Content contentsept 2

Effects of early ART on HIV reservoir explored

Members of the HIV reservoir research group are:
Back (fltr): Mr George Fourie, Profs Gert van Zyl and Mark Cotton
Front (fltr): Ms Cherise Janse van Rensburg (Data Manager), Ms Phillane Groenewald (Financial Accountant), Drs Richard Glashoff (Virologist), Barbara Laughton (Neuro-developmental Paediatrician), Mr Kurt Smith (Lab Technician) and Dr Simone Nicol (Paediatrician)
 

An interdisciplinary team of researchers, mostly from Stellenbosch University (SU), are embarking on a study to measure the latent reservoir of HIV in babies and children receiving early and very early antiretroviral treatment (ART).

HIV reservoirs are areas in the body where the virus hides in order to escape ART and produce new supplies of the virus. The aim of the study is to evaluate the effect of early treatment initiation on the HIV reservoirs, particularly looking at the impact on neurocognitive functioning and thymic production of new CD4 helper and CD8 suppressor cells. This research forms part of the cure agenda for HIV, as the reservoir requires study as a precursor to attempting to remove the virus.

Major study on HIV prevention underway

Bringing HIV prevention and testing to the people: Senior Technical Advisors from the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator (PEPFAR), Julia MacKenzie and Nancy Padian, accompany Community HIV Care Providers, Amanda Kili and Patrick Matshoba, on a home visit in Cape Town.

An extensive study on HIV prevention in Africa is underway in the Western Cape, with community workers, known as Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs), visiting people at their homes in nine communities in and around Cape Town.
 
“We are very excited about this study and are watching it closely. It’s important for the future of HIV programmes not just here in South Africa, but worldwide,” said Steve Smith, the Health Attaché at the US Embassy, following a meeting with researchers from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, at Stellenbosch University.

 

Effects of early ART on HIV reservoir explored

Members of the HIV reservoir research group are:
Back fltr: Mr George Fourie, Profs Gert van Zyl and Mark Cotton
Front fltr: Ms Cherise Janse van Rensburg (Data Manager), Ms Phillane Groenewald (Financial Accountant), Drs Richard Glashoff (Virologist), Barbara Laughton (Neuro-developmental Paediatrician), Mr Kurt Smith (Lab Technician) and Dr Simone Nicol (Paediatrician)

An interdisciplinary team of researchers, mostly from Stellenbosch University (SU), are embarking on a study to measure the latent reservoir of HIV in babies and children receiving early and very early antiretroviral treatment (ART).

HIV reservoirs are areas in the body where the virus hides in order to escape ART and produce new supplies of the virus. The aim of the study is to evaluate the effect of early treatment initiation on the HIV reservoirs, particularly looking at the impact on neurocognitive functioning and thymic production of new CD4 helper and CD8 suppressor cells. This research forms part of the cure agenda for HIV, as the reservoir requires study as a precursor to attempting to remove the virus.

The study will focus on children on the CHER study – now between the ages of 7 and 9 – as well as babies recruited for the very early treatment study.

The researchers are led by Prof Mark Cotton, Director of FAM-CRU, within the Department of Paediatric and Child Health. The multidisciplinary team consists of a neurodevelopment paediatrician (Dr Barbara Laughton), medical virologists (Profs Wolfgang Preiser and Susan Engelbrecht, and Drs Gert van Zyl, Jean Maritz and Richard Glashof) as well as Dr Helen Payne, currently with the University College of London and Prof John Mellors from Pittsburgh Medical Centre.

The team received about $3.2 million in funding from the US National Institute of Mental Health for the five-year project (2014 to 2019).

By Wilma Stassen

 

Major study on HIV prevention underway

Bringing HIV prevention and testing to the people: Senior Technical Advisors from the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator (PEPFAR), Julia MacKenzie and Nancy Padian, accompany Community HIV Care Providers, Amanda Kili and Patrick Matshoba, on a home visit in Cape Town.

An extensive study on HIV prevention in Africa is underway in the Western Cape, with community workers, known as Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs), visiting people at their homes in nine communities in and around Cape Town.
 
“We are very excited about this study and are watching it closely. It’s important for the future of HIV programmes not just here in South Africa, but worldwide,” said Steve Smith, the Health Attaché at the US Embassy, following a meeting with researchers from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, at Stellenbosch University.
 
“We need the evidence to demonstrate how to improve HIV prevention with the aim of bringing down new infections,” said Smith.

CHiPS are visiting people in communities over a period of three and a half years for the trial – which is part of the HIV Prevention Trials Network and called HPTN 071 (The Population Effects of Antiretroviral Therapy to Reduce HIV Transmissions - PopART). The study is also being conducted in 12 communities in Zambia, led by the ZAMBART group.

Some of the study’s funders from the Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC), through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in  Washington D.C. recently visited one of the Cape Town communities and were encouraged by the work done so far.

“The scope is enormous and it’s a giant undertaking, but I think they’re doing a fantastic job. We continue to be impressed by the compassion of the CHiPs and their ability to talk to people in the community about HIV and TB in a very de-stigmatised way,” said Nancy Padian, Senior Technical Advisor for PEPFAR.
 
Community members are provided with home-based HIV counselling and testing. They are also screened for tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), and provided with condoms in the home.  Community members are referred to the nearest local clinic for HIV care, TB treatment, STI treatment, and offered the option of medical male circumcision.

This is a randomized controlled trial conducted in nine communities around Cape Town that are assigned to one of three arms, A, B or C.  The Intervention is conducted in the three communities assigned to Arm A and three communities assigned to Arm B.  In Arm A, CHiPs test people for HIV in their homes, with immediate antiretroviral therapy (ART) available in the clinic for those who test HIV positive.  In Arm B, CHiPs  also test people for HIV in their homes, with ART being offered in the clinics according to provincial guidelines. The three Arm C communities do not have CHiPs and health services in the clinic follow provincial guidelines.
 
The research component runs for four years and measures the number of new cases of HIV.  Professional nurses and research enumerators carry out the research in nine communities around Cape Town.
 
The DTTC at Stellenbosch University is heading up the study in South Africa and is working in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Imperial College in London.
 
Blia Yang, Project Manager of the Intervention team from the DTTC said community leaders were supportive and recognized the study’s goal of striving to bring down the rate of HIV.
 
“We’ve been working evenings and weekends as well as during the day to make sure we see people at their homes. It’s important to bring home the message that HIV can be prevented through a range of measures,” said Yang.
 
Yang also credited the Western Cape Department of Health and the City of Cape Town Health Directorate for their support. The government partners have been working alongside the DTTC to ensure that the research is carried out effectively, particularly when clients are referred for HIV treatment at its clinics.
 
HPTN 071 (PopART) is sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), with funding from PEPFAR. Additional funding is provided by the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as by NIAID, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), all part of  the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Article and photograph by Kim Cloete

 

Content contentsept 3

Helping Pre-Teens to cope with life's pressures

Patrick Tindzi with his granddaughter, Asive Malgas, at the Etafeni Day Care Centre Trust in Nyanga.

Caregivers in the Cape Town community of Nyanga have completed an innovative course which helps to support children in their pre-teen years, and hopes to ultimately lower the rate of teenage pregnancies.
 
The first group of 20 people has graduated from ‘Families Matter’ - a programme aimed at helping parents and caregivers to communicate openly with their children about sexuality and sex.
 

 

Medical male circumcision campaing gains momentum

Programme Manager for MMC at the National Department of Health, Dayanund Loykissoonlal, together with Nikki Soboil and Jonathan Cockburn of SWHP at the launch of the two mobile surgical theatres

A campaign to promote medical male circumcision has been stepped up in the Western Cape with the launch of two mobile surgical theatres.
 
Circumcision, which can be done in 30 minutes, protects men against HIV infection as well as sexually transmitted infections.
 
The mobile surgical theatres, about the size of an average bread truck, will travel through the Winelands, Overberg and Eden areas in the Western Cape, stopping off at towns, villages and communities along the way.

 

Helping Pre-Teens to cope with life's pressures

Cordelia Sobe, with her daughter, Chelso, would like to see a family-focused community in Nyanga Course participant, Ethel Baso, proudly displays her certificate, together with Xola Baso.

Caregivers show support for their children through an innovative course

Caregivers in the Cape Town community of Nyanga have completed an innovative course which helps to support children in their pre-teen years, and hopes to ultimately lower the rate of teenage pregnancies.
 
The first group of 20 people has graduated from ‘Families Matter’ - a programme aimed at helping parents and caregivers to communicate openly with their children about sexuality and sex.
 
“The short-term goal is to improve communication between caregiver and child. Long-term we’d like to see a delay in the sexual debut of adolescents, bring down teenage pregnancies and lower HIV transmission rates,” says Sue-Ann Meehan, who heads up the project for the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at Stellenbosch University.
 
Enumerators have gone from door to door at over 1,000 homes in Nyanga, encouraging people to sign up for courses. They plan to cover an area of 4,000 houses in the community.
 
From young mothers and aunts to grandparents, caregivers of children aged nine to 12 participate in the course, which stretches over five weeks.  
 
The first group of 20 people proudly received their certificates in the first week of August.  They were accompanied by the pre-teen children they look after.
 
Participant, Patrick Tindzi, encouraged more men to attend the course and take an active role in their children’s lives.  
 
“I’ve learnt so much through this programme. In my day, parents didn’t speak to us about sex. I’ve realized how important it is to talk to our children. We need to support our children more,” said Tindzi.
 
Course facilitator, Prosper Dlodlo, said communication between the generations was even more critical these days because of the intense pressures faced by children and young people.
 
“Children face increasing peer pressure. They need help to cope with risks such as drug and alcohol abuse, as well as rape. It’s hard to be a parent in this environment as well. We help caregivers to communicate better with their children and deal with difficult questions and situations,” said Dlodlo.
 
“We need to open the eyes of the parent to the world of the child – and help parents to guide them through this difficult phase.”  
 
Course participant, Cordelia Sobe, who has an 11-year-old daughter, said community initiatives like this encouraged people to work together for a better future for their children.
 
“We used to be very secretive and keep our problems to ourselves. But this course has created a safe space for us to talk to each other. We realize we all face similar problems. We need to continue with what we’ve learnt and work together to build a society we want in this world,” said Sobe.
 
‘Families Matter’ project manager, Margaret van Niekerk, said another 72 people from the Nyanga community started courses during August while the DTTC employed two more facilitators.
 
“We’ve very excited and encouraged by the interest shown by the people of Nyanga,” said van Niekerk.
 
The three-hour-long sessions are held at Etafeni Day Care Centre Trust, a multi-purpose centre in Nyanga offering various services, including a crèche, aftercare, a nutrition programme and various outreach projects.  It’s seen as an oasis in a community grappling with high crime and HIV rates.
 
“Our vision is to see Nyanga become a thriving place for people to live and bring up their children,” said Barbara Miller, development manager of Etafeni.
 
Article and photographs by Kim Cloete
 

 

Medical male circumcision campaing gains momentum

Professional nurse, Poli Lubabalo, HIV lay counsellor, Steven Windvogel and professional nurse, Bantu Mfana.


Two mobile surgical theatres to take to the road

A campaign to promote medical male circumcision has been stepped up in the Western Cape with the launch of two mobile surgical theatres.
 
Circumcision, which can be done in 30 minutes, protects men against HIV infection as well as sexually transmitted infections.
 
The mobile surgical theatres, about the size of an average bread truck, will travel through the Winelands, Overberg and Eden areas in the Western Cape, stopping off at towns, villages and communities along the way.
 
Research trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda have shown that MMC reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 60%. The government has set a target of medically circumcising 4.3 million men in South Africa by 2016.  
 
“It’s an ambitious goal, but we want to ensure we achieve it. By getting circumcised, as well as using condoms and taking care of your health, HIV could be reduced remarkably,” said Dayanund Loykissoonlal, Programme Manager for MMC in the National Department of Health.
 
Over 1.3 million men have been circumcised in South Africa since the government launched its MMC campaign in 2010.
 
MMC is potentially a life-saving procedure for thousands of South Africans by reducing the risk of HIV transmission between heterosexuals.
 
“We’re finding very few men are asking for MMC at clinics. We need to think out of the box - so we’ll be launching radio adverts and putting branding on taxis and spaza shops to encourage men to get medically circumcised through our ‘Get Wise, Circumcise’ campaign,” said Nikki Soboil, CEO of SWHP.
 
A cartoon character, ‘Clever Dick’ is the campaign’s ambassador.
 
At the launch, men and women gathered at the sports ground in Stellenbosch to play five-a-side soccer. Men also popped in to the mobile surgical theatres to be circumcised.
 
“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time because I want to lower my risk of getting HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. It was easy to do and I feel good about it. I’ve done it for my own health, as well as to protect my girlfriend,” said a young man resting after his circumcision.
 
James Kruger, deputy director of HIV/AIDS, TB and STIs for the Western Cape Department of Health’s Cape Winelands office, said the campaign and its use of ‘Clever Dick’ was a creative way of getting men to talk about health issues.
 
WHP has also partnered with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at Stellenbosch University in helping to roll out MMC at nine clinics in the Winelands and in and around Cape Town.
 
“DTTC is excited to be associated with SWHP’s MMC programme and the Department of Health in the scale up of MMC which plays an important role in HIV prevention along with other interventions including safe sexual practices, condoms, treatment of sexually transmitted infections and antiretroviral treatment.” said Peter Bock of the DTTC and principal investigator of the HPTN 071 (PopART) trial.
 
The PopART HIV prevention trial includes MMC as one of its key interventions.  Men will be able to go to any of the nine clinics where the PopART study is being conducted in the Western Cape to get circumcised by SWHP and department of health staff.
 
Loykissoonlal said there was still a great need to reduce the number of HIV infections in South Africa. Over six million people in South Africa are currently infected with the virus, with 1,000 HIV infections reported on a daily basis.
 
CAPTIONS FOR PHOTOGRAPHS
 
1.     At your service - Enrolled nurse, Ncumisa Dlamini and SACTWU’s principal medical officer, Dr Gary Small.
2.     Programme Manager for MMC at the National Department of Health, Dayanund Loykissoonlal, together with Nikki Soboil and Jonathan Cockburn of SWHP at the launch of the two mobile surgical theatres.
3.     Posters of the ‘Get Wise, Circumcise’ campaign at the soccer five-a-side tournament at the Van der Stel sports centre in Stellenbosch
4.     Professional nurse, Poli Lubabalo, HIV lay counsellor, Steven Windvogel and professional nurse, Bantu Mfana. (photographs by Kim Cloete)
 
 

 

Content contentsept 4

Matie selected as mentor for United Space School at NASA

Jacques receives his graduation certificate as mentor for the 2014 United Space School.  Left is Nicole Stott, astronaut who has spent 103 days in space and right is Francesco Fusco, Executive Director FISE (Foundation for International Space Education)

Jacques du Plessis was selected to represent South Africa as one of only five Team Mentors at the 2014 United Space School at NASA, Houston, USA.  

Jacques (27) is an MSc final year student in the Immunology Research Group in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

The United Space School is an annual event conducted by the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE) at NASA in Houston. A total of 25 countries from across the globe take part on invitation basis only, and each is invited to send two school children to represent their country.

This year was the first time that South Africa has been invited to send an adult to participate as a team mentor. This opportunity is rotated between the participating countries.

Jacques has been selected due to the numerous top aviation and space related accolades he has received, in particular SA Team Captain (twice) in international aerospace challenges, Top Achiever at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo, Student of the Year of the Africa Space School and recipient of honorary colours for youth aviation.

In his spare time Jacques does crossfit training, Half marathon running, mountain climbing and hiking. He also enjoys a good game of chess and he is an avid reader and PC gamer.
 

Operation Smile conference inspires student to serve

Leila, in the middle, with twins Bryan Bergsteedt (left) and Matthew Bergsteedt.  Bryan is final year student in BSc Human Life Science and Matthew is a second year student in Mechanical Engineering.

Leila Amien, a medical student in her first year, was chosen to attend the Operation Smile 23rd Annual International Leadership conference in Limerick, Ireland in July this year. The theme of the conference was "Chain Reaction".

Operation Smile is a non-profit organisation that provides free surgery to repair cleft lip, cleft palates and other facial deformities. In addition to free medical treatment, Operation Smile trains local medical professionals in its partner countries and donates crucial medical equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency.

The conference was held with the aim to educate the youth on the value of service within their countries and to nurture them as future leaders. A total of 450 students from 22 different countries flew from far and wide to attend the conference.

“Operation Smile depends entirely on its many volunteers around the world who give of their time and skill with the goal of helping every child with a correctable facial deformity. I am very passionate about this cause and will devote all my time and skill towards this incredible initiative,” Leila said.

Students participated in team-building activities, attended leadership workshops, competed in team games and completed service projects.

 

Matie selected as mentor at United Space School at NASA

Jacques du Plessis, fifth from the right, with his Green Team at the graduation ceremony of the 2014 United Space School at NASA, Houston, USA

Jacques du Plessis was selected to represent South Africa as one of only five Team Mentors at the 2014 United Space School at NASA, Houston, USA.  
Jacques (27) is an MSc final year student in the Immunology Research Group in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

The United Space School is an annual event conducted by the Foundation for International Space Education (FISE) at NASA in Houston. A total of 25 countries from across the globe take part on invitation basis only, and each is invited to send two school children to represent their country.

This year was the first time that South Africa has been invited to send an adult to participate as a team mentor. This opportunity is rotated between the participating countries.

Jacques has been selected due to the numerous top aviation and space related accolades he has received, in particular SA Team Captain (twice) in international aerospace challenges, Top Achiever at the Africa Aerospace and Defence Expo, Student of the Year of the Africa Space School and recipient of honorary colours for youth aviation.

In his spare time Jacques does crossfit training, Half marathon running, mountain climbing and hiking. He also enjoys a good game of chess and he is an avid reader and PC gamer.

Vivus asked him a few questions about his experience.

You have been selected for this position based on your interests and achievements which started during your school years. When and how did it start?

I had a fascination with airplanes and aviation from a very young age.  I grew up in Pretoria and decided to attend Waterkloof High specifically because they offered an established Aviation Academy. The Academy was the gate through which I got actively involved in aviation at the age of 15, on the one hand to acquire my Private Pilot License (PPL) and on the other to become involved in several other aviation activities and competitions (both locally and internationally. I had the opportunity to participate in the Africa Space School’s activities, the youth expo leg of the Africa Aerospace & Defence Expo, the Cranfield Aerospace Challenge in England and regional and national science expos. Traditionally, after you have done your first solo flight, you are hosed down on the runway by the fire services at the Air Force base where we flew. I did my first solo flight in the morning and still had to go to school, so I was completely drenched and had to change before I arrived at the school. I have wonderful memories of that time in my life.

Have you had any previous experience at the Space School, and why were you chosen as a mentor?

Yes, following my participation in this year’s United Space School, I am an alumnus. During my involvement with the Africa Space School’s activities I met Dr Grant Schaffner, who also matriculated in Pretoria before studying in America where he eventually ended up working for NASA at a fairly high level. It was through his negotiations that South Africa was invited to participate in the United Space School, which can be done by invitation only.

Although South Africa has sent two high school learners to the school once a year since 2002, this year was the first time we were invited to send an adult as mentor. The Young Wings Projects, the official representative of the Space School in South Africa, approached me to apply for the mentoring opportunity. I am very pleased I got the opportunity to participate.

What is the connection between your current studies and your interest in aviation and space science?

The connection between my current field of study (MSc in Molecular Biology and Immunology) and space science is not obvious, but NASA has a division that does research in the field of basic sciences such as microbiology, in which I have a keen interest. It should be fascinating to study the effect of micro-gravity on the immune system.

My dreams of becoming a fighter pilot did not realise for a number of reasons, and I had no interest to pursue a career as a professional commercial pilot. The trail of life led me to my current career path. And, although I am no longer directly involved in aviation, I still have a passion and love for everything included in aviation. Hopefully I will someday have the opportunity to make aviation a bigger part of my life again.

Tell us more of your experiences in Houston.

Houston is massive and is listed as the fourth biggest city in America. It does not have a well-developed public transport system like other big cities such as London, thus people mostly use their own transportation.  This has resulted in their roads, especially the highways, being very large.  It is a unique experience to drive on the highways and it can be very intimidating. It is nothing strange to find yourself on one of seven lanes which keeps on changing dynamically, depending on which way you are going. As mentor, I had to help with driving the students from the airport to the United Space School and had to quickly adapt to the new road rules and customs in Houston.

The suburban areas have smaller roads, are leafy and more relaxed. The people are generally friendlier, and were very neighbourly in the area my host family lived.

Houston’s history is rife with aviation and aerospace in particular, which is visible everywhere. This is reflected in the décor of many shops and restaurants. Their motto: “Everything is bigger in Texas” is definitely true and to a large extent a reflection of the people’s attitude that nothing is too big to overcome.

It was an experience to live with a host family for my three week stay. Everyone who participates in the United Space School lives with a host family while in Houston. The host families are usually involved in the aviation/space industry in Texas in one way or another. To live in the house of an American family, is an opportunity to observe and experience their customs.

The United Space School was a unique, life-changing, dynamic and memorable experience. I have made new friends all over the world.

How did you experience the role of mentor for school children?

This year, 48 students from 23 countries participated and the overall theme was “A Manned Mission to Mars”.

The students are divided into five teams, each team with its own project contributing to the realization of the overall theme. Every team has a mentor, of which I was mentor of the Green Team.  The team consisted of ten students from countries including France, Wales, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and the USA. Our team was primarily responsible for the habitat and life support systems of the overall theme.

I enjoyed the opportunity to mentor ten students very much. The students are gifted and it was only a pleasure to work with them. They are still young and inexperienced, but their desire to learn is amazing. One only has to point them in the right direction and then they run with the project. Important aspects are to assist them with time management and to work with them to decide which ideas are feasible in the given time and space of the project. Following my team’s success at the United Space School, I had found new inspiration to perhaps become involved in project management in future.

What were your highlights?

The programme as a whole is unique and the privilege to be part of it was a highlight in itself. We had the opportunity to enter areas at NASA which are closed to the public. I have met with major role players in the space travel world and got to rub shoulders with experienced astronauts. Phenomenal speakers had us hanging to every word they said. I have met people with very interesting jobs and it was fascinating to listen to them and learn from them.

For me, the biggest highlight was when all the students in my team graduated successfully from the United Space School. It gives me great pleasure to reflect on where they were at the beginning of the programme and how they have grown over the course of two weeks. It is great to know you have played a positive part in their lives and that they are returning to their home countries more motivated than ever to make a success of their lives, knowing that dreams and aspirations are attainable.

Have you learnt anything that will have a significant impact on your future?

I learned that exeptional people doing extraordinary things and helping humanity move forward, are just normal people. They are just as human and normal as the rest of us. They might speak a different language and have a different culture, but they are not born different, or more special than us to have to make a big impact on life. They are simply more determined to reach their dreams and then to work hard to make it a reality. It has taught and inspired me to stick to my big dreams and that they are feasible.

Do you have any advice to other young people with the same dreams?

Life is as interesting as you make it for yourself. Look for opportunities where you grow and develop as an individual. Make the most of each and every opportunity that comes your way, have fun and be true to yourself at all times.

By Mandi Barnard and Jacques du Plessis

 

Operation Smile conference inspires student to serve

Leila, in the middle, with twins Bryan Bergsteedt (left) and Matthew Bergsteedt.  Bryan is final year student in BSc Human Life Science and Matthew is a second year student in Mechanical Engineering.

Leila Amien, a medical student in her first year, was chosen to attend the Operation Smile 23rd Annual International Leadership conference in Limerick, Ireland in July this year. The theme of the conference was "Chain Reaction".

Operation Smile is a non-profit organisation that provides free surgery to repair cleft lip, cleft palates and other facial deformities. In addition to free medical treatment, Operation Smile trains local medical professionals in its partner countries and donates crucial medical equipment to lay the groundwork for long-term self-sufficiency.

The conference was held with the aim to educate the youth on the value of service within their countries and to nurture them as future leaders. A total of 450 students from 22 different countries flew from far and wide to attend the conference.

“Operation Smile depends entirely on its many volunteers around the world who give of their time and skill with the goal of helping every child with a correctable facial deformity. I am very passionate about this cause and will devote all my time and skill towards this incredible initiative,” Leila said.

Students participated in team-building activities, attended leadership workshops, competed in team games and completed service projects.

The teams consisted of students from different parts of the world. “We interacted on levels that I didn’t think was possible. We became very close to each other regardless of the language barrier and we shared a common passion and interest in Operation Smile. I realized the power of what the youth holds and the power that Operation Smile has in uniting nations. We all shared a common goal in helping people.”

The teams were given a $50 000 challenge. Each team had to raise $2500, which were combined to give a sum total of $50 000 raised in 45 days to build a cleft lip and palate medical centre in Paraguay.

“I have learnt so much from this experience and I am so grateful to Operation Smile for allowing me the opportunity to attend this prestigious and life-altering event. I met the most incredible people, formed life-long friendships and now I am even more determined to do more with my life and continue to serve others,” Leila concluded.

By Mandi Barnard

 

Content contentsept 5

Women's cancer specialist serves on international board

Prof Hennie Botha

Prof Hennie Botha, a specialist in gynaecological oncology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the FMHS, was recently elected to the International Gynaecological Cancer Society (IGCS) board as the representative for Africa, Europe and the Middle East.  The Council consists of 11 members representing the three geographical regions, the Americas (North, Central and South America), Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and thirdly, Asia and Australia, for a period of four years.

Ukwanda recognised as "Project that works"

Prof Hoffie Conradie

Prof Hoffie Conradie, Director of the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School and Professor in the Division of Family Medicine, was recently one of seven international winners of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER)  "Projects That Work" competition.

Prof Conradie, who is also a FAIMER SAFRI fellow, attributed this achievement to his colleagues. “The Rural Clinical School project team deserves this honour,” he said.

 

Women's cancer specialist serves on international board

Prof Hennie Botha

Prof Hennie Botha, a specialist in gynaecological oncology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the FMHS, was recently elected to the International Gynaecological Cancer Society (IGCS) board as the representative for Africa, Europe and the Middle East.  The Council consists of 11 members representing the three geographical regions, the Americas (North, Central and South America), Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and thirdly, Asia and Australia, for a period of four years.

According to his colleague Dr Haynes van der Merwe, it is important for South Africa to maintain visibility within the IGCS. “It is truly an honour for him and our department.”

Prof Botha’s interest in this field has led to research on the prevention and treatment of cervical cancer. Over the last few years, he has actively participated in the activities of the international association.  He and members of the South African Society of Gynaecological Oncology have organised a successful international congress in Cape Town. “I see this appointment as an opportunity to build international links to help address the serious problem of cancer in Africa through knowledge, research and collaboration,” Botha said.

At the recent Annual Academic Day he delivered a State of the Art presentation on “Cervical Cancer vaccination: South Africa’s new era”.

By Mandi Barnard

 

Ukwanda recognised as "Project that works"

Prof Hoffie Conradie

Prof Hoffie Conradie, Director of the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School and Professor in the Division of Family Medicine, was recently one of seven international winners of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER)  "Projects That Work" competition.

Prof Conradie, who is also a FAIMER SAFRI fellow, attributed this achievement to his colleagues. “The Rural Clinical School project team deserves this honour,” he said.

A representative of each project will be sponsored by FAIMER to attend the 2014 annual meeting of The Network: Towards Unity For Health Conference, to be held from 19 to 23 November in Fortaleza, Brazil. Winners will discuss their work in a panel session of The Network: TUFH meeting to give conference attendees insights about factors that have contributed to these projects’ success and sustainability. An open worldwide call resulted in 64 submissions from which seven were selected by an international panel of 13 reviewers.

 

Content contentsept 6

Academics honoured with appointments as distinguished professors

Prof Paul van Helden
Prof Nulda Beyers
Prof Robert Gie
Prof Simon Schaaf

The honour of being included in the first group of 33 academics to receive the title Distinguished Professor was bestowed upon four professors at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. They are Profs Paul van Helden, Nulda Beyers, Robert Gie and Simon Schaaf, all internationally acclaimed researchers in tuberculosis.

To be eligible for this appointment, a candidate must have been appointed as a professor at Stellenbosch University for at least five years. They must also have shown continuous excellent performance over the last three years; an international stature; and demonstrated exceptional performance and leadership in higher education in research and publications, postgraduate study leadership, learning and teaching and community interaction.

Three of the researchers, namely Profs Simon Schaaf, Robert Gie and Nulda Beyers, are with the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and are involved with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), with Beyers the Director of the Centre. Prof Paul van Helden heads the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

 

Academics honoured with appointments as distinguished professors

Prof Paul van Helden
Prof Nulda Beyers
Prof Robert Gie
Prof Simon Schaaf

The honour of being included in the first group of 33 academics to receive the title Distinguished Professor was bestowed upon four professors at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. They are Profs Paul van Helden, Nulda Beyers, Robert Gie and Simon Schaaf, all internationally acclaimed researchers in tuberculosis.

To be eligible for this appointment, a candidate must have been appointed as a professor at Stellenbosch University for at least five years. They must also have shown continuous excellent performance over the last three years; an international stature; and demonstrated exceptional performance and leadership in higher education in research and publications, postgraduate study leadership, learning and teaching and community interaction.

Three of the researchers, namely Profs Simon Schaaf, Robert Gie and Nulda Beyers, are with the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and are involved with the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), with Beyers the Director of the Centre. Prof Paul van Helden heads the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics.

Van Helden has received the Medical Research Council’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2013 and is rated by the Thomson Reuters Ranking as fourth on the list of researchers with the highest impact on TB research in the world. He heads the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Biomedical TB Research.

Prof Simon Schaaf was awarded the acclaimed National Order of Mapungubwe (silver) by the President of South Africa earlier this year. He is one of two A-rated researchers at the faculty – the other one is Prof Peter Donald, another paediatric TB researcher. Schaaf’s work on drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is regarded as ground-breaking in assisting with the management of the disease.

Joining Van Helden on the Thomson Reuters Ranking in the sixth place on the list for number of papers published is Prof Nulda Beyers. She has received many awards and honours for her research on tuberculosis, and holds numerous research grants. She believes that essential elements of research is the empowerment of communities and building capacity in Africa.

Prof Robert Gie is a principal specialist with a special interest in childhood lung disease - especially childhood tuberculosis. He has published widely on childhood tuberculosis and is regarded as an international expert in the field of childhood TB. He is regularly invited to high burden countries to either do programme reviews for the Departments of Health or teach workshops on childhood tuberculosis.

By Mandi Barnard

 

Content contentsept 7

Young woman's passion for research rewarded by ministry

Caroline Pule

Caroline Pule, a PhD student in Molecular Biology and Human Genetics,  recently received a South African Women in Science Award presented by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Pule, whose research focuses on understanding the physiology of drug-resistant and tolerant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the host response in the context of the host macrophage, was one of 10 young women to receive the Women in Science Fellowship. The awards recognise outstanding ability and potential in research, and are meant to encourage young women to remain in research.

Anatomy teaching practice presented internationally

Pictured with Prof Sanet Kotzé are the chairpersons of the session, Prof Richard Drake from Cleveland Clinic, USA and Prof Wojciech Pawlina from Mayo Clinic, USA.  They are Co-Editors-in-Chief of the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.

Prof Sanet Kotzé from the Division of Anatomy and Histology was an invited Symposium speaker at the Conference of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists (IFAA) held in Beijing, China in August 2014. She was invited to talk in the session Teaching Anatomy in Africa and the title of her talk was "The challenges of developing affordable teaching innovations in Anatomy and Histology in South Africa". She also represented the Anatomical Society of Southern Africa (ASSA) at the IFAA council meeting while at the conference. 

 

Young woman's passion for research rewarded by ministry

Caroline Pule is passionate about working in the research laboratories

Caroline Pule, a PhD student in Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, recently received a South African Women in Science Award presented by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Pule, whose research focuses on understanding the physiology of drug-resistant and tolerant Mycobacterium tuberculosis and the host response in the context of the host macrophage, was one of 10 young women to receive the Women in Science Fellowship. The awards recognise outstanding ability and potential in research, and are meant to encourage young women to remain in research.

“The Department of Science and Technology (DST) stages the Women in Science Awards to celebrate women by recognising and rewarding their research achievements, as well as encourage young women to pursue science-related careers,” Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor said in her comments.

“These awards can be seen as a tribute to [former President Nelson Mandela’s] gallant efforts and visionary leadership in the development and empowerment of women.”
Pule said she was delighted to receive the award and that it meant a lot for her career. “It showed me the value of hard work, and makes me want to work even harder,” said the 25-year old.

This not the first time that Pule has been recognised for her hard work.  Earlier this year she was recognised by the Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering, and was awarded a Singapore International Pregraduate Award to work at the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) Bioinformatics Institute in Singapore for two months.

In 2008 she was also counted among the 20 best performing students at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (where she completed her undergraduate studies in biotechnology).

Pule ascribes her success to the fact that she is very passionate about her research. “It is not about the degrees. I do it because I want to make a difference and I believe that my work will contribute to solving some of the pressing public health issues,” she said.

By Wilma Stassen

 

Content contentsept 8

Fulbright professor visits FMHS

Dr Ethelwynn Stellenberg, acting head of the Division of Nursing and Prof Kathy Nokes, visiting Fulbright scholar

The Division of Nursing has focused on increasing its research capacity over the last few years.  This initiative received a boost with the input of Professor Kathy Nokes, who visited the division on a 36 day short term Fulbright scholarship in August and September this year.

She focused on increasing research capacity at Masters and PhD level and worked with academic staff on publications and research proposals. She presented eight lectures to the Centre for Health Professions Education of which one was on inter-professional education. In addition she presented workshops in scientific writing for publication and evidence-based practice.

Thorough medical research benefits patients, public and policymakers

Prof Charles Wiysonge

Thorough medical research, especially in the form of systematic reviews of previous studies, helps to ensure that patients and the public benefit from health research and that research and healthcare resources are used efficiently.

This was the view of Prof Charles Wiysonge of the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) in his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 9 September 2014. The event took place in the Education Building on SU's Tygerberg Campus.

Wiysonge said the best way to assess the comparative efficacy of one healthcare intervention over another is by systematically reviewing research judged to be sufficiently reliable.

 

Fulbright professor visits FMHS

Dr Ethelwynn Stellenberg, acting head of the Division of Nursing and Prof Kathy Nokes, visiting Fulbright scholar

The Division of Nursing has focused on increasing its research capacity over the last few years.  This initiative received a boost with the input of Professor Kathy Nokes, who visited the division on a 36 day short term Fulbright scholarship in August and September this year.

She focused on increasing research capacity at Masters and PhD level and worked with academic staff on publications and research proposals. She presented eight lectures to the Centre for Health Professions Education of which one was on inter-professional education. In addition she presented workshops in scientific writing for publication and evidence-based practice.

“I enjoy lecturing about research because I can refer to my own experience of research on HIV / Aids, but I prefer working on a one-on-one basis with postgraduate students,” Nokes said. “I had individual sessions with 13 people, which I really enjoyed because one can make a much more significant contribution to their work.”

One of her highlights was a visit  with a primary health care mobile clinic in the Breede  Valley on a true Cape winters day. “It was pouring with rain and there was mud everywhere, yet the mothers brought their sick children to the clinic. This really moved me.”

Prof Nokes, who is an emeritus professor at the City University of New York and the Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, has been on two Fulbright scholarships to South Africa before, the first to the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2005 and the second to the Durban University of Technology in 2011.

She would like to return to Stellenbosch University in future, and is currently exploring funding possibilities with Dr Stellenberg, acting head of Nursing.

By Mandi Barnard

 

Content contentsept 9

Focus on primary care research in Africa

Delegates at the sixth Primafamed Conference which was held in Pretoria

Primary Health Care research came under close scrutiny at a recent conference dedicated to putting the current situation in context, pinpoint strengths and weaknesses and finding solutions to problems facing the family medicine and primary health care industry in the African context.

The Primary Care and Family Medicine Education Network held the sixth Primafamed workshop in Pretoria earlier this year. It was attended by representatives from countries with established or emerging departments of Family Medicine and Primary Care and funded by grants received from the European Union (SA), Medical Research Council (SA), SURMEPI (SA) and INCO (Belgium).

Delegates were from 18 countries, mainly from the African continent, including Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Swaziland, Belgium and Denmark.

Prof Bob Mash of the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care at the FMHS and Prof Olayinka Ayankogbe from Nigeria, were the main driving forces behind the success of the conference. Both are involved with the World Organisation of Family Doctors (Wonca) Global Working Party on Primary Care Research, which has a goal of promoting primary care.

Young research lab hosts international conference

From left to right: Ms PC Kotzé (MSc student), Mrs E Ngounou (PhD student), Dr V Tchokonte-Nana (Group leader), Mr J Manda (PhD student).

Dr Venant Tchokonte-Nana and his young research team hosted the sixth Islet Society meeting at Spier near Stellenbosch on 20-21 July 2014. The conference featured some of the most accomplished experts in the field from twelve countries spread over six continents. The preliminary results of Dr Tchokonte-Nana’s research work on Islet cell replacement therapy were presented during this conference by his students.

The goal of the Islet Society is to facilitate a networks of interdisciplinary collaborations through which researchers can contribute to the scientific discovery, so diabetes can be prevented, treated, and cured. Earlier in the year, Dr Tchokonte-Nana also attended and contributed to the second African Diabetes Congress held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, from 25-28 February 2014.

The next Islet Society Meeting will take place in 2015 in Sydney, Australia.

 

Content contentsept 10

Visitors' Book

University of California, Los Angeles

Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman

Boitekanelo College, Botswana

University of Nairobi, Kenya

Namibian Government

 

 

 

Visitors' Book

University of California, Los Angeles

In August the FMHS welcomed a delegation from the University of California Los Angeles Health Sciences. The delegation consisted of Prof Gene Washington, the Vice Chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and Dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine, Prof Mary Jane Rotherham-Borus, Director of the Center for Community Health and Prof André Nel, Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Public Health at UCLA and Chief of the Division of Nuclear Medicine.

Prof Nel is also an alumnus of Stellenbosch University. They met with a number of top FHMS researchers in amongst others tuberculosis, neurosciences, family medicine, cancer, public health, evidence-based health care and obstetrics and gynaecology. Profs Washington and Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS signed an MOU which recognises the parties’ mutual interest in a number of fields as well as importance of the universities' role in the promotion of international collaboration, equality and increased contribution to the development of society.

Pictured from left to right are Profs André Nel, Marietjie de Villiers, Deputy Dean: Education, FMHS, Ashraf Kagee, Head: Department of Psychology, SU, Mary Jane Rotherham-Borus, Jimmy Volmink, Gene Washington, Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean: Research, FMHS, and Mr Eben Mouton, Director: Business Management, FMHS.

Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman

The Division of Nursing, FMHS, hosted a delegation from the Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman from the 31st of July till the 7th of August. This visit was spearheaded by Prof Anita van der Merwe’s WHO assignment to the country the previous year. The delegation consisted of senior members from the Oman Specialized Nursing Institute (OSNI). They met with the Dean of the FMHS, the Head of the Department of Interdisicplinary Health Sciences and the Senior Director of the Post-Graduate and International Office on main campus.

The group visited amongst others the Clinical Skills Centre, a health care facility and the Ukwanda Centre for Rural Health in Worcester. The group had in-depth discussions with all members of the Division of Nursing. All three delegates confirmed that they would pursue their PhD studies with SU and will work with their country’s Ministry of Health to strengthen ties with SU, the Faculty and the Division of Nursing.

Pictured from left to right are Prof Anita van der Merwe, FMHS, Mr Imad Abdul Rahim Hadi Al Husami, OSNI,  Mr Abdallah Bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Rubae, OSNI, Prof Usuf Chikte, FMHS, Mr Samir Amur Mohammed Al Nasseri, OSNI and Dr Ethelwynn Stellenberg, FMHS.

 

Visitors' Book

Boitekanelo College, Botswana

The Boitekanelo College in Botswana visited the Division of Human Nutrition in the Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences on 2 and 3 September. The purpose was to  benchmark the Bachelor Degree of Dietetics which they implemented for the first time in August 2014. The terms of reference included curriculum development, various aspects of the teaching and learning offering, research collaboration and student exchange programmes.

On the photo are from left: Mrs Yolande Smit, FMHS, Mrs Noleen Coetzee, FMHS, Ms Nametso Moyo, Boitekanelo College, Mrs Malebogo Eluya, Boitekanelo College, Ms Lauren Phillips, FMHS, Ms Isabella G Magetse, Boitekanelo College, Prof Xikombiso Mbhenyane, FMHS, Mrs Keitumetse Mpete, Boitekanelo College, Mr Nayang Kgakatsi, Boitekanelo College, Mrs Maritha Marais, FMHS and Mrs Liesbet Koornhof, FMHS

University of Nairobi, Kenya

A delegation from the University of Nairobi in Kenya visited the Faculty in September, with the goal to gather information about the FMHS’s Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE), the MPhil in Health Professions Education, the Faculty’s e-learning initiatives and the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School.  As the University of Nairobi is also one of the Faculty’s "Medical Education Partnership Initiative” (MEPI) partners, there were also discussions about MEPI initiatives.

Future possibilities for closer cooperation between the Faculty and the College of Health Sciences at the University of Nairobi were discussed. The visit was organized by the CHPE, in collaboration with the Stellenbosch University Rural Medical Education Partnership Initiative (SURMEPI). The visit was made possible by funding from the Stellenbosch University’s Africa Collaboration Grant and SURMEPI. On Friday, 12 September, Prof James Kiarie delivered a guest lecture entitled “University of Nairobi Health Professions Education initiatives supported by MEPI”.  The delegation visited the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School in Worcester the following day.
 
From left to right are Prof Ben van Heerden, FMHS, Dr Kefa Bosire Nairobi, Prof Marietjie de Villiers, FMHS, Prof James Kiarie Nairobi, Dr Steve Walsh, FMHS and  Prof Isaac Kibwage, Nairobi.
 

 

Visitors' Book

Namibian Governement

 

In September the FMHS hosted a delegation from the Ministry of Health and Social Services of the Republic of Namibia. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss collaboration in terms of the training of Namibian medical and health sciences students.

Pictured here in the front row (from left to right) are Mr Andrew Ndishishi, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean: FMHS. In the back row (from left to right) are Ms Joyce Shitaleni, Deputy Director for Policy, Planning and Human Resource Management at the Ministry, Prof Sam Moore of the FMHS, Ms Bertha Katjivena, Director for Policy, Planning and Human Resources in the Ministry, Dr Shitaleni Herman, Head of Nuclear Medicine at Windhoek Central Hospital and Prof Mariana Kruger: Executive Head: Department of Paediatrics at the FMHS.

 

Content contentsept 11

SA's health priorities take centre stage at Annual Academic Day

Annual Academic Day - an overview

State of the Art presentations in a nutshell

Dean's address
Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) recently held its 58th Annual Academic Day.

"The Annual Academic Day is the highlight of our academic calendar, and it showcases and celebrates the faculty's ongoing world class research," says Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean: Research. "It also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of our researchers and support staff… and to reflect on the difference our research makes to the world around us."

Research undertaken at the faculty addresses some of the toughest health challenges in the nation, on the African continent and in the world, and the research priorities are aligned with the Department of Health's quadruple burden of disease profile (infectious disease, non-communicable disease, violence injuries and trauma and maternal and child health).

"Our focus areas also align perfectly with the goals of the National Development Plan, and specifically speak to the key focus areas of the National Development Plan such as improving TB prevention and cure, reducing maternal, infant, and child mortality, reducing the prevalence of NCDs, reducing injuries, accidents and violence, and completing the health care reforms," says Gey van Pittius.

 

SA's health priorities take centre stage at Annual Academic Day

Annual Academic Day - an overview

State of the Art presentations in a nutshell

Dean's address

Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) recently held its 58th Annual Academic Day.

"The Annual Academic Day is the highlight of our academic calendar, and it showcases and celebrates the faculty's ongoing world class research," says Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean: Research. "It also provides an opportunity to acknowledge the commitment and hard work of our researchers and support staff… and to reflect on the difference our research makes to the world around us."

Research undertaken at the faculty addresses some of the toughest health challenges in the nation, on the African continent and in the world, and the research priorities are aligned with the Department of Health's quadruple burden of disease profile (infectious disease, non-communicable disease, violence injuries and trauma and maternal and child health).

"Our focus areas also align perfectly with the goals of the National Development Plan, and specifically speak to the key focus areas of the National Development Plan such as improving TB prevention and cure, reducing maternal, infant, and child mortality, reducing the prevalence of NCDs, reducing injuries, accidents and violence, and completing the health care reforms," says Gey van Pittius.

The programme included 80 poster and oral presentations respectively, six state of the art presentation, and key note addresses from the dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink, and guest speaker Professor Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council (MRC).

The programme for the Annual Academic Day was divided into six different tracks around central themes – health system strengthening; non-communicable disease; infectious disease; mental health and neuroscience; and maternal and child health.

"The research was presented around these themes in an interdisciplinary way to allow researchers from different environments and disciplines to interact," says Gey van Pittius.

In his talk, centred around the theme of inequality, Volmink illustrated how this issue negatively impacts all levels of society, and noted with concern the gender and race inequality in academia and research output in the country.

"In our vision of the faculty we state that we are committed to health and equality and we need to take that seriously. Inequality in research activities is undesirable and should be systematically addressed, and this will require a pipeline approach that will mean attracting, developing and retaining people from underrepresented groups," says Volmink.

Gray expressed the MRC's commitment to building a healthy nation through research and innovation. "The MRC is interested in big ideas, big science, and we want high impact. We want to promote the knowledge economy, and at the same time develop health solutions that are appropriate and address the health of our nation," says Gray.

According to her, there is a link between research and prosperity. She said South Africa would be wise to invest in research to grow the economy.

Article and videos by Wilma Stassen

 

Content contentsept 12

Ebola - are we prepared?

The importance of avoiding nosocomial transmission in the clinical environment is an important challenge to health care workers

The recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa is causing widespread fear even in countries far away from the affected areas.  The Tygerberg Hospital has been identified by the South African Government as the dedicated facility to deal with cases of EVD in the Western Cape, which directly involves many staff members on the joint establishments of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Department of Health and National Health Laboratories.

A mini symposium, entitled “Are we prepared for imported Ebola cases?”, was hosted by the Centre of Infectious Diseases (CID) at the FMHS to disseminate information on this deadly disease, including the current state of affairs and the management of an outbreak, to various stakeholders in the health care arena in the Western Cape.

TB-themed opera movie filmed on campus

Many of the scenes were shot at Helshoogte residence

An opera movie which focuses on Tuberculosis (TB) was filmed on the campus of Stellenbosch University (SU) on 5 to 7 September. It is the latest opera movie by the acclaimed director Mark Dornford-May.

The University's Desmond Tutu TB Centre at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences played a role in the project coming to fruition.

The film, titled Breathe – Umphefumlo, is based on Giacomo Puccini's popular opera La Bohème, which revolves around six friends living a poor bohemian life in Paris, France. One of the main characters, Mimi, dies of TB in the 1830s when the disease was a big problem and caused many deaths in Europe.

 

Ebola - are we prepared?

One of the largest audiences ever assembled in the JN de Villiers Boardroom. 
The mini symposium was well attended by faculty members, health care practitioners, students and various other stakeholders.

The recent Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa is causing widespread fear even in countries far away from the affected areas.  The Tygerberg Hospital has been identified by the South African Government as the dedicated facility to deal with cases of EVD in the Western Cape, which directly involves many staff members on the joint establishments of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), Department of Health and National Health Laboratories.  

A mini symposium, entitled “Are we prepared for imported Ebola cases?”, was hosted by the Centre of Infectious Diseases (CID) at the FMHS to disseminate information on this deadly disease, including the current state of affairs and the management of an outbreak, to various stakeholders in the health care arena in the Western Cape.

Prof. Jean Nachega,  the CID's Director, opened the meeting by giving a brief historic overview of Ebola. The virus was discovered in 1976 when it caused the first reported outbreaks, almost simultaneously in northern Congo and southern Sudan. Since then, EVD outbreaks have occurred from time to time in central Africa. Although a dramatic disease, due to its rapid course and dramatic clinical signs, the medical community seemed to have learnt to control cases relatively quickly. The current outbreak in West Africa however is, nine months after it began, out of control and posing unprecedented challenges.

Prof Wolfgang Preiser from the Division of Medical Virology sketched the background and gave information on the situation in West Africa. He said that South Africa has a low risk for an outbreak. “All you need are strict controls and measurements enforced diligently to prevent the spread of the disease even if it should be imported,” he said. He added that the situation in South Africa, despite its health care related challenges, is remarkably different to that in countries where poverty is rife and where there is no efficient health care system.

Dr Jantjie Taljaard, specialist in infectious diseases, elaborated on the clinical management of EVD patients.  He stated that Ebola has an incubation period of 2 –21 days, but that most people develop symptoms seven to ten days after exposure.  “Preparation is vital, we want to be safe from the start, rather than sorry,” he said. He emphased that the South African authorities had the correct systems and procedures in place and that the health care workers are equipped and have the tools to take the right precautions.

The laboratory processes and the role of the NHLS were discussed by Dr Lerato Sikhosana and Dr Jayshree Maharaj from the Division of Medical Virology.  While all specific diagnostic laboratory tests are conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) ,which has a biosafety level 4 laboratory, tests for possible differential diagnoses (such as meningococcal disease, malaria, typhoid and many more) will be done by the NHLS Tygerberg.  Laboratory staff have been trained and special equipment has been procured to ensure that this can be done without any infection risk to laboratory staff.

The importance of avoiding nosocomial transmission in the clinical environment is an important challenge to health care workers. Ms Madga Mocke from the Unit for Infection Prevention and Control at Tygerberg Hospital did a presentation on the logistics of avoiding nosocomial transmission, from putting on the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), the working procedures inside the wards, to taking off and discarding of the PPE. She stressed that “every member of the staff is monitored continuously, and they are recruited to work with Ebola patients on a voluntary basis.”

The last presentation was delivered by Mr Ewald Bonzet from Port Health.  He indicated that the biggest risk for EBV cases entering South Africa lies in the three big ports and not with international airports. “Ships arriving from West Africa pose a bigger threat of importing Ebola cases than flights,” he stated.  He elaborated on the procedures and processes to be followed if there is a suspected case of EBV on board.

By Mandi Barnard


See also

Responding to Ebola: Fostering Transparency and Inclusivity by Prof Keymanthri Moodley published online on 3 September 2014 in the Bioethics Forum

 

Content contentsept 13

New books from the faculty's pen

Research ethics in Africa

A resource for research ethics committees

Editors: Mariana Kruger, Paul Ndebele, Lyn Horn

The aim of this book is to provide research ethics committee members with a resource that focuses on research ethics issues in Africa. The authors are currently active in various aspects of research ethics in Africa nationally and the majority have been trained in the past by either the Fogarty International Center or Europe and Developing Countries Clinical Trial Partnership (EDCTP) sponsored bioethics training programmes. The project was funded by EDCTP and resulted in an intensive workshop, held in 2011, where the participants were active nationally in research ethics in their respective countries. The contents of the worskhop were the research ethics issues that the authors felt are relevant to the African continent. The result was a consensus agreement on the important topics from an African perspective and the chapters allocated to authors for this particular resource book. Additional authors were invited after the workshop due to their particular expertise in specific research ethics topics. This is the first book to our knowledge dedicated to research ethics from an African perspective.

Male Infertility

A complete guide to lifestyle and environmental factors

Editors: Stefan S du Plessis, Ashok Agarwal, Edmund S Sabanegh Jr

This unique text provides a comprehensive yet concise review of the various environmental factors and lifestyle choices which impact male fertility, with special emphasis on the mechanisms that contribute to decreased sperm production and impaired function. Internationally recognised scientists and clinicians, leaders in the field of male infertility, gather their insights and discuss how to prevent, address, and treat male infertility caused by factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, medication and drug use, obesity, dietary and exercise habits, sexually transmitted infections, psychological stress, and occupational exposure to chemicals and radiation. Written in an easy to follow, informal yet scientific style, Male Infertility: A Complete Guide to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors offers invaluable clinical guidelines for physicians and infertility experts as well as new data and research of great interest to basic scientists, andrologists, and embryologists.

 

Content contentsept 14

FVZS Institute expands offering to Tygerberg

Students attending a "Women in Leadership" short course in Stellenbosch. This course will also be offered at Tygerberg Campus in future.

In one of many exciting developments at the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development this year, the Institute has expanded its Women in Leadership short course to students of the Tygerberg campus.

The student co-ordinators are Jethro Georgiades, Tosca Ferndale (Stellenbosch) and Douglas Heale (Tygerberg).

"We have always had an interest from Tygerberg students to participate in our short courses," says Georgiades. "Many of them have made the commitment to drive to Stellenbosch in the past, but we have found that a number of students simply cannot fit the course into their schedules – especially when travel time comes into play."

Master of Nutrition Workshop equips students for research

The group of students who attended the first compulsory workshop Master of Nutrition programme

The Division of Human Nutrition hosted the first compulsory workshop for its Master of Nutrition degree during the week of 28 July – 1 August 2014. All 15 first year Master of Nutrition (structured) students attended the workshop from all corners of South Africa, as well as from Kenya and Zambia. Students attended a variety of lectures, interactive sessions and practical workshops with the aim to further equip them with the skills necessary to complete the writing of their research proposals.

The research processes was discussed in detail to ensure that students have a clear understanding of university requirements and relevant procedures. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to meet with supervisors during the course of the week to ensure continued progress, and to enable the presentation of research proposals to all supervisors by the end of the week (with constructive input from the whole group to further improve the projects).

 

Master of Nutrition Workshop equips students for research

Lecturers and students at the first workshop for the Master of Nutrition Workshop

The Division of Human Nutrition hosted the first compulsory workshop for its Master of Nutrition degree during the week of 28 July – 1 August 2014. All 15 first year Master of Nutrition (structured) students attended the workshop from all corners of South Africa, as well as from Kenya and Zambia. Students attended a variety of lectures, interactive sessions and practical workshops with the aim to further equip them with the skills necessary to complete the writing of their research proposals.

University processes were discussed in detail to ensure that students have a clear understanding of requirements and relevant procedures. Furthermore, students had the opportunity to meet with supervisors during the course of the week to ensure continued progress, and to enable the presentation of research proposals to all supervisors by the end of the week (with constructive input from the whole group to further improve the projects).

The feedback from this workshop has been overwhelmingly positive, with students indicating that contact time on campus assisted them greatly in progressing with their proposals, and in “getting the full picture” of what the research component of the degree entails. In addition, the Division hosted Dr Sophie Ochola from the Department of Foods, Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Applied Human Sciences, Kenyatta University. Dr Ochola is a PhD graduate from the Division of Human Nutrition (Stellenbosch University) and an extremely valuable link between our Division and Stellenbosch University (SU) Master of Nutrition and PhD (Nutritional Sciences) students in Kenya.

In addition to further cementing this established link, the Division undertook exploratory discussions to identify possible future collaborations regarding teaching (undergraduate and postgraduate), research and capacity building.

By Janicke Visser

 

Content contentsept 15

Nod of approval from international green network

To date, Stellenbosch University's Medicine and Health Sciences is the only faculty in South Africa which received membership from this network

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences was recently awarded membership to the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network .  

This initiative, which is a project of Health Care Without Harm, supports existing efforts around the world to promote greater sustainability and environmental health in the health sector to strengthen health systems globally.

Their agenda provides a framework consisting of ten interconnected goals, each containing a series of action items that hospitals and health systems can implement.

Trees planted for green travellers and late colleagues

Prof André van der Merwe and colleagues planted a tree in memory of the late Prof Chris Heyns

Faculty staff members planted trees on campus to celebrate Arbour week, held from  1 – 7 September. This annual event is held in collaboration with the faculty's "Trees for green travelers" project.

One of the FMHS's strategic goals is to promote environmental sustainability, and this includes steps to lower carbon emissions.  The "Trees for green travelers" project encourages staff to make a contribution towards buying trees. These trees are planted on campus in order to offset the effect carbon emissions have on climate change.

Trees were also planted for colleagues who have passed away during the past year. "We hope that these trees are symbolic of their everlasting relationship with our Faculty", said Prof Nico Gey van Pittius (FMHS Deputy Dean: Research) during the proceedings.

Wellness Day promotes a healthy lifestyle

Ms Lindsay-Michelle Meyer of Ukwanda making her own smoothie while cycling, with Tim Briggs from Blendavenda cheering her on

The Discovery Wellness Open Day took place on 25 August 2014 on the Tygerberg Campus. Staff members received information pertaining to their lifestyle habits, health risks and fitness levels, including advice on areas that need attention and advice on how to improve.

The FMHS considers the wellbeing of its employees to be of paramount importance. "Therefore, staff is encouraged to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle and take steps to reduce potential health risks, whenever possible," said Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty.

This year there were dedicated zones where staff could be pampered or get vital information on improving or maintaining their health.  These included fun activities like “pedal for smoothies”, Zumba demonstrations and massages. On the more serious side staff could undergo screening, learn their "vitality age", and visit an information zone where brochures answering pertinent health and wellness questions were distributed.


 

Nod of approval from international green network

Profs Bob Mash (left) and Wolfgang Preiser assisting the students to harvest the worm farm.

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences was recently awarded membership to the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network.  

This initiative, which is a project of Health Care Without Harm, supports existing efforts around the world to promote greater sustainability and environmental health in the health sector to strengthen health systems globally.

Their agenda provides a framework consisting of ten interconnected goals, each containing a series of action items that hospitals and health systems can implement.

Environmental sustainability is included in the Faculty’s strategic plan and the Green Committee has been actively involved with various initiatives on the Tygerberg Campus.
Key achievements since 2009 include:

Energy
The Faculty has reduced its energy consumption from 17.4million KwH in 2008 to 13.3million KwH in 2012, while at the same time increasing the number of students and buildings. This was largely due to infrastructural changes. Key changes were made to the heating and cooling systems, lighting and lifts.

Waste
The Faculty has significantly increased the recycling of waste from almost nothing in 2008. This has been achieved by the introduction of a commercial worm farm at the main restaurant and more recently Bokashi as well. The Faculty has also contracted with WastePlan to sort all waste on campus at a central depot and divide waste into recycling and non-recycling. In addition a 3-bin system has been introduced in 2014 to enable people in residences and in the grounds to throw waste into one of three options – recyclable, non-recyclable and composting. In 2012, 44561 kg of waste were sent for re-cycling and 145860 kg to land fill, which means 23% of all waste was recycled.

Campus grounds
The Faculty has focused on planting indigenous and water wise plants as well as the planting of trees to offset carbon emissions as described under transport.

Food
The service provider on campus, Fedics, has branded itself as an eco-diner.  The main restaurant on campus was evaluated for its sustainability practice by the Division of Human Nutrition.

Transport
The main achievement in this area has been the voluntary levy on air travel when any ticket is purchased by the Faculty. This money is spent on offsetting carbon emissions through the planting of trees (2008 – 8 trees, 2013 – 36 trees), employing a part-time co-ordinator and supporting small scale student and other green projects.

Curricula
The Faculty has introduced the issue of sustainable development and health as a thread throughout the MB,ChB curriculum. Students visit the Sustainability Institute to look at practical examples of sustainable practices and think about the broader issues of sustainability that impact on health – population growth, climate change, slums and urbanisation, as well as food security.

Source: “Organisation's Action Plan" submitted to the Global Green and Healthy Hospital by Prof Bob Mash.

 

Trees planted for green travellers and late colleagues

Trees were planted in memory of colleagues who passed away during the past 12 months.

From left Prof Chris Heyns, Prof Ruth Watson, Prof Russel Botman, Ms Brenda Smuts, Prof Peter Jacobs


Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences (FMHS) staff members planted trees on campus to celebrate Arbour week, held from  1 – 7 September. This annual event is held in collaboration with the faculty's "Trees for green travelers" project.

One of the FMHS’s strategic goals is to promote environmental sustainability, and this includes steps to lower carbon emissions.  The “Trees for green travelers” project encourages staff to make a contribution towards buying trees. These trees are planted on campus in order to offset the effect carbon emissions have on climate change.

The FMHS was recently awarded membership of the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network. This is in recognition of the work done on sustainability in relation to the use of energy, water, waste, food and transport. The Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network includes organisations, hospitals and health systems from six continents who are committed to reducing their ecological footprint and promoting environmental health.

Trees were also planted for colleagues who have passed away during the last 12 months. “We hope that these trees are symbolic of their everlasting relationship with our Faculty”, said Prof Nico Gey van Pittius (FMHS Deputy Dean: Research) during the proceedings.

Prof Chris Heyns passed away on 1 August 2014. Prof Heyns was Head of the Division of Urology and an outstanding academic, leader and family man. His passion for research (over 300 publications) and the field of Urology served as example to everyone he worked with.

Prof Ruth Watson passed away on Friday 18 July 2014. She held an appointment as extraordinary professor in the Division of Occupational Therapy. As a researcher, she made an outstanding contribution to the body of knowledge of occupational therapy and inspired many occupational therapists to undertake research.

Prof Russel Botman passed away on 28 June 2014. He was the Rector and Vice chancellor of Stellenbosch University and a visionary leader and respected academic who worked tirelessly to achieve the goal of social justice.

Ms Brenda Smuts passed away on 30 June 2014.  She joined the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, Stellenbosch University on 01 March 2010 as the Public Health & Operational Specialist until her retirement on the 31 March 2014. Brenda celebrated her 60th birthday on 1 December 2013.

Prof Peter Jacobs passed away in November last year.  He was an extraordinary professor in Haematological Pathology and Clinical Haematology at Stellenbosch University and of Internal Medicine at the University of Nebraska. He contributed greatly to academic medicine through hundreds of publications and his membership of numerous local and international societies, fellowships and editorial boards.