Pathology Department is one of the partner institutions selected to participate in the intra-ACP (Africa Caribbean and Pacific group of states) academic mobility scheme.

This scheme, funded by the European Union, supports higher education between countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and aims to promote sustainable development and poverty alleviation by increasing the availability of trained and qualified high-level professional manpower in the ACP countries.

The intra-ACP academic mobility scheme provides funding for postgraduate studies at one of the partner institutions, which include universities in Ghana (University of Ghana), Uganda (Makerere University and Uganda Martyrs University), Kenya (University of Nairobi and Moi University), Mozambique (Eduardo Mondlane University), Democratic Republic of Congo (Catholic University of Bukavu), South Sudan (University of Juba), Lesotho (University of Lesotho) and Burundi (University of Burundi). The funding allocated is €2.5 million.

Over the next five years the FMHS will be hosting 10 masters and six PhD students as part of the scheme. The degrees will be in one of the pathology disciplines (medical microbiology, virology, haematopathology, cyto- or histo-pathology; or chemical pathology) or a masters in nursing.

It further aims to strengthen co-operation between Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in these regions through encouraging and enabling African, Caribbean and Pacific students to undertake postgraduate studies, and to promote student retention in the region along with mobility of staff (academic and administrative) while increasing competitiveness and attractiveness of the institutions themselves. Enabling students, academics and staff to benefit linguistically, culturally and professionally from the experience gained in the context of mobility to another country as well as improving the quality of higher education through the promotion of internationalisation, and harmonisation of programmes and curricula within participating institutions are its other aims.

 

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Research at Faculty to receive valuable support from new Biostatistics Unit

The Biostatistics Unit was recently launched at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and will offer biostatistical support which aims to increase the quantity and quality of research at the faculty.

Biostatistics uses data to measure and understand strategies to address healthcare problems and contributes to all fields of healthcare research and evidence-based health care.

 

On the photo are fltr, Profs Charles Wiysonge, Deputy Director of CEBHC, Jimmy Volmink, Dean FMHS; Eugene Cloete, Vice Rector SU; Taryn Young, Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean FMHS; Usuf Chikte, Head Interdisciplinary Sciences and Dr Rhoderick Machekano, Head, Biostatistics Unit.

   

 

Research at Faculty to receive valuable support from new Biostatistics Unit

On the photo are fltr, Profs Charles Wiysonge, Deputy Director of CEBHC, Jimmy Volmink, Dean FMHS; Eugene Cloete, Vice Rector SU; Taryn Young, Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean FMHS; Usuf Chikte, Head Interdisciplinary Sciences and Dr Rhoderick Machekano, Head, Biostistics Unit.

A Biostatistics Unit was recently launched at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) and will offer biostatistical support which aims to increase the quantity and quality of research at the faculty.

Biostatistics uses data to measure and understand strategies to address healthcare problems and contributes to all fields of healthcare research and evidence-based health care.

“It is a very important tool for making decisions in clinical medicine and public health,” said Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean at the FMHS, at the official opening of the Biostatistics Unit.

“High-quality empirical research depends on the use of sound statistical methodology,” said Volmink. He believes that a basic understanding of biostatistics is critically important in the medical field, whether you are a researcher or just a clinician wanting to keep up with the literature.

Research is on the increase in Africa which means there is a growing demand for well-trained methodologists and biostatisticians to support the increase in research output. Regionally there has been a call to advance biostatistical training and include statisticians into research teams.

The establishment of the Biostatistical Unit, which is part of the Centre for Evidence-Based Health Care (CEBHC) at the FMHS, is part of the vision to create a research-intensive university, and will support and build the capacity of researchers at the FMHS.

Dr Rhoderick Machekano, who heads the unit, said that they will focus on knowledge enhancement, biostatistical consulting, and methodological research to advance the field of biostatistics, and teaming up with other researchers in the faculty in order to produce high-quality research.
“One of the goals of the Biostatistics Unit is to increase knowledge and application of modern biostatistical techniques among undergraduate and post-graduate students, as well as health care professionals in research,” said Machekano. “We will also aim to improve the quality and output of research within the faculty.”

The unit will provide statistical consulting to research projects and assist with the preparation of grant applications. “In terms of proposal writing, biostatisticians contribute in the study design, sample size calculation and analysis plan,” said Machekano. The services offered by the unit will also include advice on data collection, management and advanced data analysis.

“The Biostatistical Unit will also offer services in database design – that’s an area that is very important in the whole process of research.
“In terms of statistical analysis, we will provide a variety of services from exploratory analysis to more advanced statistical analysis.”
There are plans to develop the unit into an African Centre for Biostatistical Excellence. Machekano, who is a former Fogarty fellow, was approached by the Fogarty International Centre to apply for a grant to establish a centre of excellence that will provide biostatistical training and support to clinical trials and evidence-based health care in the field of HIV/AIDS.


 




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To be considered for the bursary, candidates need to demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and service both in student affairs and within a wider social context – and this profile fits Hélène-Mari perfectly. This bright and busy student not only excels in academics, but is also actively involved in various projects aimed at improving the lives of students and the community. “I am fully committed to improving the quality of life of all South Africans, and want to use this experience [Abe Baily Travel Bursary] to broaden my perspective on how to make a contribution to our country,” said Hélène-Mari.

Take a closer look at what this energetic student has achieved in her four years at the Tygerberg Campus, and find out what drives her.
Click here to read Hélène-Mari's story about her experience

 

Academic Achievements

Academics
“The epitome of an outstanding scholar.” That is how Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences describes Hélène-Mari in a testimonial to support her application for the Abe Bailey Travel Bursary.

Prof Ben van Heerden, Director: Centre for Health Professions Education, also sings her praise calling her “a highly intelligent person” whose “academic performance in the programme has been well above average”.  Hélène-Mari passed the majority of modules in the MB, ChB programme from first to third year with distinction, and qualified for academic merit bursaries based on these results.

Her academic achievements started in school and she ranked 14th in the Western Cape for the final National Senior Certificate examinations.

Research
In addition to her academic achievements, Hélène-Mari is also the principal-investigator in a research project that looks at tuberculosis infection risk and prevention strategies in health science students – this project does not form part of the curriculum and is done entirely on a voluntary basis.

“Several of our colleagues and mentors have directly and indirectly been affected by TB, and we decided to investigate what could be done to prevent this from happening,” reads a research document Hélène-Mari and her two co-investigators, Koot Kotze and Heena Narotam, compiled.

Their research shows that not enough is being done to protect health care workers from TB infection, and their paper suggests an intervention that can potentially bridge the gap if added to the curricula.

The research paper, entitled “Assessing knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection risk among Health Science students in a TB endemic setting” was presented at the South African Association of Health Educators (SAAHE) conference in July, and at the university’s Annual Academic Day, where it won the award for best young researchers in Health Sciences category. The research has also been accepted for presentation at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Paris, France, later the year, and will be published in a peer review journal.

Campus and Community Involvement

Innovation in Medicine
In 2012 Hélène-Mari started an ‘Innovation in Medicine’ project as a leadership development initiative for second year medical students. It was supported by the Frederick van Zyl-Slabbert Leadership Institute at SU.

The aim of this project was to get students excited about their course by exposing them to innovations in the field of medicine. She recruited a group of interested students who held discussions about the Rural Clinical School as an innovative medical education initiative, debated the proposed National Health Insurance, visited the Heart Museum in Cape Town, and shadowed innovative surgical procedures.

Feedback showed that Hélène-Mari‘s ‘Innovation in Medicine’ project inspired and motivated students to be more involved in their community.

Medical orchestra
Hélène-Mari, who also plays the oboe, founded the Stellenbosch University Medical Orchestra in May 2011. The orchestra, which started out with 11 members, has grown to 35 members, and now also include medical doctors from the surrounding hospitals, postgraduate students and members of staff.

Mentut
Despite an already full schedule, in August 2011 Hélène-Mari - who was in her second year at the time - also joined the Mentor-Tutor (Mentut) programme on campus which provides academic assistance for all first- and second-year students. She jumped in with both feet and implemented changes in order to improve the system.

She redesigned the monthly feedback forms to pick up academic problems students have earlier, updated the training booklet and helped with the training of new “mentuts”. She also introduced other innovations such as a digital feedback system, a refresher course and the “Outstanding Mentus Awards” to reward mentors who have exceeded expectations.

Student representative
Hélène-Mari was elected as class representative for three consecutive years and has implemented various improvements and innovations during her tenure. In 2011 she created digital platforms where students can interact and support each other. She also encouraged fellow classmates to register as organ donors through a competition where the winner attended a laparoscopic kidney transplant.

In 2012, after a hospital session where the students had difficulty communicating with patients, she arranged an eight-week Xhosa course for the class that has proved to be very helpful in the bridging language barriers between students and patients. In 2013 she says she has focused on the occupational health of students in the hospital and looked at ways to create a safer working environment.
 

Motivation and Inspiration

So where does she get the energy and motivation to achieve everything she has accomplished?

“My secret is to get eight hours of sleep every night,” she admitted. “If I don’t get enough sleep I struggle to focus in class and I don’t use my time effectively – so I actually save time by sleeping more,” Hélène-Mari said jokingly.

Although she has always been a natural leader – she was the head girl in primary school and a representative of the council of learners in high school – the position doesn’t hold a lot of appeal to her, said Hélène-Mari. 

“I don’t get involved in projects and activities because of a desire to be a leader. When I see a need I act – I take the initiative and put in the energy.”
With her capabilities and attitude, Hélène-Mari has endless possibilities for the future. “I haven’t quite made up my mind. With each new exposure at the hospital I think ‘That was phenomenally interesting! This is what I want to do!’ And next week it is something different.” Her main interests are in public health and female reproductive health. “I think in the end it will probably be a confluence of different areas,” she said.

But whatever she does, Hélène-Mari is certain her future lies in Africa. “I am bound to this continent, and I am very excited about it. I think there is a lot of room to make a difference.”
 


 



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Visitor's Book  

Lesotho National Health Training College
University of Eduardo Mondlane,
Mozambique
Members of the National Health Training College of Lesotho’s quality assurance task team recently visited Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to gather information about quality assurance practices. Pictured here are (back, left to right) Eugene Baugaard, manager at SU’s Grants Management Office; Ronel Retief Assistant Registrar at SU; Rachel Pullen and Valerie Dietrichs from SU’s International Office; and Dr Sechaba Motloheloa from the National Health Training College of Lesotho. In front (from left to right) are Dr Shahida Tarr, Elisebia Tekane, Veronica Lehana and Suzan Mokalanyane from the National Health Training College of Lesotho.

 

A delegation of the University of Eduardo Mondlane, Faculty of Medicine, Mozambique visited the Faculty in January 2014. They also spent some time inWorcester learning about the Ukwanda Rural Clinical school.

On the photo are: Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, (Vice dean: Research), Dr Armindo Tiago (Head of the Medical Education Department at Eduardo Mondlane, Prof Ben van Heerden, (Director of the Centre for Health Professions Education), Hermien Nel (Marketing office), and Dr Mohsin Sidat, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Eduardo Mondlane.