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» Groundbreaking cost-effective skin graft developed at SU

» SU doctors perform world's first penile transplant

» New procedure for emphysema sufferers a first for Africa

» Large trial studies link between alcohol and infant death

» Addressing challenges of higher student numbers

» Bats also call Tygerberg Campus home

 

» Radiation oncology unit tackles cancer in Africa

» Moms, babies benefit from new critical care unit

» Fellowship to strengthen curriculum development

» Human sciences included in health sciences education

» Advancing environmental health research

»Seventy-year old among PhD recipients 

»Ophthalmologists excel at national conference

» Talented medical student publishes poetry compilation

» Student elected to MWASA's executive committee

» Working towards excellence in health care

» Staff members receive recognition with PLUS programme

» SU joins international network on bioethics collaboration

» Project to promote knowledge exchange on TB

» African Cancer Institute enhancing training initiatives with Zambia

» SU searches for African solutions to continent problems

» Visitors' book

» Changes to boost nursing's profile at Stellenbosch University

» School library named after late Dr Louis Heyns

» Research day on education in health professions

» PhD students benefit from pre-doctoral short course

» Health care leadership promoted in student programme

» Student attends course on human rights in India

» Archbishop Tutu addresses TB crisis

» Staff treated with cable car trip

» Upcoming Faculty events not to miss!

Vivus is published by the Marketing and Communications office of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. Contact us: mandi@sun.ac.za; +27 (0) 21 938 9202

 

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Groundbreaking cost-effective skin graft developed at SU

From left:  Prof Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health, Prof Brian Warren, Head of Surgical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of Western Cape Government’s Department of Health and Dr Wayne Kleintjes, Head of the Burns Unit at Tygerberg Hospital.

In yet another breakthrough, a Stellenbosch University (SU) doctor did the first successful skin culture transplant using skin “grown” with a novel technique that cost a fraction of the price of other skin culturing procedures.

With this new technique, Dr Wayne Kleintjes from SU’s Department of Surgical Sciences grew (cultured) skin for a seriously wounded 16-year old burns patient for a mere R995, compared to an estimated R1.8 million that another technique would have cost to achieve the same result.

SU doctors perform world's first successful penile transplant

The operating team during the first successful penile transplant were, from the left: Prof Frank Graewe, Dr Alexander Zülhke, Dr Pieter Spies, Dr André Müller, Prof André van der Merwe and Dr Talal Al-Qaoud

In a ground-breaking operation, a team of pioneering surgeons from Stellenbosch University (SU) and Tygerberg Hospital performed the first successful penile transplant in the world.

The marathon nine-hour operation, led by Prof André van der Merwe, head of SU’s Division of Urology, was performed on 11 December 2014 at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town. This is the second time that this type of procedure was attempted, but the first time in history that a successful long-term result was achieved.

 

Groundbreaking cost-effective skin graft developed at SU

From left:  Prof Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health, Prof Brian Warren, Head of Surgical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dr Beth Engelbrecht, Head of Western Cape Government’s Department of Health and Dr Wayne Kleintjes, Head of the Burns Unit at Tygerberg Hospital.

In yet another breakthrough, a Stellenbosch University (SU) doctor did the first successful skin culture transplant using skin “grown” with a novel technique that cost a fraction of the price of other skin culturing procedures.

With this new technique, Dr Wayne Kleintjes from SU’s Department of Surgical Sciences grew (cultured) skin for a seriously wounded 16-year old burns patient for a mere R995, compared to an estimated R1.8 million that another technique would have cost to achieve the same result.

Last year November Kleintjes, head of the adult burns unit at Tygerberg Hospital, decided to attempt this sparsely documented technique when his 16-year old patient, too weak for a regular skin graft (a temporary solution using skin from a donor or another species), started deteriorating rapidly and his weight dropped to only 19kg.

“I knew that we need a special intervention to save the boy. Even though fundraising had been planned with the family for an Epicel Cultured Epidermal Autograft transplant (like that Pippie Kruger had), there was an import ban placed on the product. The only way out was to make a plan ourselves,” says Kleintjes.

The results were extraordinary and the patient was discharged from the intensive care unit only two weeks after the transplant. This was the first time that skin cultured with this technique was successfully transplanted.

Kleintjes successfully performed the procedure for a second time in February this year on a patient with burns to 63% of his body. The wounded body surface was closed with two skin grafts and the patient was moved from ICU four weeks after the transplant.

This procedure is similar to other techniques that use the patient’s own skin (collected with a biopsy), but the culture method differs dramatically in its relative simplicity, its effectivity, biological safety and modest cost.

The continued use of the technology and the fine-tuning thereof will be the subject of a research study conducted by Dr Kleintjies at Stellenbosch University faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The Head of the Western Cape’s Department of Health, Dr Beth Engelbrecht comments: “We are very proud of our clinicians; their relentless quest for excellence and their spirit of innovation – often within a cost-constrained environment. Currently this project is at a developmental stage. Once it gains momentum it could be introduced as part of the normal provincial protocol and could be shared with other provinces and the private sector”.

Up to now the outlook for patients in South Africa who had suffered extensive burns was rather bleak. The current conventional treatment methods range from rudimentary management of pain and discomfort to highly specialised transplant techniques, depending on the availability of resources.  If they survive, patients faced long and excruciating stays in hospital ICU units with mixed results at the end of the intensive treatment. The detrimental effect of serious burns on victims and their families also cannot be over-estimated.

“The availability of this new technique has challenged the way we assess a serious burn victim’s prognosis. Now we can offer life-saving, viable and affordable treatment, making the previously bleak outlook much brighter,” Kleintjes remarked.

Article: Wilma Stassen
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

SU doctors perform world's first successful penile transplant

The operating team during the first successful penile transplant were, from the left: Prof Frank Graewe, Dr Alexander Zülhke, Dr Pieter Spies, Dr André Müller, Prof André van der Merwe and Dr Talal Al-Qaoud

In a ground-breaking operation, a team of pioneering surgeons from Stellenbosch University (SU) and Tygerberg Hospital performed the first successful penile transplant in the world.

The marathon nine-hour operation, led by Prof André van der Merwe, head of SU’s Division of Urology, was performed on 11 December 2014 at Tygerberg Hospital in Bellville, Cape Town. This is the second time that this type of procedure was attempted, but the first time in history that a successful long-term result was achieved.

“South Africa remains at the forefront of medical progress,” says Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS). “This procedure is another excellent example of how medical research, technical know-how and patient-centred care can be combined in the quest to relieve human suffering. It shows what can be achieved through effective partnerships between academic institutions and government health services.”

Van der Merwe was assisted by Prof Frank Graewe, head of the Division of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at SU FMHS, Prof Rafique Moosa, head of the FMHS Department of Medicine, transplant coordinators, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, a psychologist, an ethicist and other support staff.

The patient, whose identity is being protected for ethical reasons, has made a full recovery and has regained all function in the newly transplanted organ.

“Our goal was that he would be fully functional at two years and we are very surprised by his rapid recovery,” says Van der Merwe. The end result of the transplant was the restoration of all the patient’s urinary and reproductive functions.

“It’s a massive breakthrough. We’ve proved that it can be done – we can give someone an organ that is just as good as the one that he had,” says Graewe. “It was a privilege to be part of this first successful penis transplant in the world.”

“Western Cape Government Health (WCGH) is very proud to be part of this ground-breaking scientific achievement,” says Dr Beth Engelbrecht, head of the WCGH. “We are proud of the medical team, who also form part of our own staff compliment at Tygerberg Hospital. It is good to know that a young man’s life has been significantly changed with this very complex surgical feat.

From experience we know that penile dysfunction and disfigurement has a major adverse psychological effect on people.”

The procedure was part of a pilot study to develop a penile transplant procedure that could be performed in a typical South African hospital theatre setting.

“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision,” explains Van der Merwe.

Three years ago the 21-year-old recipient’s penis had to be amputated in order to save his life when he developed severe complications after a traditional circumcision. Although there are no formal records on the number of penile amputations per year due to traditional circumcision, one study reported up to 55 cases in the Eastern Cape alone, and experts estimate as many as 250 amputations per year across the country.

“This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic. He doesn’t necessarily have the psychological capability to process this. There are even reports of suicide among these young men,” says Van der Merwe.

“The heroes in all of this for me are the donor, and his family. They saved the lives of many people because they donated the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, skin, corneas, and then the penis,” says Van der Merwe. Finding a donor organ was one of the major challenges of the study.

The planning and preparation for the study started in 2010. After extensive research Van der Merwe and his surgical team decided to employ some parts of the model and techniques developed for the first facial transplant.

“We used the same type of microscopic surgery to connect small blood vessels and nerves, and the psychological evaluation of patients was also similar. The procedure has to be sustainable and has to work in our environment at Tygerberg,” says Van der Merwe.

This procedure could eventually also be extended to men who have lost their penises from penile cancer or as a last-resort treatment for severe erectile dysfunction due to medication side effects. As part of the study, nine more patients will receive penile transplants.

By Wilma Stassen

 

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New procedure for emphysema sufferers a first for Africa

 

The first Lung Volume Reduction Coil (LVRC) procedure was recently performed by doctors in a public private collaboration between Stellenbosch University (SU) and Mediclinic Panorama. This pioneering work, a first for the African continent, is set to bring relief to emphysema sufferers.

Prof Coenie Koegelenberg, a pulmonologist at the SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Dr Johan Theron, a pulmonologist at Mediclinic Panorama used the procedure on patients at the Heart and Lung Unit at Mediclinic Panorama. It is performed on emphysema sufferers who have tried all other options available unsuccessfully. A total of six procedures on three patients have been executed to date with a hundred percent success rate.

Large trial studies link between alcohol and infant death

 

Researchers at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) are part of a large, longitudinal study looking at the link between alcohol use during pregnancy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and stillbirths.

The study involves more than 12 000 patients and five partner institutions in the United States (US) and South Africa. A total of 7 060 patients were recruited from an antenatal clinic in the Cape Town suburb Bishop Lavis, while the remainder came from prenatal clinics in North and South Dakota in the US.

 

New procedure for emphysema sufferers a first for Africa

 

The first Lung Volume Reduction Coil (LVRC) procedure was recently performed by doctors in a public private collaboration between Stellenbosch University (SU) and Mediclinic Panorama. This pioneering work, a first for the African continent, is set to bring relief to emphysema sufferers.

Prof Coenie Koegelenberg, a pulmonologist at the SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Dr Johan Theron, a pulmonologist at Mediclinic Panorama used the procedure on patients at the Heart and Lung Unit at Mediclinic Panorama. It is performed on emphysema sufferers who have tried all other options available unsuccessfully. A total of six procedures on three patients have been executed to date with a hundred percent success rate.

Emphysema is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is the fastest growing cause of death in developed countries, and is currently the fourth most frequent cause of death worldwide. People with emphysema experience shortness of breath and difficulty breathing, which can worsen with exercise or even when performing daily routine activities, through a deficit in elasticity in the pulmonary tissue. The loss of elasticity presents a major problem in emphysema management.

Although the procedure was first performed in September 2014, it was necessary to set up all the required infrastructure for these procedures, ensure that sufficient after-care support is in place for patients and conduct a sensible number of procedures before announcing it publically.

“With the new non-invasive procedure tiny metal coils are implanted in the airways of the emphysematous lungs. The “memory” coils assume their configuration only once they are deployed, and then decreases the lung volume of the diseased lung and retains  it. In doing so it increases  pulmonary elasticity and holds the tiny airways open, allowing patients to breathe easier and more effectively. The procedure takes about half an hour to perform, and patients can go home the next day.”

The coils used in the procedure are imported from Germany and the cost of the LVRC procedure is between R350,000 and R400,000 for two full implantations. While it is not low-priced, the cost is very much on par with other endoscopic procedures in South Africa such as the insertion of endobronchial valves and surgical lung volume reduction.

Mr Rob Faux (64), a patient from Johannesburg, was suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and started developing severe emphysema. He looked into options for treatment, but was not prepared to go for surgery and started researching alternatives. He then read about the Lung Volume Reduction Coil (LVRC) procedure that is non-invasive and non-surgical. He was well on his way to have this done in Germany when he discovered that Dr Theron at the Mediclinic Panorama Heart and Lung Unit could perform the procedure in Cape Town.

“Due to the condition, even basic activities like going to the shops, or going to an upstairs level to watch a movie at a shopping centre were too much for me. I’ve done my own research and according to information from overseas, the real impact of this procedure is only measured around three to six months after. However, I could feel a significant improvement immediately after just one of my lungs was done. Now the procedure has been completed on both my lungs, and if it is going to get even better than this, I am absolutely elated,” Mr Faux said.

The Mediclinic Panorama / Stellenbosch University location is currently the only site in Africa that is accredited to perform the LVRC procedure. It is also the first outside of the USA and Europe. What makes the Mediclinic Panorama Heart and Lung Unit unique is that it offers state-of-the-art technology and an enabling environment for its group of heart and lung specialists to collaborate with academic colleagues at the SU. As a result, a number of highly specialised therapies for the most difficult-to-treat patients are often innovated here.

Many other revolutionary interventional procedures have already been developed from the Mediclinic Panorama / Stellenbosch University location. These include the likes of the endobronchial ultrasound with transbronchial nodal aspiration, transthoracic ultrasound guided biopsies and more recently, the endobronchial vagal ablation.

Sources: Mediclinic and FMHS

 

Large trial studies link between alcohol and infant death


Researchers at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) are part of a large, longitudinal study looking at the link between alcohol use during pregnancy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and stillbirths.

The study involves more than 12 000 patients and five partner institutions in the United States (US) and South Africa. A total of 7 060 patients were recruited from an antenatal clinic in the Cape Town suburb Bishop Lavis, while the remainder came from prenatal clinics in North and South Dakota in the US.

For the study, pregnant women were recruited at their first visit to the antenatal clinic and they were followed throughout pregnancy and childbirth, up to the child’s first birthday. Data collected on the incidence and quality of alcohol use during pregnancy are measured against risk factors for SIDS and stillbirths to identify any correlation between the three phenomena.

The last patient was recruited at the beginning of this year and the first results of the study will be published in the beginning of 2016.

A large amount of data is collected from patients for this study, as well as various smaller studies embedded within the main study. Sophisticated tests are performed at various intervals before and after birth to monitor the child’s autonomic nervous system to identify potential risk factors. Genetic materials, such as blood and saliva samples, are collected from both mother and baby for possible later genetic testing. Three-dimensional images are also taken of selected babies before and after birth that could help with identification of foetal alcohol syndrome.

“I don’t know of any other study where so much detailed information is collected,” says Prof Hein Odendaal with the FMHS Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. “There is the potential to follow up much further and gather even more data. This information can be used to monitor these subjects when they reach their reproductive years.”  

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the FMHS is involved in the recruitment and testing of subjects, while the Departments of Anatomical and Forensic Pathology are involved in the examination of the placenta and tissue samples collection at autopsy. Over the 13-year period of the study (three years of preparation and 10 years for the actual study), the FMHS would have received around R86 million from the American National Institutes of Health, which is funding the research.

By Wilma Stassen

 

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Addressing challenges of higher student numbers

The group of 274 first-year students busy with the first exams of their medical careers.

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system, which was introduced at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at the Tygerberg Campus last year, is making a huge contribution to addressing the challenges of growing student numbers.

The FMHS is using technology for e-learning that is quite unique.  “They are pioneers in the true sense of the word as this has never been attempted,” said Mr David Wiles, manager of the Faculty’s computer users’ area (Gerga). While BYOD as a base technology has been around since 2009, its combination with e-learning and writing exams in a virtual environment currently has only been attempted on a smaller scale in two other educational institutions in the world.

Bats also call Tygerberg Campus home

Tashim Suliman, Nadine Sampson, Karlien Malan, Karnustha Poovan, Bronwyn Kleinhans and Ndapewa Ithete make up the research team from the Division of Virology using the bat boxes in their studies.


A new residence has gone up on the Tygerberg campus.  But unlike the typical hostels that house human TygerMaties, these wooden structures on the sports field behind Meerhoff residence were built to accommodate bats.

The boxes form part of a large research project by postgraduate students with the Division of Medical Virology who are studying local bat populations. The Tygerberg boxes are part of a project which has seen several bat boxes placed around the Cape Peninsula.

 

Addressing challenges of higher student numbers

The group of 274 first-year students busy with the first exams of their medical careers.

The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) system, which was introduced at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at the Tygerberg Campus last year, is making a huge contribution to addressing the challenges of growing student numbers.

The FMHS is using technology for e-learning that is quite unique.  “They are pioneers in the true sense of the word as this has never been attempted,” said mr David Wiles, manager of the Faculty’s computer users’ area (Gerga). While BYOD as a base technology has been around since 2009, its combination with e-learning and writing exams in a virtual environment currently has only been attempted on a smaller scale in two other educational institutions in the world.

“FMHS students use this system to write exams, do assessments, access all the network-based systems, and to utilise the full potential of e-learning, all using their own devices,” Wiles said. Own devices could be laptops, tablets or iPads.

Over 950 students have registered and set up their devices for BYOD. Printing volumes at GERGA have been reduced drastically because students use their devices to study, store their class notes on and access it again.

When students connect their devices to the Tygerberg BYOD system, they get access to a virtual desktop which has all the services and access they require for e-learning, including podcasts. These desktops can be set up centrally to provide unique environments for students to work with. “The strength of this particular solution lies in the fact that whether students have an old laptop or a new laptop, whether they run Windows, AppleOS or Android as an operating system or whether they have a laptop or a tablet, the experience and the functions are all the same irrespective of the device,” Wiles explained.

Students have been using the BYOD system to write exams and tests in the Exam Room on the fifth floor of the Education Building which was set up with a high-density WiFi network in March 2014. “In February this year, all the previous records were shattered when 274 first year students wrote their first exam of their medical career using BYOD at one time,” Wiles said. Students without their own devices were accommodated in Gerga. “The exam, from the BYOD perspective, was a resounding success and students have embraced this new technology whole-heartedly,” Wiles noted. “In March, the number of students who wrote exams using BYOD had increased to 297.”

Article and photo by Mandi Barnard

 

Bats also call Tygerberg Campus home

Tashim Suliman, Nadine Sampson, Karlien Malan, Karnustha Poovan, Bronwyn Kleinhans and Ndapewa Ithete make up the research team from the Division of Virology using the bat boxes in their studies.


A new residence has gone up on the Tygerberg campus.  But unlike the typical hostels that house human TygerMaties, these wooden structures on the sports field behind Meerhoff residence were built to accommodate bats.

The boxes form part of a large research project by postgraduate students with the Division of Medical Virology who are studying local bat populations. The Tygerberg boxes are part of a project which has seen several bat boxes placed around the Cape Peninsula.

“Our research looks at bat viruses,” explains Dr Ndapewa Ithete. “We are monitoring bat colonies over a period of time. We collect and examine the faecal pellets to see if there are any viruses in the population, and how the disease profile changes over time.”

The research group, led by Ithete (a postdoctoral researcher), consists of three PhD students and a master’s student. They are studying corona-, paramyxo-, astro- and flu viruses. Several bat boxes were placed in the False Bay and Tygerberg nature reserves and on the Tygergberg campus. And the team is also collaborating with other researchers at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“By monitoring the bats and collecting ecological data we might be able to determine what drives bat viruses to jump from bats to other species,” says Ithete.
In 2013, Ithete discovered a corona virus similar to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in a bat in KwaZulu-Natal, suggesting that the MERS virus, which is affecting human populations in the Middle East, possibly developed in bats, jumped to camels and eventually to humans.

It is thought that their social structure (living together in large groups), long lifespans, their ability to travel long distances and host viruses without being affected by it, make bats natural virus carriers.

The team is also conducting similar studies on rodents to determine the impact that declining habitats have on the ectoparasites (ticks, fleas and mites) and viruses hosted in these populations.

Article and photo by Wilma Stassen

 

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Radiation oncology unit tackles cancer in Africa

Prof Hannah Simonds

The new year brought a new chapter for the Division of Radiation Oncology of the Faculty – not only is there a new head of division, Prof Hannah Simonds, but the unit now also boasts a brand new, state-of-the-art radiation machine.

The Elekta Synergy Agility is one of only a handful of radiotherapy machines in the country with VMAT radiation capabilities that delivers multiple fields of radiation simultaneously through a treatment arc.

Moms, babies benefit from new critical care unit

Drs Langenegger, Moodley and Mr Seconds prepare to transfer a patient that just delivered her baby. She developed pre-eclampsia (very high blood pressure) and then pulmonary oedema (water on the lungs) and had difficulty in breathing. The OCCU team stabilised her and are preparing to transfer her to the OCCU.

“In South Africa, 1 600 women die every year during pregnancy and childbirth, and 10 times more patients suffers severe complications that may lead to brain damage, renal failure and other complications,” says Dr Eduard Langenegger, head of Obstetric Critical Care and Maternal Foetal Medicine at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Death could have been avoided in 20% of these women if there wasn’t a shortage of critical care beds in South Africa.”

The newly-established obstetric critical care unit (OCCU) at Tygerberg Hospital is one of only a few units in the world that specialises in the prevention and treatment of pregnancy complications.

 

Radiation oncology unit tackles cancer in Africa

Prof Hannah Simonds

The new year brought a new chapter for the Division of Radiation Oncology of the Faculty – not only is there a new head of division, Prof Hannah Simonds, but the unit now also boasts a brand new, state-of-the-art radiation machine.

The Elekta Synergy Agility is one of only a handful of radiotherapy machines in the country with VMAT radiation capabilities that delivers multiple fields of radiation simultaneously through a treatment arc.

“This allows for more focused radiation in the areas where you want it, and a much lower dose of radiation in areas where you don’t want it,” explains Simonds. It is also much quicker than a standard radiation machine and can perform complex procedures that traditionally could take up to 20 minutes, in under two minutes.

Staff are currently undergoing training in this new technique and VMAT treatment is expected to commence in June.

Simonds, whose first job after completing her specialisation was at Tygerberg Hospital, says she is delighted to be “coming home” and is dedicated to providing the best possible care to patients.

“We want to give the best radiation that we can with the resources we have,” she says.

With four linear accelerator radiotherapy machines, the radiation oncology unit at Tygerberg Hospital have no issues with waiting lists and is able to start patients on treatment within six weeks – which is on par with international standards.

A fully electronic patient management system is currently being rolled out which will further improve patient flow. “The system will provide good statistics on who our patients are, what cancers they have, waiting list information and even machine interruptions – this will help us understand and improve our output,” says Simonds.

Other goals for the division include improving safety protocols and procedures, establishing a strong team of radiotherapists, and advancing cancer treatment in the whole of Africa by conducting relevant research and providing training to registrars from across the continent.

“There are so few oncologists in other African countries and therefore we want to train registrars that will go home and have an impact on cancer control in their countries,” says Simonds. Before joining Stellenbosch University, she worked in Ghana as a clinical oncologist where she treated patients from all over West Africa.

“Sitting at the tip of Africa with these fantastic resources, you have to do research that is relevant to your population – look for ways to shorten treatment, find innovative ways to improve patient flow and side effects, so that we can help guide our colleagues in Africa,” she says.

Simonds has a particular interest in women’s cancers and was the lead oncologist at both the gynaecology oncology clinic at Tygerberg Hospital and the Breast Cancer Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital during her career. Her own research focuses on cervix cancer in HIV-positive women.

“More and more HIV-positive cervix cancer patients are coming through, and it is a real challenge to give these women the best cancer care without causing unwanted side effects from a combination of treatment for both their cancer and HIV,” explains Simonds. Her research looks at how HIV-positive patients tolerate radiation- and chemo therapy and tries to find creative ways of providing them with the best treatment available.

By Wilma Stassen

 

Moms, babies benefit from new critical care unit

Drs Langenegger, Moodley and Mr Seconds prepare to transfer a patient that just delivered her baby. She developed pre-eclampsia (very high blood pressure) and then pulmonary oedema (water on the lungs) and had difficulty in breathing. The OCCU team stabilised her and are preparing to transfer her to the OCCU.

“In South Africa, 1 600 women die every year during pregnancy and childbirth, and 10 times more patients suffers severe complications that may lead to brain damage, renal failure and other complications,” says Dr Eduard Langenegger, head of Obstetric Critical Care and Maternal Foetal Medicine at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Death could have been avoided in 20% of these women if there wasn’t a shortage of critical care beds in South Africa.”

The newly-established obstetric critical care unit (OCCU) at Tygerberg Hospital is one of only a few units in the world that specialises in the prevention and treatment of pregnancy complications.

The work done in the unit is aligned with the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal mortality, which is one of South Africa’s most pressing health issues.

Pregnancy complications are caused by pre-eclampsia (very high blood pressure), bleeding before, during or after labour, infections and underlying disorders such as heart disease.

The maternal mortality rate of public health care facilities in the Western Cape is the lowest of all provinces in the country and comparable to that of private hospitals. The outcome of very ill mothers and babies treated in the OCCU is as good as, and in some cases even better than, outcomes obtained in countries like the USA, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

The establishment of this emergency care unit in the labour ward of Tygerberg Hospital has already led to a significant decrease in maternal deaths due to pregnancy and non-pregnancy related life-threatening emergencies. Effective emergency management has also decreased long-term complications such as renal failure or cerebral palsy.

“Severe complications increase a patient’s risk of dying by 25%, but if she can get early access to critical care, her risk of dying and complication is reduced,” says Langenegger.

Langenegger and colleagues also developed an OCCU blueprint that can be replicated in other district and tertiary hospitals, and currently are working on creating emergency care beds in Worcester Hospital’s labour ward.

By Wilma Stassen

 

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Fellowship to strengthen curriculum development

Dr Nicola Plastow

Dr Nicola Plastow has received a Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Fellowship to renew the curriculum for the BSC in Occupational Therapy programme at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

This process was started in 2011 and will be completed in 2018. The academic content of each of the four years in the undergraduate programme is reconsidered. Clear focus is placed on improving the teaching and learning experience, the development of graduate attributes and making sure that the teaching offering is appropriate in the South African context.

Human sciences included in health sciences education

Dr Berna Gerber

Dr Berna Gerber, head of the Division of Speech-Language and Hearing Therapy at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), received a Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Fellowship for a project which will focus on the development of curricula for health sciences students and clinicians that are based on the human sciences.

She will develop courses, mainly informed by the field of philosophy, aimed at the needs of  undergraduate and postgraduate health care students and clinicians.

Advancing environmental health research

Dr Thashlin Govender

Poor housing. Food-borne illnesses. Air pollution. Contaminated water sources. Chemicals in household products. New and reemerging infectious diseases. Road Accidents. Pesticide exposures.

These are just some of the issues that reveal that people and communities are exposed to a wide variety of environmental health risks every day.

 

Fellowship to strengthen curriculum development

Dr Nicola Plastow

Dr Nicola Plastow has received a Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Fellowship to renew the curriculum for the BSC in Occupational Therapy programme at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

This process was started in 2011 and will be completed in 2018. The academic content of each of the four years in the undergraduate programme is reconsidered. Clear focus is placed on improving the teaching and learning experience, the development of graduate attributes and making sure that the teaching offering is appropriate in the South African context.

“I applied for the Fellowship to support the whole of the curriculum development process,” said Plastow. “We are using the Fellowship to make sure that, as a team, we have time and resources to complete the curriculum renewal process, and to help us to disseminate the knowledge gained by publishing and presenting at conferences,” she explained.

The 2015 first year students are the first group to follow the renewed curriculum.  A stronger emphasis has been placed on the importance of occupation (Aktiwiteit) as a concept in the renewed programme. “We are also drawing a lot more active learning and multimedia learning into the programme,” she said.

Plastow is a senior lecturer in occupational therapy. She joined the FMHS’s Occupational Therapy team in February 2014 to teach, amongst other, occupational therapy in the field of psychiatry and mental health.  She is a University of Cape Town graduate and worked in the UK in the geriatric psychiatry field before joining the University of Brunel as lecturer, where she also completed her PhD.

Article and photo by Mandi Barnard

 

Fellowship to develop curricula based on the human sciences for health professionals

Dr Berna Gerber

Dr Berna Gerber, head of the Division of Speech-Language and Hearing Therapy at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), received a Stellenbosch University (SU) Teaching Fellowship for a project which will focus on the development of curricula for health sciences students and clinicians that are based on the human sciences.

She will develop courses, mainly informed by the field of philosophy, aimed at the needs of  undergraduate and postgraduate health care students and clinicians.

“I want to investigate the nature of clinical health care and describe how it differs from science practiced in other areas,” said Gerber.

According to Gerber, health care is not pure natural science as practised by a person with a white coat in laboratory. “If we want to be truly helpful to the patient and want to educate clinicians who can communicate with and care for patients, and also for themselves, we have to think, and teach, about the nature of the activity we are busy with when dealing with a patient,.”

Gerber wants to broaden the under- and postgraduate educational activities at the FMHS by including relevant and helpful contributions from the human and social sciences.

She argued in her application that “many of the difficulties faced by medical doctors in their everyday work stem from the (mistaken) self-identification of clinical medicine as a natural science.” This may partly be responsible for difficulties frequently experienced by health care workers, including ineffective communication with patients and its negative consequences.

Thus, one of the intended outcomes is improved clinician-patient communication. “Effective communication between health care professionals and patients could improve the work experiences of health professionals and may lead to higher levels of job satisfaction. It could also possibly lead to better patient outcomes and the prevention of malpractice lawsuits,” said Gerber.

The planned courses will be developed in close consultation with the SU’s Department of Philosophy. It is envisaged that a number of individual modules or courses will be developed. “These will be suited for the needs of the different groups, for example different courses for the undergraduate health students as part of their formal education and for the health care professionals who teach undergraduate students.  It could also include short courses for health care professionals not involved in teaching at all,” explained Gerber.

Article and photo by Mandi Barnard

 

Advancing environmental health research

Dr Thashlin Govender

Poor housing. Food-borne illnesses. Air pollution. Contaminated water sources. Chemicals in household products. New and reemerging infectious diseases. Road Accidents. Pesticide exposures.

These are just some of the issues that reveal that people and communities are exposed to a wide variety of environmental health risks every day.

The Division of Community Health at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences is looking to grow its research focus in Environmental Health. To this end, funding has been secured through the National Research Foundation’s Thuthuka funding instrument to support postgraduate students undertaking research in environmental health. The Thuthuka funding instrument, initiated in 2001, is central to the NRF’s human capital development strategy in so far as it relates to advancing the equity and redress agenda within the research sphere.

The principal investigator for the NRF Thutuka grant at the Division of Community Health, Dr Thashlin Govender, says the field of environmental health is dynamic and continuously evolving. “Environmental exposures are among the leading contributors to the global burden of disease, significantly influencing the health of vulnerable populations. The field assumes an even greater importance in South African communities where the inappropriate use of resources, poor prevention of pollution, as well as poverty result in high risks emanating from the environment.”

Environmental health is a component of public health, and is committed to protecting the health of the public and enhancing quality of life by assessing, correcting, controlling and preventing those factors in the environment that can adversely affect human health. The prevention of injury, disease and death that may result from interactions of people with their environment is the goal of any environmental health programme or initiative.

“The advancement of environmental health research at the faculty will allow us to better understand the role of environmental factors on human health and to inform public health interventions through both policy changes and community engagement,” says Professor Lilian Dudley, Head of the Division of Community Health.

“This grant gives us an opportunity to better understand the burden of environmental health related diseases in vulnerable urban populations in the Western Cape. While not all complex environmental issues can be predicted, being responsive to some known emerging issues will allow us to have a significant impact on our communities,” says Govender.

The Division of Community Health is inviting prospective honours, masters and doctoral candidates that wish to undertake research in environmental health to contact Dr Thashlin Govender at thashlin@sun.ac.za. Successful candidates will be provided with project funding and bursary support.

Information and photo supplied
 

 

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Seventy-year old among PhD recipients

Dr Penny Enarson

The 70-year-old Dr Penny Enarson is one of about 20 students and staff members at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) who were awarded their PhDs at the March graduation ceremonies.

For her PhD, Enarson developed a treatment management programme for childhood pneumonia in Malawi. In 2000, when Enarson started her research, the country was experiencing very high rates of in-hospital fatalities for childhood pneumonia.

Ophthalmologists excel at national conference

Dr Sandika Baboolal Dr Willem-Martin Gerber

Ophthalmologists at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences once again excelled at the national congress of the Ophthalmology Society of South Africa held recently in Durban.

Four doctors of the Division of Ophthalmology delivered presentations, all of which were well received, and two registrars received awards.

 

 

 

Seventy-year old among PhD recipients

Students and staff members of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences who received PhD degrees at the March Graduation ceremonies

The 70-year-old Mrs Penny Enarson is one of about 20 students and staff members at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) who were awarded their PhDs at the March graduation ceremonies.

For her PhD, Enarson developed a treatment management programme for childhood pneumonia in Malawi. In 2000, when Enarson started her research, the country was experiencing very high rates of in-hospital fatalities for childhood pneumonia.

She developed an intervention – largely based on the principles of DOTS (directly observed treatment short course employed for TB treatment) – which included the development of training material, conducting training courses and creating functional distribution channels for medication and equipment.

“The programme was a huge success and decreased the childhood deaths from pneumonia in Malawi by more than 50%, and a recent international review committee has found the programme has been sustained and expanded,” says Prof Rob Gie, from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at the FMHS.

Another PhD recipient, Prof Razeen Davids, is head of the Division of Nephrology at the Faculty. His PhD examined the usability of an e-learning platform developed by his team to help students and clinicians manage kidney disorders. “Usability describes how easy technology interfaces are to use… Poor usability limits the potential benefit of innovative educational resources as learners struggle with the interface as well as with the challenges of the content presented,” Davids explains.

Through a battery of sophisticated tests, Davids determined that the interface of their multimedia e-learning resource did not adhere to various principles of good interface design, and was able to revise the application to optimise usability. “Our study clearly indicates that the usability evaluation of e-learning resources is critical, and provides an example of how clinician-teachers can improve the usability of the resources they develop to improve the educational impact,” says Davids.  

Another FMHS staff member, Dr Michael Pather, was awarded a PhD for his research into the implementation of evidence-based guidelines into the primary health care (PHC) setting. “Although clinical practice guidelines have been shown to improve the quality of clinical practice… practitioners are often not aware of practice guidelines and fail to access, adopt or adhere to evidence-based recommendations contained in them,” explains Pather.

Using the South African National Evidence-Based Asthma Guideline as an example, Pather employed surveys, interviews and other research methods to determine the level of implementation before and after training of staff members. “The research concludes that the process of guideline implementation can be improved in the PHC sector by an in-depth understanding and systematic approach to the process,” says Pather.

For her PhD, Dr Marisa Klopper, with the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, studied the drug-resistant (DR) strains of TB in the Eastern Cape. She found that certain mutations of the dominant DR-TB strain, called the Atypical Beijing genotype, were resistant to up to 11 anti-TB drugs, making it virtually untreatable.

By studying the strains of DR-TB in the Eastern Cape, they were able to identify certain characteristics of the strains that could help clinicians to tailor treatment and improve outcomes.

Other FMHS staff members being awarded PhDs were:
-    Dr Pierre Goussard from the Department of Peadiatrics and Child Health with his PhD entitled: Bronchoscopic assessment and management of children presenting with clinically significant airway obstruction due to tuberculosis
-    Marius Olivier from the Department of  Psychiatry with his PhD entitled: Neuro-cognition and disordered thinking: It’s association, temporal stability and outcome correlates in first episode psychosis
-    Dr Ronald van Toorn from the Department of Paediatric and Child Health with his PhD entitled: Childhood tuberculosis meningitis: challenging current management strategies

Article: Wilma Stassen
Photos: Mandi Barnard

 

Ophthalmologists excel at national conference

Dr Sandika Baboolal Dr Willem-Martin Gerber

Ophthalmologists at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences once again excelled at the national congress of the Ophthalmology Society of South Africa held recently in Durban.

Four doctors of the Division of Ophthalmology delivered presentations, all of which were well received, and two registrars received awards.

Dr Willem-Martin Gerber won the prize for the best oral presentation by a registrar for his presentation titled “Ocular penetration of anti-retroviral drugs in a rabbit model”.  The prize includes attending a fully funded overseas congress. Gerber said he cannot believe it and he regards it as “a huge honour, although this was actually a collective effort by the whole Division of Ophthalmology".

Dr Sandika Baboolal won the poster presentation with her poster titled “Case of a young female on Depo Provera with bilateral fulminant pseudotumor cerebri”.  She said the award is a great opportunity to represent Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital's Division of Ophthalmology on an international congress platform.  “I appreciate the support and assistance from our department upon which this award reflects. Special thanks to Dr Robyn Rautenbach, our vitreoretinal consultant.”

By Mandi  Barnard

 

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Talented medical student publishes poetry compilation

 

Listen to Wandile Ganya's recital of his poem "A moment in the paddock" from his book Divine Interspace on the YouTube channel

Sporting his scrubs, a rucksack and a bright smile, Wandile Ganya looks every bit the part of the final-year medical student he is. At face value there is little revealing the extraordinary accomplishments of this humble young man, and it is only when he starts speaking in his calm, deep voice that you realise this young man’s wisdom reaches far beyond his years.

In February Wandile published his first book, Divine Interspace, a compilation of original poems that he composed between 2012 and now.
“I have been writing poetry for a long time and have always been interested in literature, particularly classical literature,” says Wandile, whose favourite authors include classical poets such as Dante, Ovid and Robert Browning.

Student elected to MWASA's executive committee

Siviwe Mila

Siviwe Mila, a sixth-year MB,ChB student, was invited to join the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Medical Women Association of South Africa (MWASA) which was launched in November last year.
 
At the launch, Mila had to give feedback on the discussions of the media and marketing commission. She said the members of the board were so impressed with her presentation that they asked her to join the NEC.

 

Talented medical student publishes poetry compilation

Wandile Ganya

Sporting his scrubs, a rucksack and a bright smile, Wandile Ganya looks every bit the part of the final-year medical student he is. At face value there is little revealing the extraordinary accomplishments of this humble young man, and it is only when he starts speaking in his calm, deep voice that you realise this young man’s wisdom reaches far beyond his years.

In February Wandile published his first book, Divine Interspace, a compilation of original poems that he composed between 2012 and now.
“I have been writing poetry for a long time and have always been interested in literature, particularly classical literature,” says Wandile, whose favourite authors include classical poets such as Dante, Ovid and Robert Browning.

In his third year of study Wandile decided to write Divine Interspace to regain some of the literary creativity he felt he had neglected since starting his MB,ChB. “I thought maybe I should compile a book of poetry  to explore the more artistic  dimensions of life and nature and perhaps see how far I can go with just a modicum of imagination.”

He describes his own poetry as “metaphysical”, “philosophical” and “transcendental”. Through the description of visions he explores the theme of purpose, and mankind’s search for it. “Almost every poem makes the reader look up to the heavens for answers… to look for purpose beyond the mundane labours of our daily living,” he explains. “I want to inspire the reader to search for the purpose, a cause for his existence.”

This contemplative theme is rooted in his love for philosophy. “I’m particularly interested in specific fields of philosophy: first there’s moral philosophy, which explores issues like ‘what is good?’ and ‘what is right and wrong?’ Another one is African philosophy, which deals with concepts and ideas such as life, death, health and morality from a uniquely African perspective. And lastly, also the philosophy of logic, which in my opinion is the very fabric of philosophy,” he explains, visibly excited by the topic.

His philosophical reflections have also led him certain realisations, for example: “In wanting greatness, small people tend to make others feel small, whilst truly great people tend to inspire others to realise the greatness within them.”

Wandile’s love of poetry, philosophy and science developed at the local library. “I’ll never forget the day my older sister introduced Wanele (his twin brother who is also studying medicine) and I to the library. We were in primary school. We walked in and just saw piles and piles of books and very serious looking people reading books. It opened up a whole new world for us,” says Wandile.

They grew up in Khayelitsha, a township on the Cape Flats along with five other siblings. Wandile and Wanele were the first in their family to attend university. “Coming to university had its own challenges, one being a lack of sufficient financial aid. Luckily these did not last long because we were awarded the Rector’s Award for Succeeding Against the Odds early during our studies.”

With his wide range of interests and notable intelligence Wandile could have had his pick at any career to follow, but said he chose medicine because he realised there was a great need for doctors in the community.

He is also fascinated by the challenges offered by medicine. “I think there is a great need for innovation in medicine -  from research about TB and , HIV/Aids to, cancer research andto health systems research,” says Wandile.

Although he doesn’t have any concrete plans for the future, he is determined to do research that will help address the country’s medical challenges… and to pen at least a few more works of literature.

Get your e-book copy of Divine Interspace at: http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Interspace-Wandile-Ganya/dp/0620635851

By Wilma Stassen
Photo and video by Wilma Stassen

 

Student elected to MWASA's executive committee

Siviwe Mila

Siviwe Mila, a sixth-year MB,ChB student, was invited to join the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Medical Women Association of South Africa (MWASA) which was launched in November last year.
 
At the launch, Mila had to give feedback on the discussions of the media and marketing commission. She said the members of the board were so impressed with her presentation that they asked her to join the NEC.

The goal of MWASA is to provide a network and support structure for female medical doctors.  Mila explained that they also envision the organisation will assist students from undergraduate to postgraduate level.  

She will be working with a fourth-year medical student at the Sifako Makgatho University to investigate the association’s mentorship programme.

“It's not only about us female medical doctors and students, but also about sharing our different expertise in whatever field you are in as to assist in helping to improve the health of our country while at it,” she said.

By Mandi  Barnard

 

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Working towards excellence in health care

The Discovery Foundation has awarded over R150 million in grants toward medical education and healthcare excellence over the past eight years. This is done in the form of grants that are geared towards the education and training of 300 health care specialists over a period of 10 years.

Congratulations to the following staff members of the Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences who have received Discovery Foundation Awards this year:

Sub-specialist Awards
Dr S Abrahams (Pulmonology)
Dr JA Brooker (Neuropsychiatry)
Dr J Rossouw (Obstetrics and Gynaecology)

Academic Fellowship Award
Dr P van der Bijl (Cardiology)

Rural Fellowship Individual Awards
Dr HJ Hendriks (Family Physician, Witzenberg Sub-district)
Dr K Von Pressentin (Family Medicine and Primary Care)

Staff members receive recognition with PLUS programme

Staff members who successfully completed the PLUS programme

This year, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) can boast with 10 out of a total of 36 Stellenbosch University staff members who received certificates in April for studies in financial management and administrative support.

Seven staff members successfully completed the SU’s annual PLUS programme (Professional Learnership University of Stellenbosch) and three the international Association of Accounting Technicians’ (AAT) financial course.

 

 

Staff members receive recognition with PLUS programme

Staff members who successfully completed the ATT programme.

This year, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) can boast with 10 out of a total of 36 Stellenbosch University staff members who received certificates in April for studies in financial management and administrative support.

Seven staff members successfully completed the SU’s annual PLUS programme (Professional Learnership University of Stellenbosch) and three the international Association of Accounting Technicians’ (AAT) financial course.

This programme forms part of a SU initiative through which staff receive training in financial management and administrative support as part of career development. To qualify for a certificate staff members have to attend classes twice a week, receive mentorship and write exams.

Since 2006, approximately 140 staff members have completed the PLUS programme and 48 the AAT financial course.

Congratulations to the following FMHS staff members who did us proud.

PLUS group: Mss Delphine Adams, Colleen Charters, Cindy Harley, Mercia Kühn, Lisl Martin, Leandie September and Karin Toua
AAT group: Mss Lesanne Matthee, Tracey Pietersen and Adri Brits

By Mandi Barnard
Photos: Anton Jordaan

 

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SU joins international network on bioethics collaboration

From the left are Profs David Durrheim and Andreas Reiss, both of the WHO, Profs Jimmy Volmink, Rafique Moosa and Keymanthri Moodley, of the Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Centre for Medical Ethics and Law (CMEL) was designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a member of its Global Network of Collaborating Centres for Bioethics in April 2015.

This international network consists of seven academic centres dedicated to ethics of public health and research and are based in Toronto, New York, Zurich, Miami, Melbourne, Singapore and now also Cape Town, the only centre in Africa to be invited to become a member.

Project to promote knowledge exchange on TB

Prof Samantha Sampson

TB research, an important focus area of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University, received a further boost with the inclusion of a research project in a collaboration agreement between the governments of South Africa and Tunisia.

Seven research projects at the SU were included in an agreement for cooperation in sciences and technology between the governments of South Africa and Tunisia.

 

SU joins international network on bioethics collaboration

From the left are Profs David Durrheim and Andreas Reiss, both of the WHO, Profs Jimmy Volmink, Rafique Moosa and Keymanthri Moodley, of the Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Centre for Medical Ethics and Law (CMEL) was designated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a member of its Global Network of Collaborating Centres for Bioethics in April 2015.

This international network consists of seven academic centres dedicated to ethics of public health and research and are based in Toronto, New York, Zurich, Miami, Melbourne, Singapore and now also Cape Town, the only centre in Africa to be invited to become a member.

The Collaborating Centres for Bioethics (CCs) are key institutions with relevant expertise distributed throughout the world, assisting the WHO to maintain its ethics mandate through ongoing collaboration and dialogue with academic centres.

Dr Andreas Reis, who represented the WHO’s Department of Knowledge, Ethics and Research, said in his designation address that the Collaborating Centres have to carry out activities of support in countries and regions to the mutual benefit of the WHO, the institutions and the regions in which they operate.  
He noted that the CMEL is one of the oldest working ethics centres in South Africa with an excellent training and research offering. “The Centre is already well connected with others in the network. With these networks and their work on interdisciplinary research, a joint work plan for the next three years has been accepted,” he said.

According to Prof Anton van Niekerk of SU’s Centre of Applied Ethics, the WHO could not have made a better choice in selecting the CMEL as the seventh Collaborating Centre. “The Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at Stellenbosch University has played a significant role in the history of bioethics in South Africa,” he explained. “They were one of the first to introduce ethics into undergraduate training.”  They also are actively involved in research and postgraduate training projects such as Advancing Research Ethics Training in South Africa (ARESA).”

The SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) has a long standing relationship with the WHO, contributing to various WHO initiatives. Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS said in his opening remarks that a number of faculty staff are involved in an advisory capacity, serving on boards and are members of working groups. “We have been involved in the development of treatment guidelines, research synthesis programmes and training initiatives. With the inclusion of the CMEL into this international network of Collaborating Centres for Bioethics, the University’s African footprint has been extended even further,” Volmink said.

The research agenda of the CMEL will include ethical challenges in HIV prevention, treatment and cure research; governance and biobanking; neuroethics and health research ethics.

At the designation ceremony, which was held on 20 April 2015, Reis handed a ceremonial flag to Prof Keymanthri Moodley, head of the CMEL, which will be displayed at all collaborative meetings with WHO.

Moodley thanked the WHO for their trust placed in the Centre and acknowledged all her colleagues, staff and other stakeholders who helped to establish and develop it. “It is an honour and a privilege to join the global network of WHO Collaborating Centres in Bioethics. The potential for research and teaching collaboration amongst the seven centres will be both stimulating and interesting and I look forward to our first meeting in Prato, Italy in June 2015,” she said.  
Moodley concluded with a quote from a fifth year medical student who expressed his gratitude for the ethics module: “Ethics makes us think and challenge.”

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Damien Schumann

 

International collaboration in the fight against TB

Prof Samantha Sampson


TB research, an important focus area of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University, received a further boost with the inclusion of a research project in a collaboration agreement between the governments of South Africa and Tunisia.

Seven research projects at the SU were included in an agreement for cooperation in sciences and technology between the governments of South Africa and Tunisia.

According the National Research Foundation “the two countries have decided to jointly support researchers from public universities and public research institutions on an equal and mutually beneficial basis in an effort to enhance scientific and technological cooperation between the two countries”.

Prof Samantha Sampson, holder of a SARChI Chair in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, will spearhead the South African part of a research project which will focus on a particular protein family of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, namely the PPE_MPTR proteins.  “These are thought to be involved in host-pathogen interactions, although the exact mechanisms and consequences of this interaction are poorly understood. We will use a combination of biomedical experimental methodologies and computational approaches to advance our understanding of this protein family. This work could ultimately contribute to improved TB intervention strategies,” explained Sampson.

The proposed research will address a pressing international public health problem of particular relevance to African nations. Although recent estimates indicate a decline in overall TB incidence in both Tunisia and South Africa, the disease continues to exact a toll on human life, and multi-drug resistant TB is of particular concern.

This study offers the potential to contribute towards new drug development, by characterising proteins that are required for mycobacterial pathogenicity – disrupting the interaction of these proteins with potential host targets might offer novel approaches to drug development. Alternatively, a better understanding of how these proteins modulate host immune responses could underpin the development of new vaccine strategies.

A critical component of the funded project is knowledge exchange and training. Bioinformatics capacity is severely limited in both countries, and the proposed work will offer important opportunities for training in this regard. “For example, the Tunisian partners will contribute expertise in phylogenetic analysis, while the South African partners will contribute expertise in customised whole genome sequence analysis pipelines,” she said.

This will provide important opportunities for students and postdoctoral fellows from both institutions to develop and expand their computational skills. This particular aspect aligns well with one of the stated objectives of the SARChI award held by Sampson, namely to "develop human resources capacity, research infrastructure and collaborative network", where a particular focus is on "a genomics, proteomics and bioinformatics training programme for African scientists ". This proposed collaboration represents an ideal proof-of-concept opportunity for this objective.

The funding is for two years and amounts to just over R900 000, split between the two  partners. “It includes support for two workshops, one to be held at each site, which we think will be a fantastic opportunity to catalyse knowledge exchange and further collaborative opportunities beyond the current research,” Sampson said.

“I think we were able to demonstrate an existing partnership between two researchers with good track records in the proposed topic of research, and outlined a research proposal with clear bilateral benefit in our application, she said. The focus on TB naturally addressed national health priorities in both partner sites, and the proposed research will help to promote capacity building in the scarce skill area of bioinformatics, which they will be actively developing.

The Tunisian partner is Dr Helmi Mardassi from the Institut Pasteur de Tunis. Mardassi heads a research group focused on the molecular epidemiology, evolution and genetics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. “I was fortunate to be able to build on an already existing relationship between our institutions. Dr Mardassi had previously worked with Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, publishing four peer-reviewed papers together. Given the existing relationship, and the stated aims of the funding call, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for initiating a new research project,” Sampson said.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Marius V Jooste

 

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African Cancer Institute enhancing training initiatives with Zambia

Participants of the First Oncology Workshop at the Cancer Diseases Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia from 02-06 March 2015

The African Cancer Institute (ACI) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) recently partnered with a number of institutions to present the first Oncology Workshop in Zambia, which was held at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka.

Partner institutions included the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre together with the Union for International Cancer Control, Cancer Diseases Hospital and the Ministry of Health in Zambia.

SU searches for African solutions to continent problems

From left to right, Dr Therese Fish, Deputy Dean: Community Service and Interaction (FMHS), Prof Charles Wiysonge, Deputy Director: Centre for Evidence Based Health Care (FMHS)​​, Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chanceloor and Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS.

Stellenbosch University is taking up the call to fly the African Union (AU) flag – literally and figuratively.

“We will fly the flag of Africa because ‘We are Africa’,” the newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, said at the Africa Day Seminar held at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

 

African Cancer Institute enhancing training initiatives with the Republic of Zambia

Participants of the First Oncology Workshop at the Cancer Diseases Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia from 02-06 March 2015

The African Cancer Institute (ACI) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) recently partnered with a number of institutions to present the first Oncology Workshop in Zambia, which was held at the Cancer Diseases Hospital in Lusaka.

Partner institutions included the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre together with the Union for International Cancer Control, Cancer Diseases Hospital and the Ministry of Health in Zambia.

The main objective of the workshop was to understand the local needs and challenges of providing advanced cancer care in Zambia and to develop a three-year plan for training and education of health care professionals based on Zambia’s national interests and the MOH’s priorities for cancer care. The workshop entailed clinic visits and ward rounds, didactic lectures, leadership meetings, discussions on the National Cancer Control Plan and training needs.

Prof Vikash Sewram, Director of the ACI at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), explained that South Africa has been involved in the training of specialists in radiation oncology and anatomical pathology from Zambia and is therefore ideally poised for continued training and further strengthening of such initiatives to assist in its outreach into Africa. “The development of capacity in cancer care will serve to benefit the region at large,” he said.

The ACI plans to facilitate such training to ensure that it is focused and meets the needs of the country. Training of African scholars are taking place in various other departments within the FMHS and these new initiatives will only strengthen the commitment that the University has in developing the region at large.
Prof Hannah Simonds, Head of the Division of Radiation Oncology, commented that the FMHS and Tygerberg Hospital are committed to training future leaders in cancer control and oncology care in Africa at. “We are privileged to have two bright stars from Zambia in our current trainee group. We hope that exposure to our advanced radiation technology and comprehensive chemotherapy services will equip these trainees for their future careers in their home countries,” she said.

Article and photo supplied

 

SU searches for African solutions to continent problems

Ms Rachael Pullen, International Office (FMHS), Ms Chynthia Tamandjou, PhD student, Dr Ahmed Abulfathi, MMed student and supernumerary registrar, Prof Charles Wiysonge, Deputy Director: Centre for Evidence Based Health Care, Ms Nafiisah Chotun, PhD student, Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice Chancellor and Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences


Stellenbosch University is taking up the call to fly the African Union (AU) flag – literally and figuratively.

“We will fly the flag of Africa because ‘We are Africa’,” the newly-appointed Vice-Chancellor, Prof Wim de Villiers, said at the Africa Day Seminar held at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

“We are Africa” is the theme of this year’s Africa Day celebration, marked annually on the anniversary of the formation of the forerunner of the African Union, the Organisation of African Unity, in 1963.

According to De Villiers, the university’s claim that ‘We are Africa’ goes beyond geography and demographics. Fourteen percent of Stellenbosch University’s student body is made up of people from 117 countries across the world, and 56% of them are from African countries other than South Africa.

“There is also a more substantial reason, which is that we collaborate closely with fellow institutions and individual researcher all over our continent to find ‘African solutions to African problems’,” said De Villiers.

Stellenbosch University is an important player in research collaboration with 350 active projects and 760 partners in 43 African countries.

“We have to work together to try and address the problems of the continent,” said Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS. Research looking at the academic outputs in South Africa has shown that less than four percent of academic papers are done in collaboration with other African partners, while nearly half are done in collaboration with institutions outside of the continent – mainly from Europe or North America.

Quoting Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Volmink stressed the need for unity among African countries: “’We are one continent, one people, with one destiny’. We have to work together with other countries on the continent to address the problems of Africa.”

The Africa Day Seminar focused on the FMHS’ “footprint” on the continent and researchers, educators and students had the opportunity to deliver presentations on their collaborative efforts on the continent.

Article: Wilma Stassen
Photos: Mandi Barnard

 

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Visitors' Book

University of Bonn Medical Centre, Germany

Prof Jan-Felix Drexler (back left) with staff at SU’s Division of Medical Virology, Prof Wolfgang Preiser, (back right) the head of the division, Dr Ndapewa Ithete (front left), a postdoctoral fellow and Ms Tasnim Suliman (right front), a research assistant.

Prof Jan-Felix Drexler a is staff scientist and group leader at the Institute for Virology, University of Bonn Medical Centre, Germany, where he works on the diagnostics and characterisation of known and emerging viruses from human or animal reservoirs. His work is strongly related to field work in both developed and resource-limited settings and includes long-standing cooperation with study sites in Latin America and Africa.

National Cancer Institute, USA

Front row: Drs Geraldina Dominguez and Susan Shurin. Middle row: Profs Nico Gey van Pittius, Eugene Cloete and Dr Jack Welch. Back row: Dr Sandy Dawsey, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Mr Steve Smith and Prof Vikash Sewram.

A delegation from the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) visited the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on 20 April 2015. The main objective was to connect with counterparts but also with grantee institutions, cancer researchers and recipients of NIH grants and develop a more in-depth understanding of the research and public health opportunities in South Africa.

MD Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Texas, USA

From the left, Prof Richard Pitcher, FMHS, Dr Paritosh Ambekar, MDACC, Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, FMHS, Dr Beth Beadle, MDACC, Prof  Annare Ellmann, FMHS, Dr Peter Balter, MDACC, Dr Laurence Court, MDACC, Prof Vikash Sewram, FMHS, Ms Monique du Toit, FMHS and Prof Hannah Simonds, FMHS

A delegation from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre visited the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on 20 February 2015 and was hosted by the African Cancer Institute (ACI).

The purpose of the visit was to set up collaboration on the development of an integrated automatic radiation therapy planning system - a virtual dosimetrist - specifically for Low and Middle Income (LMI) region applications.

 

University of Bonn Medical Centre, Germany

Prof Jan-Felix Drexler (back left) with staff at SU’s Division of Medical Virology, Prof Wolfgang Preiser, (back right) the head of the division, Dr Ndapewa Ithete (front left), a postdoctoral fellow and Ms Tasnim Suliman (right front), a research assistant.

Prof Jan-Felix Drexler a is staff scientist and group leader at the Institute for Virology, University of Bonn Medical Centre, Germany, where he works on the diagnostics and characterisation of known and emerging viruses from human or animal reservoirs. His work is strongly related to field work in both developed and resource-limited settings and includes long-standing cooperation with study sites in Latin America and Africa.

His recent visit to South Africa, which was partly funded by the NRF, had two aims: To strengthen the existing collaboration between the Division of Medical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and his institute, by preparing additional joint research activities and furthering engagement in existing ones; and to build a new research partnership between the two virology institutions and SANParks Scientific Services.

While at the Tygerberg campus, he gave two talks, one on emerging viruses from animal reservoirs and another on a poliovirus that is poorly neutralised by vaccine-induced antibodies which caused a lethal outbreak in the Republic of the Congo in 2010. He also spent numerous hours in discussions with the members of the Division's Emerging Viruses Research Group, discussing their draft protocols and applications and giving valuable advice and guidance.

Article: Prof Wolfgang Preiser
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

National Cancer Institute, USA

Front row: Drs Geraldina Dominguez and Susan Shurin. Middle row: Profs Nico Gey van Pittius, Eugene Cloete and Dr Jack Welch. Back row: Dr Sandy Dawsey, Prof Jimmy Volmink, Mr Steve Smith and Prof Vikash Sewram.

A delegation from the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) visited the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on 20 April 2015. The main objective was to connect with counterparts but also with grantee institutions, cancer researchers and recipients of NIH grants and develop a more in-depth understanding of the research and public health opportunities in South Africa.

The visit was co-ordinated by Dr Jack Welch, Director of the NCI Center for Global Health Cancer Programs in Africa and Prof Vikash Sewram, Director: African Cancer Institute (ACI). Staff at the FMHS participated in a round table discussion with the delegation to showcase their research and discuss potential development and collaboration.

The delegation also visited the Sub-Saharan African Regional Biospecimen Repository at the Division of Anatomical Pathology of the FMHS and were highly impressed by the facilities.

 The NCI was represented by:
•    Dr Sanford (Sandy) Dawsey, Pathologist and Senior Investigator in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, NCI
•    Dr Geraldina Dominguez, Program Director in the Office of HIV and AIDS Malignancy (OHAM), NCI
•    Dr Susan B Shurin, Senior Adviser to the Center for Global Health, NCI
•    Mr Steve Smith, Health Attaché to South Africa and US Department of Health and Human Services’ regional representative for Southern Africa
•    Dr Jack Welch, Senior Adviser to the Center for Global Health, NCI

Stellenbosch University (SU) was represented by:
•    Prof Vikash Sewram, Director: African Cancer Institute, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
•    Prof Nico Gey Van Pittius, Deputy Dean: Research, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
•    Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean: Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
•    Prof Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research and Innovation

Article: Prof Vikash Sewram
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

MD Anderson Cancer Centre, University of Texas, USA

From the left, Prof Richard Pitcher, FMHS, Dr Paritosh Ambekar, MDACC, Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, FMHS, Dr Beth Beadle, MDACC, Prof  Annare Ellmann, FMHS, Dr Peter Balter, MDACC, Dr Laurence Court, MDACC, Prof Vikash Sewram, FMHS, Ms Monique du Toit, FMHS and Prof Hannah Simonds, FMHS

A delegation from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Centre visited the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on 20 February 2015 and was hosted by the African Cancer Institute (ACI).

The purpose of the visit was to set up collaboration on the development of an integrated automatic radiation therapy planning system - a virtual dosimetrist - specifically for Low and Middle Income (LMI) region applications.

The team from the Divisions of Radiation Oncology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Physics together with Profs Richard Pitcher (Executive Head: Department of Medical Imaging and Clinical Oncology), Vikash Sewram (Director: ACI) and Nico Gey Van Pittius (Deputy Dean: Research) met with the delegation to discuss the project in greater detail and foster a roadmap for the collaboration. The need for radiation therapy in LMICs is enormous, since most cases present at a much more advanced stage.

However, access to radiation therapy in LMI regions is extremely limited and a significant shortage of medical, scientific and technical expertise in many regions exacerbates access. It has been estimated that by 2020 LMI regions will have a deficit of around 12 000 radiation oncologists, 10 000 medical physicists, and 29 000 radiation therapy technologists.  In LMI regions, much of the medical physicists’ time is spent developing radiotherapy treatment plans.  By fully automating this process, the shortfall of needed medical physicists can be reduced by close to 50% (5 000 people – equivalent to more than 20 000 training -years).

This project aims to facilitate the improvement of radiation therapy availability in LMI regions by reducing some of the need for specialiszed staff. Fully automated virtual dosimetrists could make a significant impact in the deficit of medical physicists, possibly by as many as 50%.  This would be a significant contribution to cancer treatments in low- and middle-income regions.

The Santo Thomas University Hospital in the Philippines will also participate in this collaboration which will include, exchange visits, technical transfer, data collection, clinical validation and implementation.

Article: Prof Vikash Sewram
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

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Changes to boost nursing’s profile at Stellenbsoch University

Prof Anita van der Merwe, newly appointed  Head of the Division of Nursing

The nursing profession is in the midst of a major revision that will empower, support and equip nurses and midwives to better address the health needs of the country.

On par with national and international trends, the Division of Nursing at Stellenbosch University (SU) is also undergoing transformation, and steering the process is Prof Anita van der Merwe, who was recently appointed as the head of the division.

School library named after late Dr Louis Heyns

Ms Susan Hanekom, the principal in the library with a picture of Dr Louis Heyns against the wall

The library at the Tygerberg Hospital School was recently named after Dr Louis Heyns in honour of his longstanding involvement with the school.

“Dr Louis was on the school management board for many years and served as chairperson at the time of his passing,” said Ms Susan Hanekom, principal of the hospital school. “The children were very dear to him and he cared very much for them.”

 

Changes to boost nursing’s profile at Stellenbosch University

Prof Anita van der Merwe, newly appointed  Head of the Division of Nursing

The nursing profession is in the midst of a major revision that will empower, support and equip nurses and midwives to better address the health needs of the country.

On par with national and international trends, the Division of Nursing at Stellenbosch University (SU) is also undergoing transformation, and steering the process is Prof Anita van der Merwe, who was recently appointed as the head of the division.

South Africa’s health care sector is experiencing a serious shortage of qualified staff – not only among doctors and specialists, but also nurses, midwives and even support staff – often resulting in burnout among health care workers.

Nurses are key in the success of a health sector – they form the largest corps in the health care sector and are not just the first, but often also the only point of contact for patients. But despite this crucial role, until now little effort has gone into the advancement of this profession.

“We are advocating for the profession and getting more involved in policy-making. We also have the support of the dean who believes nursing to be a priority,” says Van der Merwe. She is no stranger to high-level decision-making as she served as a nursing advisor to the United Arab Emirates’ ministry of health.

Van der Merwe also headed the School of Nursing at the University of the Free State, was a senior lecturer at the School of Nursing and Public Health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and spearheaded a project for the International Council of Nurses providing training to nurses in eight African countries.

Her wealth of experience, both local and international, makes Van der Merwe the ideal candidate to lead the division to into a new era.

One of the major changes envisioned is the reintroduction of an undergraduate degree in nursing – on instruction of the then Minister of Education, Kader Asmal, SU’s undergraduate nursing programme was moved to the University of the Western Cape in 2002.

The course, which is envisioned to be launched in 2017, will offer an updated curriculum based on the higher education qualification framework currently being designed by the South African Nursing Council.

“The previous programme was quite superficial and although it touches on various subjects, nurses aren’t competent in all the fields when they graduate… The new Bachelor’s degree will focus on general nursing and midwifery (to address the country’s high maternal and child mortality rate). Nurses wanting to specialise in for example psychiatry or community health will have to undergo advanced training,” she explains.

In addition to her career in nursing education, Van der Merwe is also a student of philosophy with a particular interest in ethics, and her inaugural lecture at the University of the Free State focused on compassion in nursing. “Caring and compassion is at the heart of nursing and it needs to be strengthened through education. A competent nurse makes  patients feel safe and has a better understanding of what they are going through, and can therefore better relate to patients,” says Van der Merwe.

Article and photo by Wilma Stassen

 

Library named after late Dr Louis Heyns

Story time in the new brightly coloured Dr Louis Heyns Library.

The library at the Tygerberg Hospital School was recently named after Dr Louis Heyns in honour of his longstanding involvement with the school.

“Dr Louis was on the school management board for many years and served as chairperson at the time of his passing,” said Ms Susan Hanekom, principal of the hospital school. “The children were very dear to him and he cared very much for them.”

According to Hanekom, they wanted to name the new library after it was renovated recently, and decided to name it after Heyns because it was important to him that children have access to books. “He regarded knowledge as very important,” she said.

At the time of his death, Heyns worked as a paediatrician in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health of the Stellenbosch University as well as the Tygerberg Children’s Hospital.

The library’s inventory is largely supplemented by donations and any child who has been admitted to the hospital may borrow books. Books are recorded on an asset register and strict control is kept over the lending.  

Hanekom mentioned there is a shortage of new children’s books and nice story books in isiXhosa. “We provide a service to children from grade R to grade 12 and good youth literature is also in demand,” she said.

The school can be contacted at 021 938 5261 or tbhskool@sun.ac.za
 
Article and photographs by Mandi Barnard

 

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Research day on education in health professions

On the photo are CHPE representatives with the two prize winners. From left are Dr Alwyn Louw, Sr Elize Archer, Ms Dianne Parris, Prof Ben van Heerden and Prof Julia Blitz

The Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE) held its first annual research day on Friday 20 March 2015. At this event, 13 presentations based on the MPhil and PhD research of staff and postgraduate students were delivered. Prof Wim de Villiers, the incoming Rector of Stellenbosch University (SU) at the time, joined the proceedings for the first two presentations of the day.

The guest speaker, Prof François Cilliers from the Educational Development Unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT), spoke about “Research in Health Professions Education” based on data from SU and UCT.  He demonstrated the steady and encouraging increase in the number of publications over the past five years.

PhD students benefit from pre-doctoral short course

The students in a good mood upon completion of the pre-doctoral short course

The Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences recently held its annual pre-doctoral short course for prospective doctoral students. The course is open to prospective students from all departments in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

“The overall aim of this short course is to prepare prospective students for doctoral studies and to speed up the process of writing their doctoral protocols within the FMHS,” said Prof Usuf Chikte, project owner and Executive Head of the Department.

 

Research day on education in health professions

On the photo are CHPE representatives with the two prize winners. From left are Dr Alwyn Louw, Sr Elize Archer, Ms Dianne Parris, Prof Ben van Heerden and Prof Julia Blitz

The Centre for Health Professions Education (CHPE) held its first annual research day on Friday 20 March 2015. At this event, 13 presentations based on the MPhil and PhD research of staff and postgraduate students were delivered. Prof Wim de Villiers, the incoming Rector of Stellenbosch University (SU) at the time, joined the proceedings for the first two presentations of the day.

The guest speaker, Prof François Cilliers from the Educational Development Unit at the University of Cape Town (UCT), spoke about “Research in Health Professions Education” based on data from SU and UCT.  He demonstrated the steady and encouraging increase in the number of publications over the past five years.

Dr Gerrit van Schalkwyk did the alumnus student presentation. He based his presentation, entitled “The biopsychosocial formulation: an operationalised approach”, on research he has been doing at Yale University.

The first prize was awarded to Prof Julia Blitz from the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care for her research entitled “Clinical teaching of undergraduate medical students: How do clinicians do it?” Ms Dianne Parris from the Division of Physiotherapy received second prize for her research entitled “Home-based rehabilitation: Physiotherapy student and client perspectives”.

By Sr Elize Archer

 

PhD students benefit from pre-doctoral short course

 

The Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences recently held its annual pre-doctoral short course for prospective doctoral students. The course is open to prospective students from all departments in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS).

“The overall aim of this short course is to prepare prospective students for doctoral studies and to speed up the process of writing their doctoral protocols within the FMHS,” said Prof Usuf Chikte, project owner and Executive Head of the Department.

This year 24 students, of which 12 were full-time staff members, registered for the programme. “While the majority of students were South Africans, students from other countries also attended the course,” Chikte said. “We had students from Oman, Namibia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and the USA.”

Chikte noted it is encouraging that students from various disciplines register for the course.  “This year we had students from allied health sciences such as Nursing, Human Nutrition and Physiotherapy, as well as the clinical health sciences such as Nuclear Medicine, Psychiatry, Medicine and Forensic Medicine,” he said.

Feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive. One student indicated that the course was insightful and it made people think positively. It helped with conceptualisation of research and gaining input from presenters. Another participant said the course was beneficial because it provided details about the nature of doctoral studies and what is expected of the PhD student.

By Mandi Barnard

 

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Health care leadership promoted in student programme

Students representing Stellenbosch University, from left to right: Theodore Masuku, Dr Hanaa Benjeddi (HLSS co-founder), Aneeka Domingo, Naledi Mashishi, Abidemi Alawiye and Siphosethu Mlonzi

The international organisation, Humans of Health, presented their third Healthcare Leadership Summer School from 11 to 18 March 2015 in Paarl.  Five medical students from Stellenbosch University were included in the group of 64 participants from around the world. Two students shared their experiences.

Click here to read Aneeka Domingo’s story
Click here to read Abidemi Alawiye’s story

 

Student attends course on human rights in India

Marguerite Foot and fellow delegates sporting Saris, the traditional Indian clothing for women

Marguerite Foot, a final-year medical student at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was selected to attend the second part of the Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development’s (FVZS) short course on Global Citizenship which took place in Mumbai, India in January this year. 

She is the only student from the FMHS who attended this prestigious opportunity, alongside five other students from Stellenbosch University (SU).  This year marked the second year that students from SU took part in the Global Phase II programme, which is presented in collaboration with Stuttgart University (Germany), St. Louis University (USA) and St. Xavier’s College (India).

 

Aneeka Domingo, fifth year MB,ChB student

SA Participants. From left to right: Theodore Masuku (SU), Gimenne Zwama (UCT), Monica Mtambo (UCT), Siphosethu Mlonzi (SU), Brian Kamanzi (UCT), Aneeka Domingo (SU), Naledi Mashishi (SU), Abidemi Alawiye (SU)

The Healthcare Leadership Summer School (HLSS), hosted by Humans of Health, was a life-changing experience. I was so fortunate to have been granted this wonderful opportunity, and wish that all medical students could benefit from this enriching experience.

I was initially very anxious, as this was definitely a leap out of my comfort zone, and it was not the ideal time for me to be absent from lectures. However, I am forever grateful that I took the risk.

In one short week:  I made deep connections, I laughed until I cried, I was inspired, my passions were re-ignited, I star-gazed, I learned how better to believe in myself, I let my guard down, I was driven to tears, I was shaken up, thrown in the deep-end and most of all: I learned how better to love. Love existed in abundance at HLSS. HLSS brought me closer to solving a fundamental human challenge: we can only truly begin to radiate love and compassion once we love and understand ourselves.

The participants included students from Hungary, the Netherlands, Germany, Palestine, the UAE, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia, Italy and Algeria. With these precious people, I had conversations that opened my eyes, learnt lessons that one cannot get out of a book and heard stories that one will never find on the internet.

The teaching sessions were delivered by inspirational youth trainers (mostly young doctors from the Netherlands with experience in leadership and personal development training). The guest-speakers included Dr Hugo Tempelman (CEO of the Ndlovu Care Group and one of the initiators of South Africa’s free ARV programme), Reverend Mpho Tutu (author, activist and daughter of emeritus Archbishop Tutu) and Dr Ulrike Breytenbach (doctor in holistic medicine at the University of Cape Town).

The teaching sessions were divided into three main pillars: Who Am I, Holistic Health and Making a Change. The sessions were conducted in small groups (in a rotating schedule) and included group discussions/storytelling, individual reflective tasks, mindfulness meditation, group obstacle course activities, theatre expressions, movement and dance, “power of touch” experiments and  “world café” health-system role-plays.

The Humans of Health team is a passionate group of young doctors, determined to spread the message of maintaining compassion, integrity and passion in the practice of medicine. I was especially touched by Salmaan Sana, a leadership coach for his openness and the dedication he has to cultivating compassion amongst doctors (find his inspiring Ted Talk online at Salmaan Sana “Compassion for Care ”).

Strangely enough, during this week, amongst a group of medical students and doctors, we did not have one medical conversation, we did not use medical jargon and we did not discuss patients. And what an incredible experience this was! I would never have believed that a group of aspiring medical professionals could have so much ELSE to talk about. We shared our passions, our journeys, our struggles and our visions. It made the world feel so much smaller, so much more connected and my individual concerns seem less significant. When conversing about subjects we were passionate about, it was like live electricity, sparks flew, tears flowed and we could not sit still from excitement.

 

Abidemi Alawiye – second year MB,ChB student

Back row from left to right: Theodore Masuku (SU), Anne Rotteveel (Netherlands), Hhala Al-Khasawneh (Jordan), Faady Yahya (Yemen), Remah Yousef (Palestine). Middle row left to right: Iris Bates (Italy), Nadia Toulgui (Tunisia), Haifa Grar (Tunisia), Naledi Mashishi (SU), Aneeka Domingo (SU), Abidemi Alawiye (SU). Seated Kayan Salem (Palestine)

I went into the program not knowing what to expect, a bit nervous too. To my surprise, I felt at home from the very minute we arrived. To be in the very core of nature, surrounded by so many amazing souls who share the same dreams and goals as you do, words alone cannot describe the experience. As each day drew nearer to the end I found myself completely in awe of how much meaning and potential we tend to neglect due to our chaotic life schedules. From exploration of the self, holistic health as a whole to making a change in our healthcare systems. My horizons we broadened and one could say my eyes were opened for the first time. This week made me realise once again why it is that we do this, why we chose medicine or rather why it chose us.

That being said, I would now like to share a poem I wrote under the inspiration of this week

Blessings from the future
You have come a long way dear child
though you may not see it, you belong
Your dreams and aspirations, you're living them
Right now, even in this very moment
that which you have lost is not all gone
for at one stage you had gained it,
it will remain forever in you, you
yes you, open your mind to new possibilities
the world is full of them, them
the highs and lows of everyday may shape who you are
but don't lose yourself in them
Always aspire to achieve greatness
You have yourself and only yourself to compete with
So rise up as you always do
those thoughts you have, those ideas you have,
those are not illusions, in fact they are more real than your reality
Oh dear child, you were not born just to dream,
child you were born to live them
every day is a journey, but know this,
nothing remains the same forever, so take it as it comes
trials may come, peace, joy happiness, even love too
but all in its own time,
busy as a bee you may be, do take time to listen to the wind
don't just learn to dance in the rain but stop and read
the stories left behind by footsteps in the mud
yes, mud, she was your friend at 5, she let you mould her
into cups, cakes even houses too
but oh child she was in turn moulding you
she became a doorway to what you have now learnt to call your imagination
Free and wild like a stallion in the dessert, she does not want to be tamed
dear child, so why are you trying to conform
that which you think and dream off, make it a reality
It's already in YOU.  

 

Student attends course on human rights in India

Marguerite Foot and fellow delegates sporting Saris, the traditional Indian clothing for women

Marguerite Foot, a final-year medical student at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was selected to attend the second part of the Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership Development’s (FVZS) short course on Global Citizenship which took place in Mumbai, India in January this year.  

She is the only student from the FMHS who attended this prestigious opportunity, alongside five other students from Stellenbosch University (SU).  This year marked the second year that students from SU took part in the Global Phase II programme, which is presented in collaboration with Stuttgart University (Germany), St. Louis University (USA) and St. Xavier’s College (India).

The programme starts online in November each year with students interacting about a variety of topics like globalisation and literature as well as globalisation and politics. The highlight of the course is the project week in Mumbai, India. The main theme for the week was globalisation and human rights. The programme was jam-packed, with cultural excursions in the mornings, lectures in the afternoons and group work in the evenings. The lectures, presented by Indian colleagues as well as one each from the other partner universities, included topics like the right to privacy, gender roles in Africa, environmental law and homosexuality in India.

As a culmination of the project week, each group had to do a 90 minute presentation on a theme with a specific focus of their choice, incorporating information from their own experiences, theoretical perspectives, information from the lecturers they attended as well as field work done in Mumbai. The topics they covered included individual rights (specific focus on the right to life), groups’ rights (specific focus on female sex workers), human rights vs. legal rights (specific focus on the UN declaration of Human Rights) and human rights vs. cultural relativism (specific focus on education).

 

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Archbishop Tutu addresses TB crisis

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

On the eve of World Tuberculosis Day, which was celebrated on 24 March, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said South Africans should view the fight against TB as their next liberation struggle.

He, his wife, Leah, and daughter, Rev Mpho Tutu, were guests of honour at the private gala screening of the film Breathe Umphefumlo held in the cinema theatre in the Neelsie Student Centre of Stellenbosch University (SU).

 

Staff treated with cable car trip 

Staff members from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre ready to go up Table Mountain

Several hundred community health workers and staff from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences celebrated a near perfect autumn day as they took the cable car up Table Mountain, many of them for the first time.  
 
Nurses, counsellors, fieldworkers and researchers working in the field of TB and HIV prevention took a break from the cares and worries of the working day to head up the mountain.

Upcoming Faculty events not to miss

The Stellenbosch University Medical Orchestra in action at last year's Gala Concert

Staff, students and friends of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences are invited to diarise the following events.

Annual Gala Concert

Friday, 4 September 2015 at 19:00
Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium

Annual Academic Day

Thursday 13 August 2015 at the Tygerberg Campus.

Inaugural Lectures

The following person will deliver inaugural lectures this year
•    Prof Michele Miller
•    Prof Gerard Tromp
•    Prof Nico Gey van Pittius
•    Prof Mark Cotton

 

Table Mountain cableway joins hands with the community

Community health workers and other staff from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre celebrate being on the top of Table Mountain

Several hundred community health workers and staff from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences celebrated a near perfect autumn day as they took the cable car up Table Mountain, many of them for the first time.  
 
Nurses, counsellors, fieldworkers and researchers working in the field of TB and HIV prevention took a break from the cares and worries of the working day to head up the mountain.
 
There was great excitement as the cable cars started moving, particularly as it was the first time many people in the group had made the trip to the top of Table Mountain.
 
“It’s a great boost for us all, and I’m loving the fresh air and the mountain,” said nurse, Barbara Doman.
 
Blia Yang, one of the project managers at the DTTC, said it took several buses and a lot of planning to get 350 people up the mountain, but it had been worthwhile because of the pleasure it had brought people.
 
She said the day had been organized to say thank you for the hard work and commitment staff had shown in their work in Western Cape communities trying to reduce the high rate of HIV and TB.
 
Many of the fieldworkers spend their days going from door to door in communities in and around Cape Town and in the Cape Winelands areas in which they work, often in blazing heat or driving rain. They do home-based HIV counselling and testing as well as screening for tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections. They also provide condoms and refer people to nearby clinics where they receive medication and treatment.
 
The DTTC is involved in a range of studies, including HIV prevention, voluntary HIV counselling and testing, research into preventing, diagnosing and treating TB in children and doing operational research to improve health services.   
 
“For many South Africans, it is a lifetime dream to stand on top of Table Mountain, and we try to help wherever we can,” said the Managing Director of the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Sabine Lehmann, who donated 100 tickets to the DTTC for the day.
 
Lehmann said she supported work done in communities. “I think true power lies at community level. We need to harness this and work together to build a country we are proud of.”

Article and photos by Kim Cloete

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu addresses TB crisis

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, actress Busisiwe Ngejane who played the lead role of Mimi and Prof Nulda Beyers, Director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University, enjoy a light moment at the gala screening of the film, Breathe Umphefumlo

On the eve of World Tuberculosis Day, which was celebrated on 24 March, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said South Africans should view the fight against TB as their next liberation struggle.

He, his wife, Leah, and daughter, Rev Mpho Tutu, were guests of honour at the private gala screening of the film Breathe Umphefumlo held in the cinema theatre in the Neelsie Student Centre of Stellenbosch University (SU).

The film was shot partly on the SU campus, and is a collaboration between the Isango Ensemble, the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. It earned rave reviews at the recent Berlin Film Festival.

In his speech at the event, Tutu brought home the grim reality of the toll TB has taken on so many South Africans. Tuberculosis is the number one cause of death in South Africa, with more than 50 000 people dying of TB every year in our country.

“It is disgraceful. We can’t accept this. There are people dying who need not die. We can’t go on accepting that people die – and die unnecessarily. It is unacceptable. It is immoral. TB is a treatable disease. We need a new set of tools to diagnose and treat the disease. TB needs to be our next liberation struggle, next to the fight against poverty,” Tutu said.

The first screening of Breathe Umphefumlo, which is an adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La Bohème, was held at the University to mark World TB Day. The film’s main character, Mimi, dies from tuberculosis – an illness which has not abated and indeed has risen in South Africa since the 19th century when La Bohème was first performed in Turin, Italy.

The opera’s music was kept as Puccini had composed it, but instead of a symphony orchestra, a marimba and steel band is used, giving the music an African flavour. The characters sing in Xhosa, because most of the opera is set in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, in a Xhosa community.

In welcoming the guests, Prof Mohammad Karaan, SU Vice-Rector for Community Interaction and Personnel, said it was a pleasure for the University to make its facilities available for this film to be shot on campus. “We are a university aiming to make an impact on society with relevant science and research excellence. The work done by the Desmond Tutu TB Centre exemplifies this perfectly. And this film is a powerful tool in the fight against TB.”

Mark Dornford-May of the Isango Ensemble and director of the film said: “The townships where the performers are drawn from are amongst some of the world’s highest infection areas for TB. Many of the cast members have friends or relatives who have suffered from tuberculosis. TB is a time bomb waiting to explode unless we do more about it.”

Prof Nulda Beyers, Director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, said she is proud to be part of a university which transforms by doing things differently.
“By bringing together academic research, film, music, art and the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, we’re working together to develop new ways to raise awareness about TB.”

Prof Beyers hopes the film will be shown as widely as possible, including in schools and community halls. It is due to be released in movie theatres and on television next year.

•    Watch a video about the event (http://youtu.be/q6es9I4Tcis).

Kim Cloete and Wayne Müller
Photos: Ignatius Vlok

 

Annual Gala Concert

A celebration of diversity
An enchanting evening with performances by amongst others the Stellenbosch University Medical Orchestra, the Tygerberg Gospel Choir, campus serenade groups and many more. Don’t miss out!
Friday, 4 September 2015 at 19:00
Hugo Lambrechts Auditorium

Annual Academic Day

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences will be hosting the 59th Annual Academic Day on Thursday 13 August 2015, and it promises to be an exciting programme and will serve as a showcase for the latest research by under- and postgraduate students and researchers of the Tygerberg Campus.

More information available at www.sun.ac.za/aad

Inaugural Lectures

Please diarise the following dates for the inaugural lectures of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, to be held at the Tygerberg Campus:
•    Prof Michele Miller, Molecular Biology and Human Genetics - Tuesday 23 June, 18:00
•    Prof Gerard Tromp, Molecular Biology and Human Genetics - Monday 17 August, 18:00
•    Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Molecular Biology and Human Genetics - Tuesday 1 September, 18:00
•    Prof Mark Cotton, Paediatrics and Child Health - Wednesday 7 October, 18:00