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» US $1,75m for research on the TB and Diabetes co-infection

» Building capacity in district health - a new model

» Article impacts on international AIDS research community

» Evidence informed education in health professions explored

» A new lease on life for children with TB meningitis

 » Students benefit from successful partnership

 

» SU boasts another A-rated researcher

» Prof Beyers wins SA Women in Science Award

» Celebration of knowledge creation, sharing

» Excellence in TB research rewarded

» TB in wildlife a cause for concern

» Link between TB and viruses investigated

» A lifetime's work awarded 

» Study reveals young girl's heart disease 

» Early HIV treatment improves survival in some newly diagnosed TB patients

» Strengthening nursing education in Africa

» Patient experience at Kalkfontein Clinic enhanced

» A major boost for HIV testing

» Powered by passion and a dream

» Students host surgical symposium at Tygerberg Campus

» The Stellenbosch experience of a Fulbright scholar

» "Be agents of change", Rector asks Tygerberg students

» Student joins international network on sustainability

» Book offers multi-disciplinary perspectives on gender violence

» Third revised edition of manual in Family Practice released

» Kleinsêr 2015: Hippokrates Ladies back with a bang

» Ophthalmologists stake their claim as leaders in their field

 

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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US $1,75m for research on the TB and Diabetes co-infection

From left to right: Ms Nicole Prins (research assistant), Dr Leanie Kleynhans (post-doctoral fellow), Dr Katharina Ronacher (principal investigator), Ms Happy Tshivhula (PhD student), Ms Jessica Klazen (MSc student) and Ms Carine Kunsevi-Kilola (PhD student)

An emerging challenge for tuberculosis (TB) control is the steadily rising number of individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus, particularly in developing countries where TB is endemic. Diabetes significantly increases an individual’s susceptibility for TB and although the link between diabetes and TB has been recognised for several decades, more research on the interaction between non-communicable and communicable diseases is needed.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently awarded a grant of $1,75 million towards an international collaborative research project on the diabetes and tuberculosis co-epidemic.  

Building capacity in district health – a new model

Seated in front are from left, Profs Julia Blitz, Lilian Dudley, Marietjie de Villiers, Taryn Young and Dr Kalay Moodley
At the back are Mss Suzaan Sutherland, Jennie Slabber, Debbie Harrison, Drs Steve Walsh, Therese Fish, Ms Traci Naidoo, Prof Charles Wiysonge, Ms Tonya Esterhuizen, Prof Susan van Schalkwyk, Mss Lauren Anderson and Nazreen Abrahams

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has embarked on an advanced project to enhance and improve health outcomes in underserved regions of South Africa. This will be done by supporting decentralised training sites in the region through capacity building in education, service delivery and research.

 

US $1,75m for research on the TB and Diabetes co-infection

From left to right: Ms Nicole Prins (research assistant), Dr Leanie Kleynhans (post-doctoral fellow), Dr Katharina Ronacher (principal investigator), Ms Happy Tshivhula (PhD student), Ms Jessica Klazen (MSc student) and Ms Carine Kunsevi-Kilola (PhD student)

An emerging challenge for tuberculosis (TB) control is the steadily rising number of individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus, particularly in developing countries where TB is endemic. Diabetes significantly increases an individual’s susceptibility for TB and although the link between diabetes and TB has been recognised for several decades, more research on the interaction between non-communicable and communicable diseases is needed.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently awarded a grant of $1,75 million towards an international collaborative research project on the diabetes and tuberculosis co-epidemic.  

Dr Katharina Ronacher, senior researcher with the Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group, has been appointed as the principle investigator of this NIH-SAMRC RO1 Award towards the study titled “Altered endocrine axis during type 2 diabetes and tuberculosis risk”, which will investigate population groups in South Africa and America.  

According to Ronacher, a better understanding of the link between TB and diabetes is essential to identify individuals at increased risk for TB progression.  The study’s hypothesis is that house hold contacts of TB cases (HHCs) with latent Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) infection and diabetes are characterised by a systemic dysregulation of immune-endocrine networks that lead to compromised immunity to Mtb.

“Diabetes increases the risk of TB by a factor of three and there are now more people affected by TB-DM co-morbidity than TB-HIV infection,” says Ronacher. “TB patients with diabetes have much poorer treatment outcomes than patients with only one of the two diseases and face an increase in risk of treatment failure, mortality and post-treatment relapse.”

In diabetes patients, the interplay of hormones under neuroendocrine regulation, adipokines and insulin, and chronic low grade inflammation are likely to contribute to compromised immune responses to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb). “We propose studies in HHCs in two populations with different background ethnicities: Coloureds in South Africa and Hispanics in Texas,” she explained.

The five year study will be carried out in collaboration with Dr Blanca Restrepo from the University of Texas, Prof Larry Schlesinger from Ohio State University and Prof Gerhard Walzl from Stellenbosch University (SU).

Ronacher said that at the completion of the study, they will have gained critical and fundamental new insights into the interplay between the immune and endocrine systems, both in the periphery and lung; thereby helping to identify underlying risk factors in diabetes patients for progression to active TB.
A further intended outcome of the study is capacity building amongst young researchers.  Four postgraduate students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds have been appointed to the research team.
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Stellenbosch University Immunology Research Group (SUN-IRG), is a specialist Tuberculosis Immunology Group in the Department of Biomedical Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, led by Prof Gerhard Walzl.  Dr Ronacher is leading the immune-endocrine studies within the SUN-IRG and with her team is trying to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms of the interplay between the immune and endocrine systems.

Article and photo: Mandi Barnard

 

Building capacity in district health – a new model

Seated in front are from left, Profs Julia Blitz, Lilian Dudley, Marietjie de Villiers, Taryn Young and Dr Kalay Moodley
At the back are Mss Suzaan Sutherland, Jennie Slabber, Debbie Harrison, Drs Steve Walsh, Therese Fish, Ms Traci Naidoo, Prof Charles Wiysonge, Ms Tonya Esterhuizen, Prof Susan van Schalkwyk, Mss Lauren Anderson and Nazreen Abrahams

The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has embarked on an advanced project to enhance and improve health outcomes in underserved regions of South Africa. This will be done by supporting decentralised training sites in the region through capacity building in education, service delivery and research.

The Stellenbosch University Comprehensive Capacity Enhancement through Engagement with Districts (SUCCEED) Project’s purpose is to, through engagement with stakeholders, to support and develop district health learning centres (DHLC) as centres of excellence within South Africa’s President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Focusing for Impact Districts. These DHLC will function as models for quality service delivery, operational research, training and mentorship in district health care.  The project strives to make a contribution to the UNAIDS’s 90:90:90 goals by focusing on HIV care and treatment.

SUCCEED comprises three main activities namely the development and implementation of a model for decentralised training for undergraduate medical and health professions students; strengthening operational research; and capacity building in quality improvement in HIV care in health districts.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are funding the FMHS to offer South African University-based technical assistance aimed at improving the quality of HIV/AIDS and related services in South Africa under PEPFAR.

“We want to foster a culture of learning and quality improvement in decentralised training sites to create centres of excellence,” noted Prof Marietjie de Villiers, Deputy Dean: Education at the FMHS and Principal Investigator of the project. “The project provides an exceptional opportunity to develop a model for decentralised health professions training in South Africa which will contribute to the empowerment and retention of human resources in the country’s health care system,” she explained.

Prof de Villiers will be assisted by three Activity Leads, Profs Lilian Dudley, Taryn Young, Julia Blitz, and Dr Kalay Moodley as Project Manager.

The SU was tasked (amongst others) to work with other universities in South Africa to jointly develop an appropriate and relevant model for decentralised undergraduate training across the country. A large scale literature review is currently being done. A consultative workshop, where experts from all nine medical schools in the country will engage with colleagues to share knowledge on best practises in district health learning, will be held in October this year.
 
Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Supplied

 

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Article impacts on AIDS research community

Prof Jean Nachega

The hallmark of a successful researcher is a high citation rate which illustrates the relevance of a person’s scientific work. Receiving an award for the most citations in a year by a journal such as AIDS which has the highest impact (5.55) of all AIDS-related journals, most definitely bears testimony to excellence.

Prof Jean Nachega, Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and his co-authors recently received the journal AIDS’s highly cited award for their article, entitled "Adherence to antiretroviral therapy during and after pregnancy in low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis", which was published in volume 26, issue 16 in October 2012.

Evidence informed education in health professions explored

Fourteen candidates attended the workshop. 
Seated in front are from left to right: Profs Ben van Heerden, Taryn Young, Jimmy Volmink and Marietjie de Villiers
At the back: Mss Anke Rohwer, Anel Schoonees, Beryl Green, Sr Elize Archer, Prof Susan van Schalkwyk, Mss Justine Geiger, Mariette Volschenk, Dr Stefanus Snyman, Prof Julia Blitz and Dr Alwyn Louw

Faculty experts recently attended a one day workshop on evidence informed education in health professions presented by the Stellenbosch University Best Evidence in Medical Education Collaborating Centre (SUBICC).

Staff from the Centres for Evidence-based Healthcare (CEBHC) and Health Professions Education (CHPE) drew on their collective experience and expertise in health professions education, editorial functions and promotion of the use and conduct of systematic reviews to address various intended outcomes of the workshop.

 

Article impacts on AIDS research community


The hallmark of a successful researcher is a high citation rate which illustrates the relevance of a person’s scientific work. Receiving an award for the most citations in a year by a journal such as AIDS which has the highest impact (5.55) of all AIDS-related journals, most definitely bears testimony to excellence.

Prof Jean Nachega, Director of the Centre for Infectious Diseases of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and his co-authors recently received the journal AIDS’s highly cited award for their article, entitled "Adherence to antiretroviral therapy during and after pregnancy in low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis", which was published in volume 26, issue 16 in October 2012.  

The article was identified as the most highly cited article in 2014 in the category of Clinical Science and to date, has been cited by 55 PubMed Central articles. The reception of the award took place at the 8th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention which was held in Vancouver Canada in July 2015.

The results of their study which involved just over 21 000 patients indicated that only seven out of 10 pregnant women at risk for disease progression and transmission of HIV to their infant, achieved optimal antiretroviral therapy adherence rates. Reaching adequate adherence levels was not only a challenge during pregnancy but in the postpartum period as well, declining further to only 50% of women with optimal adherence.

In this article the researchers, who included SU colleagues Prof Mark Cotton and Dr Olalekan Uthman amongst several international researchers, also highlighted the urgent need to evaluate and implement interventions to address this issue globally.

“As a researcher, you don’t always know what the impact of your work is going to be. Receiving this award encouraged us to tirelessly continue to explore solutions to global health problems, specifically for this vulnerable HIV positive pregnant population. A substantial proportion of these women experience barriers to therapy adherence during pregnancy and beyond, including side effects related to pregnancy and/or HIV treatment (nausea and vomiting), post-partum depression, forgetfulness due to competing needs and biological changes, substance use, fear of HIV status disclosure, lack of social support and additional problems due to their HIV status,” Nachega said.

The international collaborative team, led by Nachega, is now planning to implement a novel intervention combining mobile phone technology and community-based social support (friends and/or family) to improve adherence to HIV treatment in pregnant women and post-partum patients. Nachega explained that as researchers and clinicians, the relevance of the work of utmost importance.

Part of the prize was a monetary award of US$ 500 which the team donated to their young colleague, Uthman, who is a lecturer with the Faculty’s Centre for Evidence-based Health Care.

Article and photo: Mandi Barnard

 

Evidence informed education in health professions explored

Fourteen candidates attended the workshop. 
Seated in front are from left to right: Profs Ben van Heerden, Taryn Young, Jimmy Volmink and Marietjie de Villiers
At the back: Mss Anke Rohwer, Anel Schoonees, Beryl Green, Sr Elize Archer, Prof Susan van Schalkwyk, Mss Justine Geiger, Mariette Volschenk, Dr Stefanus Snyman, Prof Julia Blitz and Dr Alwyn Louw

Faculty experts recently attended a one day workshop on evidence informed education in health professions presented by the Stellenbosch University Best Evidence in Medical Education Collaborating Centre (SUBICC).

Staff from the Centres for Evidence-based Healthcare (CEBHC) and Health Professions Education (CHPE) drew on their collective experience and expertise in health professions education, editorial functions and promotion of the use and conduct of systematic reviews to address various intended outcomes of the workshop.

The objectives of the workshop were to introduce participants to:
•    What is meant by adopting an evidence-informed approach to education
•    The difference between systematic and traditional narrative reviews
•    An approach to finding systematic reviews
•    Interpreting the findings of systematic reviews
•    Considering the application of the findings in an educational context

Participants were provided with important material on types of reviews and had the opportunity to read a BEME systematic review.
SUBICC was established in 2014 as a joint initiative between the CEBHC and CHPE and at the time was one of only 13 institutions internationally to be invited by the Collaboration of Best Evidence Medical Education (BEME) to join the select group of individuals, universities and professional organisations committed to the development of evidence informed education in the health professions.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Supplied

 

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A new lease on life for children with TB meningitis

Dr Ronald van Toorn

Children with tuberculous (TB) meningitis now have a better chance of survival, thanks to a study at Stellenbosch University (SU).

As part of his doctorate in Paediatrics, Dr Ronald van Toorn, a Senior Specialist in Paediatric Neurology at SU and Tygerberg Children's Hospital (Western Cape Government Health), explored ways to improve the outcome of childhood TB meningitis. This severe form of tuberculosis in children occurs when TB bacteria invade the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is the most common type of bacterial meningitis in the Western Cape with an average of one case being reported at Tygerberg Children's Hospital every week.

Students benefit from successful partnership

The team in charge of the occupational therapy project in Elsies River from the left are Mss Leslin Augustine, Zelda Coetzee and Munira Hoosain

Students in the Division of Occupational Therapy is benefitting from a successful partnership between die Division and the clothing industry in Elsies River. This dynamic collaboration exposes occupational therapy (OT) students to an expanded clinical training platform and enables them to offer a unique service to clothing factories.

The partnership began in 2012 when the National Bargaining Council’s Clothing Industry Health Care Fund (CIHCF) approached Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to include occupational therapy services in their interprofessional sectoral team of students in Medicine, Physiotherapy and Psychology.

 

A new lease on life for children with TB meningitis

Dr Ronald van Toorn

Children with tuberculous (TB) meningitis now have a better chance of survival, thanks to a study at Stellenbosch University (SU).

As part of his doctorate in Paediatrics, Dr Ronald van Toorn, a Senior Specialist in Paediatric Neurology at SU and Tygerberg Children's Hospital (Western Cape Government Health), explored ways to improve the outcome of childhood TB meningitis. This severe form of tuberculosis in children occurs when TB bacteria invade the membranes and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It is the most common type of bacterial meningitis in the Western Cape with an average of one case being reported at Tygerberg Children's Hospital every week.

Van Toorn says it is difficult to diagnose and treat TB meningitis and the optimum choice, dose and duration of treatment is not known. He adds that while the World Health Organisation recommends a treatment period of one year for the disease, children admitted to Tygerberg Children's Hospital are treated for six months on higher dosages of TB drugs.

Van Toorn conducted a four-year study with 184 children with TB meningitis to determine whether this treatment is safe and effective. He found that after treatment was completed, 80% of the children had a good outcome and the mortality rate was 3.8%.

"The mortality rate of 3.8% is the lowest in the world for the treatment of childhood TB meningitis."

Van Toorn says all the children were followed up for a period for two years after treatment completion to see whether the TB recurred.

"There were no relapses. Our results are the best in the world. No other hospital where children have been treated for TB meningitis has had the same success."
Van Toorn says another reason for the positive results is that they have developed unique ways of treating the complications of the disease which include fluid in the brain, inflammation of blood vessels and eye nerves and brain abscesses.

"After replacing some of the spinal fluid with air so that the brain cavities show clearly, X-ray of the brain is taken to determine where in the brain the blockage of spinal fluid is. The study showed that 80% of children with TB meningitis can be treated with medication and do not require brain surgery."

Van Toorn says that while most children with TB meningitis also require steroids to reduce the amount of inflammation caused by TB germs, some children, especially those that develop brain abscesses and inflammation of their eye nerves, need stronger anti-inflammatory drugs than steroids.

He found that one such drug, thalidomide, was very effective in treating brain abscesses and inflammation of the eye nerves that causes blindness.

"Children with TB meningitis respond very well to thalidomide treatment and often the brain abscess disappears without damage to surrounding areas.

Thalidomide also rapidly reduces the inflammation of the eye nerve and within days children who are completely blind regain full vision."

Van Toorn says thalidomide was banned during the 1960s because it caused limb deformities in children born to mothers who took it to treat morning sickness during pregnancy.

He adds that further studies in some parts of the world showed thalidomide's effectiveness  against certain cancers and skin conditions.

"Today it could prove the difference between life and death for many children with TB meningitis."

Van Toorn says the next step is to see whether thalidomide could also prevent inflammation of blood vessels and injury to the brain in these children.

Article: Dr Alec Basson

Photo: Wilma Stassen
 

 

Students benefit from successful partnership

The team in charge of the occupational therapy project in Elsies River from the left are Mss Leslin Augustine, Zelda Coetzee and Munira Hoosain

Students in the Division of Occupational Therapy is benefitting from a successful partnership between die Division and the clothing industry in Elsies River. This dynamic collaboration exposes occupational therapy (OT) students to an expanded clinical training platform and enables them to offer a unique service to clothing factories.

The partnership began in 2012 when the National Bargaining Council’s Clothing Industry Health Care Fund (CIHCF) approached Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences to include occupational therapy services in their interprofessional sectoral team of students in Medicine, Physiotherapy and Psychology.

The CIHCF is a non-profit organisation which is privately funded by contributions from employees and employers in the clothing industry, predominantly to address medical and curative needs of clothing factory workers. They offer primary health care at centres in industrial areas in the Western Cape.

According to Ms Zelda Coetzee, senior lecturer at the Division of Occupational Therapy, who co-developed the occupational therapy service and now oversees the project, the training the students receive is very valueable. “It is offered in an industrial setting which is an expansion of the traditional clinical context in which OT training used to take place.   It is a very integrated setting in which one can apply lots of different kinds of models and frameworks for interprofessional working and integrated learning;  for example the ICF and occupational health and safety frameworks. In this industrial context, students are exposed to real work situations.  

Ms Munira Hoosain, an occupational therapist who was appointed by the CIHCF and Stellenbosch University to manage the project, explained that there are currently six third-year students and four fourth-year students per year doing clinical blocks of between four to six weeks. Students do practical work in a clinic, where there are doctors, nurses, a part time social worker and a psychologist. “They work in a clinic so they get the same clinical exposure as they would get in a hospital,” she said.  

In addition to the clinical experience, students also spend time in factories. “The focus of the OT practise is on work rehabilitation. Students see clients at the clinic, but also go into the factories to do work site and job demand analysis, workplace rehabilitation and ergonomic modifications, and negotiate with supervisors and HR managers to facilitate optimal outcomes for clients,” Hoosain said. “They also work closely with occupational health officials based at the factories.”

Students work alongside these professionals, linking with early identification of work related injuries, making sure that the clients are seen and referred to hospitals for treatment.  “We see a lot of hand and back injuries and clients who need specialist care clinics are referred to Tygerberg Hospital,” Hoosain said.

“Clients who have work related injuries or diseases are also referred to the Compensation fund and to Occupational Health Diseases Clinics at Tygerberg Hospital and Groote Schuur Hospital, thus there is really a lot of collaboration going on in this practice,” she explained.

According to Ms Leslin Augustine, who represents the CIHCF, partnerships with universities are invaluable and the only way in which they are able to render health care services in a sustainable manner.  

“OT has become visible in our factories over the past two years. We were able to broaden the horizons of our services further and include the OT service into the other seven clinics in the Western Cape.”

The CIHCF works with the industry on voluntary invitation, and more and more factories have opened their doors to them.  “Managers don’t feel threatened anymore. We try to work in partnership with the employees and employers for the benefit of everybody - the employers, employees and students,” she said.

According to Augustine, the project has a great impact on the workers in the clothing industry.  “The presence of OT has brought awareness of related problems to our industry and managers are inviting students to their factories to do wellness days and to create awareness.”   

Thus, workers receive affordable and sustainable health care, and in addition they receive information to enable them to take preventative precautions to avoid injuries.  “Taking lunch hour information sessions presented by students to the factory creates awareness amongst staff and management and it creates a healthier workforce,” Augustine said.

The SU’s focus on research that is relevant to communities is also addressed through this project. The fourth-year group did a research study on the occupational performance needs of clothing factory workers in the Elsies River area and Hoosain is currently doing further research on the topic for a Master’s Degree at SU.

Article and photo: Mandi Barnard

 

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SU boasts another A-rated researcher

Prof Paul van Helden

Stellenbosch University's (SU) reputation as the home of world-class researchers just keeps on growing. Recently Prof Paul van Helden, Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at SU, obtained a prestigious A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Van Helden, who is also the Director of the DST/NRF Centre for Excellence in Biomedical TB Research in the Faculty and the Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, received an A-rating for his cutting-edge research on the use of modern molecular biology techniques to diagnose drug resistant Tuberculosis, especially in developing countries. Researchers with an A-rating are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their research.

Prof Beyers wins SA Women in Science Award

Prof Nulda Beyers

Prof Nulda Beyers, a senior specialist and professor in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and Director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was the first runner-up in the category: Distinguished Women Researchers at the annual South African Women in Sciences Award ceremony held on 13 August in Johannesburg.

The Women in Science Awards are held annually to encourage and reward women scientists, and researchers, and also to profile them as role models for younger women. The theme for this year's Awards was "Science for a sustainable future".

Click here to read more about the SU prize winners

 

SU boasts another A-rated researcher

Prof Paul van Helden

Stellenbosch University's (SU) reputation as the home of world-class researchers just keeps on growing. Recently Prof Paul van Helden, Head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences and the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at SU, obtained a prestigious A-rating from the National Research Foundation (NRF).

Van Helden, who is also the Director of the DST/NRF Centre for Excellence in Biomedical TB Research in the Faculty and the Director of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology, received an A-rating for his cutting-edge research on the use of modern molecular biology techniques to diagnose drug resistant Tuberculosis, especially in developing countries. Researchers with an A-rating are unequivocally recognised by their peers as leading international scholars in their field for the high quality and impact of their research.

Stellenbosch University now has 13 A-rated researchers  ̶  three in the Human and Social Sciences, seven in Science, AgriSciences and Engineering and three in Medicine and Health Sciences.  The institution now has a total of 372 NRF-rated researchers.

Reflecting on his A-rating, Van Helden said he is really pleased for his team. "I must give due recognition to the wonderful colleagues I have had at SU who played no small role in my success."

An eminent researcher, Van Helden has over 400 research publications to his name and established extensive global networks. He has received numerous national awards among others the Gold Medal of the South African Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2001); the SAMRC Silver Medal for Research (2004); the National Science and Technology Forum Award for Outstanding Contribution to Science and Technology (2005); the Gold Medal of the Academy of Science in South Africa (2009) and a Lifetime Achievement recognition by the SAMRC (2013).

Van Helden is ranked on the Thompson Reuters Rankings as having the fourth highest impact in TB research publishing in the world. Over the years, he has trained many masters and doctoral students and also mentored many post-doctoral fellows.

Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS, congratulated Van Helden and said he has for many years been at the helm of a leading biomedical research centre in tuberculosis at the FMHS.

"He is one of the most highly cited TB researchers in the world and the work carried out under his supervision has both challenged established notions about the disease and informed TB policy and practice.  This recognition by the NRF is indeed well deserved."

The NRF rating system is a benchmarking system by which individuals that exemplify the highest standards of research, as well as those demonstrating strong potential as researchers, are identified by an extensive network of South African and international peer reviewers. Ratings are based on the quality and impact of recent research outputs (over an eight-year period).

Applications are made either by "established" researchers with a solid track record (categories C, B and A), or by "younger" researchers who show potential to become established within a five-year period (Y), or to become future leaders in their field (P). Ratings are valid for a period of six years.

Article: Dr Alec Basson
Photo: Marius V Jooste

 

Prof Beyers wins SA Women in Science Award

Prof Nulda Beyers

Prof Nulda Beyers, a senior specialist and professor in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health and Director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), was the first runner-up in the category: Distinguished Women Researchers at the annual South African Women in Sciences Award ceremony held on 13 August in Johannesburg.

The Women in Science Awards are held annually to encourage and reward women scientists, and researchers, and also to profile them as role models for younger women. The theme for this year's Awards was "Science for a sustainable future".

Prof Beyers, a distinguished professor at the FMHS, is internationally recognised and revered for her exceptional work in TB and HIV research, in particular for her efforts to find novel strategies to reduce TB and HIV. She is sixth on the Thompson Reuters Ranking, placing her among the top 10 most influential TB researchers in the world.

A prolific writer, Beyers authored and co-authored 211 peer-reviewed articles and contributed to 8 books and 217 presentations at national and international conferences. She has also supervised a number of master's and doctoral students.

Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, Deputy Dean: Research at the FMHS congratulated Beyers and said she is one of the Faculty's top clinician researchers.
"Under Prof Beyers' directorship, the childhood tuberculosis research division of the DTTC became internationally recognised for its contribution to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of childhood tuberculosis and is largely credited for developing the scientific basis for the management of the disease, informing policy at the highest level and making a significant impact on the lives of countless children worldwide," Gey van Pittius said.

Article: Dr Alec Basson
Photo: Provided

 

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Celebration of knowledge creation, sharing

The Academic Year Day offered a variety of platforms and opportunities to exchange knowledge and foster collegial relationships

The sharing of knowledge is one of the key features of a university and according to Stellenbosch University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, this role was eloquently fulfilled at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) 59th Annual Academic Day recently held at the Tygerberg Campus.

“A day like this is all about impact,” De Villiers said of the 80 oral presentations, 120 poster presentations and seven state-of-the-art presentations delivered by researchers at the FMHS.

Excellence in TB research rewarded

Dr Adrie Bekker receives the HD Brede Award from Prof Nico Gey van Pittius at the Annual Academic Day

Dr Adrie Bekker, a neonatologist and TB researcher at Stellenbosch University, has been recognised for her innovative research, which has provided the first ever pharmacokinetic data to inform dosing guidelines for a specific antituberculosis drug in young infants.

Bekker was awarded the HD Brede Award for Tuberculosis Research 2015 at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) Annual Academic Day.

 

Celebration of knowledge creation, sharing

The Academic Year Day offered a variety of platforms and opportunities to exchange knowledge and foster collegial relationships

The sharing of knowledge is one of the key features of a university and according to Stellenbosch University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wim de Villiers, this role was eloquently fulfilled at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) 59th Annual Academic Day recently held at the Tygerberg Campus.

“A day like this is all about impact,” De Villiers said of the 80 oral presentations, 120 poster presentations and seven state-of-the-art presentations delivered by researchers at the FMHS.

“We need to make a tangible difference in people’s lives – universities are not ivory towers, we are situated in communities facing challenges where we can have an impact,” said De Villiers.

“This day provides us with an opportunity to present our work and to celebrate the way we do research to the benefit of our nation and the rest of the world,” said the FMHS’s Deputy Dean: Research, Prof Nico Gey van Pittius. The research presented were categorised in seven health care themes aligned with the priorities of the National Development Plan which are based on the needs of the country. These include non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases, maternal and child health, perioperative sciences, mental health and neuroscience, violence and injury, and trauma and rehabilitation.

According to FMHS Dean, Prof Jimmy Volmink, research in the faculty has increased considerably, with both the number of PhD graduates and research outputs doubling in the past decade, resulting in a “measurable impact on both science and society”.

Article: Wilma Stassen

Photos: Mandi Barnard

 

Excellence in TB research rewarded

Dr Adrie Bekker receives the HD Brede Award from Prof Nico Gey van Pittius at the Annual Academic Day

Dr Adrie Bekker, a neonatologist and TB researcher at Stellenbosch University, has been recognised for her innovative research, which has provided the first ever pharmacokinetic data to inform dosing guidelines for a specific antituberculosis drug in young infants.

Bekker was awarded the HD Brede Award for Tuberculosis Research 2015 at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ (FMHS) Annual Academic Day.

She has been a consultant in the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health since 2007 and enrolled for her PhD in 2013.  Her research is focused on the prevention and treatment of perinatal and infant tuberculosis within the context of HIV, with a special interest in pharmacokinetic studies.

Bekker has already published three articles in scientific peer reviewed journals towards her PhD degree and presented her work at several international and national TB and neonatology conferences.

She was awarded the HD Brede prize for her article, entitled “Pharmacokinetics of isoniazid in low birth weight and premature infants”, which was published in the journal of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2014.

Bekker said she is very grateful to have received this prestigious TB award. “The purpose of my research is to reduce the incidence of perinatal and infant TB, through a variety of strategies.”

“Pharmacokinetic studies aid in providing an evidence base for the appropriate preventive and curative treatment of TB in the young.  A sound knowledge of TB drug disposition and safety is essential to guide the appropriate dosage of TB drugs in infants,” she explained.

This was the first study to evaluate the key and most widely used antituberculosis drug in young children, namely isoniazid, in low-birth weight preterm infants. The study included intensive pharmacokinetic sampling, non-compartmental pharmacokinetic analyses and rigorous clinical evaluation.

“TB is a major source of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality, especially in settings with high burden of TB and HIV,” said Prof Anneke Hesseling, her PhD study supervisor.

Hesseling noted that the research focus on translational clinical TB research affecting the most vulnerable population is in keeping with the spirit of the HD Brede award.

The research was made possible by an international Early Career Award from the Thrasher Research Foundation, as well as by funding received from the Harry Crossley Foundation.

Article and photo: Mandi Barnard

 

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TB in wildlife a cause for concern

Prof Michele Miller

Tuberculosis (TB) is a global threat to wildlife and has significant socioeconomic, ecological and conservation consequences for endangered species, as well as humans.

This was one of the viewpoints of Prof Michele Miller of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Tuesday (23 June 2015). She delivered her inaugural lecture in the Clinical Building on SU's Tygerberg Campus.

Miller said TB in wildlife and cattle, also known as bovine TB, affects the health and productivity of animals, may lead to high mortality in some species, and could also be transmitted to other animals and humans.

Link between TB and viruses investigated

Dr Marieke van der Zalm

Dr Marieke van der Zalm has received the Early Career grant from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU, for her pilot study, entitled "The role of respiratory viruses in the clinical presentation of South African children with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB)".  

Van der Zalm, who is a member of the diagnostic research team at the Faculty’s Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), said the study will be looking at the role of respiratory viruses in children presenting with symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis. 

A lifetime’s work awarded

Prof Jeff Coetzee

Few people have the privilege to practice a career that they are passionate about. To Prof Johan “Jeff” Coetzee, this was a reality which culminated in a Lifetime Achievement award.

The International Society of Anaesthetic Pharmacology (ISAP), honoured Coetzee, who was a founding member and one of the first eight directors of the society, with this prestigious award.

Coetzee, who administered the second anaesthetic procedure (for the first Caesarean section) in the then brand new Tygerberg Hospital in 1972, played a significant role in the development and expansion of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU).

 

TB in wildlife a cause for concern

Prof Michele Miller (middle) with Profs Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Eugene Cloete, Vice-Rector: Research and Innovation, at the inaugural lecture

Tuberculosis (TB) is a global threat to wildlife and has significant socioeconomic, ecological and conservation consequences for endangered species, as well as humans.

This was one of the viewpoints of Prof Michele Miller of the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Tuesday (23 June 2015). She delivered her inaugural lecture in the Clinical Building on SU's Tygerberg Campus.

Miller said TB in wildlife and cattle, also known as bovine TB, affects the health and productivity of animals, may lead to high mortality in some species, and could also be transmitted to other animals and humans.

"Consumption of unpasteurised dairy products or infected animal products, exposure to contaminated environments (including pasture and water) or close prolonged contact can result in transmission to other animals as well as humans."

"Disease risks may alter public perception of wildlife based on threat of transmission to livestock, impact on livelihoods, including utilisation of wildlife, and potential to infect humans."

"In Southern Africa, since people and livestock may share land and water resources and people utilise wildlife for economic purposes, potential disease transmission could result in decreased tolerance in already limited habitats."

Miller said the emergence of TB in wildlife has created concern among conservationists, private game and cattle farmers, agriculture regulatory agencies and the public health sector in developed and developing countries.

"Losses associated with restriction in trade, restricted animal movement, decreased tourism and production, increased biosecurity costs, expenses associated with testing and restocking, and infection from hunting and butchering game have been identified as major burdens for farmers, and the wider agricultural industry."

"In many developing countries, livestock are associated with social status and reflect personal wealth.  The presence of TB can have serious implications for the livelihood and community standing of the family that owns infected animals."

Miller argued that we don't know the long-term consequences of TB among species such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, wild dogs, spotted hyenas, honey badgers, impalas, warthogs, hartebeest and blue wildebeest, giraffes and black rhinoceros.

She said the lack of resources and funding to conduct studies, a paucity of validated tests and constraints on accessing animals are some of the limitations for advancing comprehension of wildlife TB.

"Increased awareness of TB in wildlife is the first step in addressing the ecological, conservation, socioeconomic and public health issues associated with this disease."

Miller highlighted the importance of research to help us understand the disease better.

She said one of the key areas being investigated is the exploration of the different hosts' immune responses and the development of diagnostic tests, especially for wildlife species.

Miller added that collaboration between different stakeholders could contribute to greater knowledge that will inform strategies for the prevention and management of animal TB.

Article: Dr Alec Basson
Photo: Wilma Stassen

 

A lifetime’s work awarded

Prof Jeff Coetzee

Few people have the privilege to practice a career that they are passionate about. To Prof Johan “Jeff” Coetzee, this was a reality which culminated in a Lifetime Achievement award.

The International Society of Anaesthetic Pharmacology (ISAP), honoured Coetzee, who was a founding member and one of the first eight directors of the society, with this prestigious award.

Coetzee, who administered the second anaesthetic procedure (for the first Caesarean section) in the then brand new Tygerberg Hospital in 1972, played a significant role in the development and expansion of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU).

His path crossed with SU straight after school and - although he retired in 2007 - he is stillinvolved with training at the university, presenting lectures and tutorials in the theory of intravenous and inhaled anaesthetics, medical statistics and clinical measurement to postgraduate students. “The latter is physics applied on anaesthesia,” he explains.

Coetzee completed the degrees BSc (Chemistry and Physics) and BSc (Anatomy and Physiology), before he obtained MB,ChB in 1967. He graduated with an MMed degree in 1972 after having trained as a registrar at Karl Bremer hospital.

After a stint of 12 years during which he had his own private practice in Cape Town, he returned to the SU to further his academic career.
Coetzee’s special interest in pharmacokinetics was a watershed moment in his career. “The science of what happens to a drug in the body after, for example, it has been injected, is central to the field of anaesthesia, where the brain is the most important target organ,” he said.

He explains that it is necessary to maintain a stable and consistent drug concentration in the brain, as too much can have a detrimental effect on a person’s body and too little can cause the patient to wake  up prematurely. He investigated the effects of intravenous anaesthesia on the heart and the circulatory system for his PhD thesis. “Back then, when I started investigating this, the application of pharmacokinetics was still in its infancy,” Coetzee said.

He started testing different mathematical models which are applied to administer computer controlled drug infusion and measured the accuracy thereof. This ground-breaking research led to the publication of his results in the journal Anesthesiology, which has since been cited in more than 270 peer-reviewed journals.

Coetzee notes that he has experienced huge changes in his profession over the years. While being an undergraduate student, he was under the impression that anaesthesiology was a series of recipes and he had little understanding of the underlying physiology and pharmacology.

“During my career, I saw how the whole field transformed into a clinical science based on applied physiology and pharmacology and expanded from a technical service to a profession where peri-operative medicine and critical care is practiced,” he noted. “Today, we apply techniques derived from other disciplines, for example ultrasonic technology in echo cardiography and the technique to do nerve blocks.”

The area of monitoring has also changed significantly and Coetzee was one of the pioneers in the field of brain monitoring. As a result of his research in this area, he found himself for a time as the Director of the SU’s Bureau of Bio-Engineering, where he was closely involved in the development of products such as the Ceregraph (a brain monitor) and Stelpump (a system which administers computer controlled infuses).

Prof André Coetzee, the Head of the Department of Anaesthesiology and Critical Care, said in an article he wrote about the award which was published in the Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia, that this is well-deserved recognition of an academic career of thinking, researching, participating and making a scientific contribution by a SA anaesthetist.

“…He is the in-house statistical consultant but also often the voice of profound wisdom in difficult clinical and non-clinical matters,” he said of Coetzee.

This native of Zambia came to Cape Town at the age of 11 to continue his schooling at Rondebosch High School. “Those days it took five days traveling by train to go home for school holidays,” he remembers.

He is married to the artist Cora Coetzee and their son, Dr Francois Coetzee, is a specialist in Family Medicine, working at Worcester Hospital and the Faculty’s Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care.

Apart from his busy career as an academic and researcher, he is also well known as an accomplished free diver and enjoys spear gun fishing.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Provided

 

Link between TB and viruses investigated

Dr Marieke van der Zalm

Dr Marieke van der Zalm has received the Early Career grant from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU, for her pilot study, entitled "The role of respiratory viruses in the clinical presentation of South African children with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB)".  

Van der Zalm, who is a member of the diagnostic research team at the Faculty’s Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC), said the study will be looking at the role of respiratory viruses in children presenting with symptoms of pulmonary tuberculosis.  

“It is known that viral infections play an important role in respiratory illnesses in children, with viruses found in up to 85% of cases,” she said.  “It is, however, not known what the association between viruses and other diseases, for example TB, is.”

According to Van der Zalm it is suspected that infection with respiratory viruses might play an important role in susceptibility to TB in children, including in the clinical and radiological presentation and response to TB treatment.

“To study this, we will do virus tests in children that get a TB work-up and check how often viruses are found in children with and without TB,” Van der Zalm said.  

The study will be done within the diagnostic study of Dr Liz Walters, who heads up the diagnostic research team in paediatrics and child health studies at the DTTC.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

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Study reveals young girl's heart disease

Video: Zena tells her story

In March this year doctors told Zena Klaas she had a 50/50 chance of "waking up" after an operation. Her family was scared, but the 20-year old admits that she just wanted the pain to stop.

Complications from rheumatic heart disease (RHD) led to the development of an aneurysm (an excessive, balloon-like, swelling of the wall of a blood vessel) in one of the major blood vessels in the abdomen, causing the Gugulethu learner excruciating pain.

Early HIV treatment improves survival in some TB patients

Prof Jean Nachega

Starting anti-HIV treatment within two weeks of the diagnosis of tuberculosis, or TB, improved survival among patients with both infections who had very low immune-cell counts, according to a collaborative review by researchers at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Pittsburgh. Those with strong immune systems, however, might benefit from waiting until after the end of the six-month TB treatment before initiating anti-HIV therapy, they found.
 
In a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the team recommended updating physician guidelines to take the findings into account.

 

Study reveals young girl's heart disease

From left to right, Prof Anton Doubell, Head of the Division Cardiology, Zena Klaas and Dr Philip Herbst, cardiology

In March this year doctors told Zena Klaas she had a 50/50 chance of "waking up" after an operation. Her family was scared, but the 20-year old admits that she just wanted the pain to stop.

Complications from rheumatic heart disease (RHD) led to the development of an aneurysm (an excessive, balloon-like, swelling of the wall of a blood vessel) in one of the major blood vessels in the abdomen, causing the Gugulethu learner excruciating pain.

Like most people suffering from rheumatic heart disease, Zena didn't realise she had it until it was almost too late. Even the health care workers she had recently consulted, not suspecting heart disease in such a young girl, at first didn't realise what was wrong with her. In fact, if she hadn't taken part in a study earlier the year screening specifically for RHD, doctors might not have figured it out in time.

"I volunteered for the study, to be honest, to get out of class, but also because I was curious about heart scans and all of that," admits Zena. "Lucky me! Because that's where they saw I had a problem with my heart."

Dr Philip Herbst, a senior lecturer and cardiologist at Stellenbosch University (SU) and Tygerberg Hospital, contacted the school principal to arrange a follow-up for a group of scholars believed to have RHD based on the results of a screening study recently done at Tygerberg Hospital. Herbst was informed that one of the learners on the list had not been to school for some weeks because she was ill at home. An arrangement was immediately made to evaluate Zena at Tygerberg Hospital the next day.

Herbst explains that the damage caused by RHD can make the heart's valves vulnerable to infection. This is exactly what happened to Zena, who had developed such a valve infection (called infective endocarditis). The infection also caused a localised weakening in the blood vessel in her intestine, leading to the aneurysm that nearly cost Zena her life. The aneurysm was successfully operated on and the heart valve infection treated. After a two-month stay in hospital, she is now recovering at home.     

Rheumatic fever can affect children from the age of six up to early adulthood (18 to 21 years) and in most people presents as nothing more than a sore throat, fever and stiff joints.

"Many of the symptoms are similar to that of the flu and more than 95 percent of people never realise they have had rheumatic fever," says Herbst.

A common throat infection, caused by a specific streptococcal bacteria (group A streptococcus), leads to rheumatic fever in people genetically predisposed to it.

In this group – which makes up around five percent of any population – the antibodies released by the body to fight the streptococcal infection can also attack a person's heart tissue, often damaging the heart's mitral valve (and to a lesser degree the other valves). This can then lead to either narrowing of the valve (mitral stenosis) or cause leakage (mitral incompetence) in the long term.

Rheumatic fever is an acute infection, while rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is the chronic condition resulting from the valve damage caused by rheumatic fever.
International health bodies estimate that about a million children in sub-Saharan Africa could be affected by RHD, and in South Africa, although there is little in the way of formal statistics available, it is believed that as many as 30 children per 1000 may be affected in certain high risk areas.

"The disease follows the economic gradient, and the poorer communities, with more overcrowding and difficult living conditions, are worst affected," says Herbst. "In South Africa, with its drastic socioeconomic differences, one might find a high prevalence in certain lower-income areas, but not a single case in a high-income area just up the road," he explains. "Looking at prevalence figures may therefore be a very local affair and difficult to generalise to a population as a whole."

Rheumatic fever itself is not actually infectious, but streptococcal throat infection – which develops into rheumatic fever in susceptible individuals – is transmitted through the air or contact with an infected person. The more bouts of rheumatic fever a child experiences, the higher the risk that the child will develop RHD.

"In Africa, complications from RHD tend to develop at a much younger age than in the developed world, and we suspect it is because people suffer more recurrences of rheumatic fever. That is why we have to identify the children who have had it even once before and treat them with prophylactic antibiotics to prevent recurrences," says Herbst.

RHD (narrowing or leakage of the mitral heart valve) can present in a variety of ways. The first signs of disease may be breathlessness from heart failure, or individuals affected may develop a blood clot in the heart that could lead to a stroke.

"We also see a lot of young women in their 20s or 30s presenting with serious complications during pregnancy. Their hearts, damaged by bouts of rheumatic fever in childhood, can't cope with the demands of pregnancy and they end up in the emergency room. It is an important cause of maternal deaths," warns Herbst.  

Sunheart, a joint initiative between SU's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Tygerberg Hospital, is conducting a large screening program for RHD (called Echo in Africa) in children from Khayelitsha and Ravensmead – two underserved communities in Cape Town.

The main goal of the research component of the project is to search for the best way to screen large groups of children for RHD. Also, this research will help establish the prevalence of RHD in these areas.

In order to provide comprehensive echo- and electrocardiograms in 2000 children, Sunheart has collaborated with the British Society of Echocardiography (BSE) who has flown in over 100 trained sonographers and doctors from the UK over the last 2 years to help with the examinations in the children.

According to Dr Guy Lloyd, immediate past president of the BSE, the society has been privileged to work with Sunheart to deliver the Echo in Africa project at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital. "Rheumatic heart disease blights the lives of young people across Africa and UK sonographers have been inspired to work with the team in South Africa to join the fight against this disease.  It is wonderful to see this collaboration bearing fruit and making a real difference to the lives of Cape Town children," says Lloyd.

Both Herbst and Lloyd acknowledged the huge support for the Every Heart Beat Matters campaign, a charitable arm of Edward LifeScience which has the objective of improving cardiovascular health worldwide.

"There is an important humanitarian outcome to the project as we are also reaching out to the individual children in these communities to identify heart problems and offer follow-up treatment where necessary," says Herbst.

Article and video: Wilma Stassen
Photo: Supplied

 

Early HIV treatment improves survival in some TB patients

Prof Jean Nachega

Starting anti-HIV treatment within two weeks of the diagnosis of tuberculosis, or TB, improved survival among patients with both infections who had very low immune-cell counts, according to a collaborative review by researchers at the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Pittsburgh. Those with strong immune systems, however, might benefit from waiting until after the end of the six-month TB treatment before initiating anti-HIV therapy, they found.
 
In a study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the team recommended updating physician guidelines to take the findings into account.

Infection with HIV can promote progression and re-infection to active TB after initial exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the organism that causes TB, explained senior author Jean B. Nachega, an associate professor of infectious diseases and microbiology and of epidemiology affiliated with both Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, as well as the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Health.

Treating HIV and TB simultaneously is challenging for many reasons, including the requirement for patients to take multiple pills several times daily for each infection, drug-drug interactions and overlapping side effects.

“Current World Health Organisation guidelines recommend starting TB treatment first, followed by HIV treatment as soon as possible within two to eight weeks for patients who have moderately to severely compromised immune systems, but there was not conclusive evidence to guide treatment in other levels of immune suppression,” Nachega said. “We aimed to investigate the optimal timing of HIV initiation in light of recent published randomised clinical trials on this topic.”
 
The team systematically reviewed data from more than 4500 people participating in eight randomised clinical trials of early initiation of HIV anti-retroviral therapy (ART) conducted in Asia, Africa and the United States. They found that survival rates were better among patients who started ART within two weeks of the initiation of TB treatment and who also had very low CD4 T-cell counts of less than 0.050 x 109cells/litre, as measured by a blood test which reflects severe immune system suppression due to HIV infection.

Of note, early initiation was also associated with a two-fold increase in the frequency of a complication called TB-Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome which can be fatal in rare occasions. There was no evidence to support or refute a survival benefit for patients with CD4 counts between 0.050 and 0.220 x 109cells/litre.

“Our findings support guidelines recommending early initiation of ART in patients with a high degree of immune system compromise,” Nachega said. “But delaying ART might be possible until the end of TB treatment with patients with CD4 counts greater than 0.220 x 109cells/litre, which could reduce the burden of taking two complex drug regimens at the same time.”
 
However, Nachega noted that there is other emerging evidence showing the clinical and public health benefits associated with early initiation of HIV treatment, other than survival. Indeed, early treatment may be beneficial by decreasing comorbidities due to ongoing inflammation caused by HIV and decreasing HIV sexual transmission.
 
“Clinicians will need to weigh these benefits against the burden of co-administration of TB and HIV treatment on a case-by-case basis, but the overarching goal is likely to be a move toward treating all HIV-positive people as early as possible,” said Nachega.

*This article is an edited version of a press release issued by the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Health Science.

 

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Strengthening Nursing Education in Africa

Representatives from Cameroon during their recent visit to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, with their SU counterparts

Professional nurses play an integral role in health care, health care promotion and disease prevention in developing countries and a shortage of educated nurses can lead to serious problems in health care systems.

Nursing and midwifery are integral components of health care and the contributions of nurses in health care systems in Africa cannot be underestimated.

A project with the aim of strengthening nursing and midwifery in Africa through education was launched by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA), a technical body of the African Union (AU).  “The focus of the programme is to strengthen nursing in Africa by training nurses in countries up to Master’s degree level,” says Prof Anita van der Merwe, the Head of the Division of Nursing Science at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Patient experience at Kalkfontein Clinic enhanced

Mr Steve Jacobs, Vice-chairperson of the MCS student committee, address guests at the opening ceremony of the new consulting rooms

The Matie Community Service (MCS) primary health care project at the Kalkfontein Secondary School in Kuils River, which has been in operation for many years, now boasts brand new consulting rooms to ensure patients can be treated with dignity and respect.

Ms Avril Whate, Senior Project Manager: Primary Care programme  MCS noted that she identified the need for consultation rooms approximately one year ago.  “I then approached the school principal, who together with the school governing body gave us permission to have consultation rooms put up in the school hall,” she said.

 

Strengthening Nursing Education in Africa

Representatives from Cameroon during their recent visit to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, with their SU counterparts. Seated in front are Ms Kom Assumpta Ekie (épse Kechia), Prof Mzobz Mboya, Ms Julienne Nsoga and Prof Anita van der Merwe.  At the back are Prof Keymanthri Moodley, Dr Ronel Retief, Prof Pieter Hesseling, Ms Estelle Coustas, Ms Florence Africa, Mr Ibrahim Gourouza, Prof Charles Wiysonge and Prof Usuf Chikte

Professional nurses play an integral role in health care, health care promotion and disease prevention in developing countries and a shortage of educated nurses can lead to serious problems in health care systems.

Nursing and midwifery are integral components of health care and the contributions of nurses in health care systems in Africa cannot be underestimated.

A project with the aim of strengthening nursing and midwifery in Africa through education was launched by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Planning and Coordination Agency (NPCA), a technical body of the African Union (AU).  “The focus of the programme is to strengthen nursing in Africa by training nurses in countries up to Master’s degree level,” says Prof Anita van der Merwe, the Head of the Division of Nursing Science at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

She explains that the reason for this is three fold:
•    To empower nurses to play a leadership role and thereby strengthen health care
•    To work with the student’s countries to promote their own nursing education to postgraduate level
•    To support the quality of service delivery, hopefully to PhD level.

The project, called the NEPAD Project on Nursing and Midwifery Education in Africa, is essentially about collaborative human resources and capacity building in health care.

It is focused on the implementation of a Master’s degree in Nursing and Midwifery to improve the level of competence in specific areas of nursing and health care to the betterment of care, especially in rural and socio-economically disadvantaged communities.

The programmes will be implemented in the Republic of Cameroon by the Stellenbosch University (SU), the Gabonese Republic by the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and in Congo-Brazzaville which will be working with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

The project is led by the UKZN as coordinating institution, by the SU as implementing institution and by Yaounde1 University (UY1) in Cameroon as Host Institution. “It is funded by NEPAD, but the participating countries make a huge financial contribution,” says Van der Merwe.

Representatives from SU participated in a fact finding mission to the Republic of Cameroon in 2013.  “We considered the project to be aligned with the vision and mission of SU – being ‘in Africa for Africa’,” says Van der Merwe.  

Delegates from the Cameroon visited SU in 2015. The Cameroon Departments of Health, Foreign Affairs and Higher Education, together with UY1, are all involved with the project.

It is expected that, upon finalisation of the Memoranda of Understanding between UKZN and SU and SU and UY1, about 20 candidates will register with SU for the Master’s programme for Nurses and/or Midwives.

Prospective students will first register for the one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Nursing Leadership and Management at SU, to prepare them for the requirements of Master’s degree studies in South Africa. “We will also offer the same diploma to candidates from Gabon as per request from UWC to enable the Gabonese candidates to eventually register for a Master’s programme at UWC,” says Van der Merwe.

SU will provide the necessary educational material and support, inclusive of module material, on-site workshops, telematic broadcasting, supervision and modes of assessment enactment.  

“The current project involves Francophone countries and we are reaching out to them by having the course material translated into French,” says Van der Merwe. “We will further endeavour to support the development of human capacity in the host university for them to eventually continue offering the Master’s programme locally, as well as a collaborative relationship in terms of teaching and research.”  

This is the second outreach programme of its kind by NEPAD. The first programme was implemented in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by a consortium of Southern African universities, namely the universities of the Free State, KwaZulu Natal, Witwatersrand and Botswana. Van der Merwe was part of the outreach between the University of the Free State and the DRC.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Hermien Nel

 

Patient experience at Kalkfontein Clinic enhanced

Mr Steve Jacobs, Vice-chairperson of the MCS student committee, address guests at the opening ceremony of the new consulting rooms

The Matie Community Service (MCS) primary health care project at the Kalkfontein Secondary School in Kuils River, which has been in operation for many years, now boasts brand new consulting rooms to ensure patients can be treated with dignity and respect.

Ms Avril Whate, Senior Project Manager: Primary Care programme  MCS noted that she identified the need for consultation rooms approximately one year ago.  “I then approached the school principal, who together with the school governing body gave us permission to have consultation rooms put up in the school hall,” she said. 

“I then started raising funds for this project, and on 13th July 2015 we had the official opening of our new consultation rooms. At the ceremony the attendees paid tribute tothe late Dr Louis Heyns, a paediatrician at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and Mr Patrick Ndyana, who was a community volunteer at the clinic.”

Whate explains that the clinic at Kalkfontein is held in the school hall, where patient screens were previously erected in order to do medical examinations.   “For us as health care providers, it is important to treat our patients with dignity and respect therefore the consultation rooms to provide patient privacy when doing examinations were necessary,” she said.

Students and community volunteers offer an after-hours primary health care service to communities with limited access to services.  The project is managed through MCS’s Primary Health Care branch and student volunteers include medical, physiotherapy, occupational therapy as well as dietetic students.

The students are mentored by doctors and clinical nurse practitioners and according to Whate the focus is mainly on prevention and promotion of health as opposed to curative and rehabilitative care.

Patients can also obtain medication at the clinics.  At Kalkfontein there is a partnership with the local pharmacy in Kuils River (Essential Health), who does the dispensing on behalf of MCS.  “We prescribe medication if necessary, but do not dispense,” Whate said.

Individuals or organisations who are interested in becoming involved can contact Ms Avril Whate on 021 938 9310 or acw@sun.ac.za.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Avril Whate

 

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A major boost for HIV testing

Vuviseka Pefile and Nosipho Dlangalavu, both counsellors from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University, in the tent where they have been testing and counselling people about HIV

A campaign to encourage more people to test for HIV led to hundreds of commuters and taxi drivers flocking to a mobile clinic, which consisted of eight tents, and was set up on the deck of Cape Town’s central train station.

Teams of counsellors and nurses offered HIV counselling and testing, screening for TB and diabetes as well as blood pressure checks and advised on family planning. They distributed condoms and asked about possible symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) during the three-week stint on the busy station deck.

“The tents were never empty. There were always people getting tested. It was very exciting. We were helping by giving people the power to keep themselves healthy, and if HIV positive, to get medical attention,” said Leandie September, Target 5000 Coordinator for the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.

Powered by passion and a dream

Ms Caroline Pule with the poster she presented at the 2015 TB Congress in London

Ms Caroline Pule, PhD Student in Molecular Biology, is a talented young women who is not only a succesful student, she is also actively giving back to the community and caring for the environment.

Pule won best poster presentation as well as the feedback prize at the 2015 TB Summit for her poster presentation entitled “The role of efflux pump inhibitors on first and second line anti-TB drugs in rifampicin mono resistant clinical isotates of mycobacteirum tuberculosis”. She attended the summit, organised by Euroscicon in London in March this year, on a Whitehead Scientific travelling award.  These bursaries are offered to researchers in life sciences to attend scientific conferences, meetings or laboratories.

 

A major boost for HIV testing in Cape Town

Vuviseka Pefile and Nosipho Dlangalavu, both counsellors from the Desmond Tutu TB Centre at Stellenbosch University, in the tent where they have been testing and counselling people about HIV

A campaign to encourage more people to test for HIV led to hundreds of commuters and taxi drivers flocking to a mobile clinic, which consisted of eight tents, and was set up on the deck of Cape Town’s central train station.

Teams of counsellors and nurses offered HIV counselling and testing, screening for TB and diabetes as well as blood pressure checks and advised on family planning. They distributed condoms and asked about possible symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) during the three-week stint on the busy station deck.

“The tents were never empty. There were always people getting tested. It was very exciting. We were helping by giving people the power to keep themselves healthy, and if HIV positive, to get medical attention,” said Leandie September, Target 5000 Coordinator for the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University.

The tents were set up as part of the Target 5000 Campaign, funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US-based Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The target was to get an extra 5,000 people in Cape Town tested for HIV within three months.

The DTTC took up the challenge. With the help of the City of Cape Town Health Directorate, they were able to set up a mobile operation, brought in a caravan, eight tents and teams of counsellors, nurses, data clerks as well as mobilisers who spread the word about the service.

During the day, two people with loudhailers walked up and down the crowded station deck, taxi rank and shops, encouraging people to test, while others handed out pamphlets and directed people to the tents. 

Petronella Njiva, who runs a small hairdressing salon on the station deck, said it was a very convenient service.  

“I work seven days a week, so this is good for me. I can go and test for free right here and then get back to work. It only takes fifteen minutes to get my results from the HIV test.”

The response exceeded the expectations of the DTTC. 

“It was fantastic. People were getting tested who wouldn’t typically go to a clinic for an HIV test. Over half of the people who came to get tested were men. Many young people and people who are not aware of any signs or symptoms of disease were popping in. We provided early case detection and linkage to HIV care,” said Sue-Ann Meehan, who heads up the Community HIV Prevention Programme (COMAPP) for the DTTC.

Taxi driver, Sindiso Busakwa, liked the convenience as well, and said many drivers did not have time to queue at a clinic to get tested for HIV.

“This is so much easier than going to the clinic, because the service is coming to us. We don't always have a good reputation as taxi drivers. We want to change that. We want to set a good example by testing for HIV and encouraging others to do the same.”

Despite a drop in new HIV infections in South Africa, many people are still falling through the cracks, and haven’t been tested or been treated for HIV.

“We need to halt the HIV epidemic in South Africa by increasing access to HIV testing, finding people who are HIV infected and linking them to care at public health clinics so that they can get treated,” said Meehan.

Findings indicated that about six percent of people who accessed the mobile clinics at the Cape Town station were HIV positive. This is compared to about four percent in the communities where COMAPP usually works.

In addition to Target 5000, COMAPP sets up its caravans and tents on a smaller scale every day in five communities throughout Cape Town, taking its services to shopping centres, taxi ranks and other busy areas. 

The Target 5000 campaign moved to the busy Bellville and Du Noon taxi ranks, as well as the Wallacedene community near Kraaifontein in late July and August.

The campaign is also working towards the 90-90-90 targets set by UNAIDS.

UNAIDS has set targets that 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status by 2020, with 90% of people with diagnosed HIV infections receiving sustained antiretroviral therapy. It’s third goal is for 90% of people who receive antiretroviral treatment to have viral suppression.

Article and photo: Kim Cloete

 

Powered by passion and a dream

Ms Caroline Pule with the poster she presented at the 2015 TB Congress in London

Ms Caroline Pule, PhD Student in Molecular Biology, is a talented young women who is not only a succesful student, she is also actively giving back to the community and caring for the environment.

Pule won best poster presentation as well as the feedback prize at the 2015 TB Summit for her poster presentation entitled “The role of efflux pump inhibitors on first and second line anti-TB drugs in rifampicin mono resistant clinical isotates of mycobacteirum tuberculosis”. She attended the summit, organised by Euroscicon in London in March this year, on a Whitehead Scientific travelling award.  These bursaries are offered to researchers in life sciences to attend scientific conferences, meetings or laboratories.  

Pule describes herself as a young giver who is passionate about philantrophy. She dreams of having a purposeful live givingback to her country. She realised early in her life that education is the key to success. “This made me realise that I can contribute to the community through improving literacy and science education, hence I founded the Caroline Pule Science and Literacy Foundation, to help those who didn’t get the same opportunities as me,” she says. Through her foundation, Pule aims to establish science clubs in disadvantaged communities and distribute scientific literature to these communities.

Pule occupies leadership positions in multiple organisations which focus on amongst others , tuberculosis eradication, women in science, leadership and community development.

She is a committee member of the Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering (SAWISE), the Western Cape Branch of the South African Associates Women Graduates (SAAWG), and has currently been appointed as an Ambassador of the South African National Tuberculosis Association (SANTA).

As SANTA Ambassador, Pule has rendered multiple oral presentations at various meetings highlihting the importance of working together as TB research funders, scientists, phamaceuticals, clinicians, health care workers and volunteer community health workers to fight and eradicate TB in order to build a healthy nation.

Pule is also an environmentalist and was a semi-finalist in the Miss Earth SA competition.  This programme aims to empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to enhance sustainability in the country.

Article: Mandi Barnard

Photo: Provided

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Students host surgical symposium at Tygerberg Campus

Students attending a workshop on placing intramedullary nails

The Stellenbosch University Surgical Society (SUSS) had the privilege of hosting the third annual Southern African Student Surgical Societies (SASSS) Symposium recently. The four day symposium took place on Tygerberg Campus, and 80 students from a variety of universities, including the universities of the Free State, Wits, Pretoria, Cape Town and Namibia, were hosted for a weekend of both learning and fun.

SASSS is a regional body which incorporates all the student surgical societies in South Africa, Namibia, and hopefully in the near future Botswana. Each year, a different society offers to host this prestigious event. Towards the close of 2014 SUSS was awarded the honour of hosting the 2015 symposium. After months of meticulous planning led by Veruschka Rademan, the 2015 SASSS Symposium took place from 6 to 9 August.

The Stellenbosch experience of a Fulbright scholar

Mr Dan Marsden

Mr Dan Marsden spent the past eight months studying foetal alcohol spectrum disorders at Stellenbosch University on a Fulbright Student exchange programme from the United States. He shared his experience with vivus.

“Performing research using human subjects is a daunting task in any country. After asking a novel question, proposing a set of feasible, cost-effective experiments to answer that question, securing funding from somebody who believes in the usefulness of the research, gaining ethics approval, buying necessary equipment, and training qualified people who can bring the project to fruition, subjects who meet inclusion criteria must be found. In our research, I mean that literally - recruiting participants is not enough, finding them is an entirely new problem.

 

Students host surgical symposium at Tygerberg Campus

Students from a variety of universities attended the symposium to gain knowledge and insight of the road to becoming a surgeon

The Stellenbosch University Surgical Society (SUSS) had the privilege of hosting the third annual Southern African Student Surgical Societies (SASSS) Symposium recently. The four day symposium took place on Tygerberg Campus, and 80 students from a variety of universities, including the universities of the Free State, Wits, Pretoria, Cape Town and Namibia, were hosted for a weekend of both learning and fun.

SASSS is a regional body which incorporates all the student surgical societies in South Africa, Namibia, and hopefully in the near future Botswana. Each year, a different society offers to host this prestigious event. Towards the close of 2014 SUSS was awarded the honour of hosting the 2015 symposium. After months of meticulous planning led by Veruschka Rademan, the 2015 SASSS Symposium took place from 6 to 9 August.

Themed “The Road to Becoming a Surgeon”, the event was a roaring success. The majority of talks and workshops were centred on giving students the insight into what it takes to become a surgeon. The symposium got off to a promising start on Thursday evening, during which we showcased some of the amazing talent on our campus, with performances by both Hippokrates and Huis Francie Damessêrre, the Tygerberg Gospel Choir, the SU Medical Orchestra, and the gumboot-dancing masters Anonymous & Anonymous.

Prof Marietjie de Villiers officially welcomed students on behalf of the faculty on Friday morning. This was followed by Drs Sid Gautam and Sheridan Santhia, registrars at Tygerberg Hospital, presenting talks on the South African Society for Surgeons in Training (SASSiT) and the experience of being a registrar, respectively. Mr Wolfgang Riebe, whose presentation was sponsored by Sanlam, then spoke about financial planning for the future health professional, after which an afternoon of workshops followed.

Five different workshops were presented during the symposium:
•    A SURESHOT workshop presented by Smith & Nephew on placing intramedullary nails
•    A trauma workshop presented by Dr Laubscher and Dr Steyn on intercostal drains, tracheostomies, etc.
•    A microsurgery workshop, which took place in our faculty’s state-of-the-art microsurgery lab and was presented by Mr Gert Engelbrecht
•    The use of 3D-printing in medicine by Dr George Vicatos
•    A guide to research, presented by Koot Kotze and Sinead Quirke from Q, the Faculty’s student research society

Saturday saw another range of excellent lectures:
•    Dr Johan Davis and Dr Jacques du Toit on spinal surgery and deformity correction
•    Dr Wayne Kleintjes on a new skin culture technique for burn management
•    Prof André van der Merwe and Prof Frank Graewe on the penis transplant and
•    Prof Razeen Davids, whose lecture was sponsored by the student’s Organ Transplant Society, on kidney transplants in South Africa

On the final day, we hosted a student debate on the ethical factors concerning cultural circumcision. This was followed by a lecture during which Dr Johan Dempers gave information about litigation in surgery, after which we had a fascinating lecture from Prof Samad Shaik on intra-uterine surgery. It being National Woman’s Day, we were treated to a lecture by Dr Marion Arnold, entitled “Women in Surgery”, which addressed the challenges of being a female surgeon. We concluded the symposium with a closing ceremony, during which Prof Jimmy Volmink shared some insights – and jokes – with the delegates.

Apart from the academic programme, delegates were also treated to the joys of living in the Western Cape, with a dinner event at Eaglevlei Wine Estate, an afternoon of pizza, punch and rugby, and a night out in Stellenbosch. It is safe to say that the delegates left with a fond memory of our faculty and the beautiful province we live in.

This symposium would not have been possible without the incredible work of Veruschka and her team, and the commitment and support from the doctors and management staff of our faculty. This event has definitely been the SUSS’s proudest achievement, and we hope to only build on this success and establish the society as one of the leading student surgical societies in Southern Africa.

Article: Ludo van Hillegondsberg
Photos: Jeremi Swanepoel

 

The Stellenbosch experience of a Fulbright scholar

Mr Dan Marsden

Mr Dan Marsden spent the past eight months studying foetal alcohol spectrum disorders at Stellenbosch University on a Fulbright Student exchange programme from the United States. He shared his experience with vivus.

“Performing research using human subjects is a daunting task in any country. After asking a novel question, proposing a set of feasible, cost-effective experiments to answer that question, securing funding from somebody who believes in the usefulness of the research, gaining ethics approval, buying necessary equipment, and training qualified people who can bring the project to fruition, subjects who meet inclusion criteria must be found. In our research, I mean that literally - recruiting participants is not enough, finding them is an entirely new problem.

I am on exchange from the U.S. to assist existing epidemiological research on foetal alcohol spectrum disorders in the Western Cape, parts of which have the highest recorded rate in the world. In the U.S., recruiting participants for a study taking place in a major metropolis is often as simple as posting an advertisement with tearable phone numbers on light posts and waiting for the calls to come in. In research that needs patients with a certain condition, there is no dearth of qualified patients at hospitals and clinics. Once recruited, participants are expected to make their own way to the session - they walk, cycle, drive, call a cab, bus, or ambulance. Sometimes they receive a voucher for the trouble, and then find their own way home.

We recruit women in the winelands outside Cape Town, and the process could not be more different. Once patients are discovered at antenatal clinics, it then becomes our duty to find them. Some live in town, others live in the township, and still others live in farm housing. Armed with an address or farm name, and a map that may very well be outdated, we take to the streets to find our participants and bring them to the office for study.

Although necessary to ensure participants come for the study, going to such lengths to fetch our clients diverts resources, both time and finances, from other areas of the research. It also feeds into the stigma associated with having a Stellenbosch car take participants away from their home. Our FASD research is well-known in the community, and some studies require subjects to return to the office every week. The fear of being stigmatised for drinking during pregnancy (whether they do or not) and of their children being labelled as having FAS (whether they have it or not) leads some to terminate their relationship with us. However, fetching patients at home gives the researchers a keen understanding of the conditions surrounding life on a farm. There is a culture of drinking that permeates these settlements, and to abstain is to willingly ostracise yourself from the community. The poverty and isolation, the trash littering the ground and the smell of burning marijuana and tik, the prevalence of stray dogs and small children crawling in the dirt without supervision or toys to play with, the men stumbling in the street in a 10:00 am stupor. It would be easy to scold expectant mothers for being irresponsible, but alcohol grants a reprieve, a small escape from abusive partners, from difficult work with poor wages, from the general difficult nature of life on a farm. I would drink too.

Although brief, I feel fortunate to have been granted the opportunity to come to South Africa to research this entirely preventable societal scourge. It has been eye-opening and career-affirming to learn about the historical and cultural contexts surrounding the tragically high rate of FASD in the Cape Winelands, and to see first-hand the conditions that continue to breed it.”

Daniel Marsden, Fulbright U.S. Student
 
Photo: Mandi Barnard

 

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“Be agents of change,” Rector asks Tygerberg students

Prof Wim de Villiers addresses fourth-year medical students on “being an agent of change”

“Once a TygerMatie, always a TygerMatie” – and one person who can attest to this saying amongst students on the Tygerberg Campus is Prof Wim de Villiers, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU).  

De Villiers recently took time from his busy schedule to address the students of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on two occasions.

De Villiers, an FMHS alumnus and internationally acclaimed gastroenterologist, used examples from his own life's journey to share practical solutions to the challenges facing health sciences students during their studies and later careers.

Student joins international network on sustainability

Carmen Kennedy plants a tree in the Banksia Woodlands to offset the carbon emissions from her travels.

Ms Carmen Kennedy joined fellow student environmentalists from all corners of the world to share and gain knowledge on sustainability at the eight summit of the World Students Environment Network (WSEN) held in Australia in July.

The WSEN is an organisation which connects and supports students globally to enable them to create the positive change needed for sustainability. Their core mission is to be a reference hub and worldwide supporter of creative student initiatives for the incorporation of sustainability into higher education systems.

 

“Be agents of change,” Rector asks Tygerberg students

Prof Wim de Villiers addresses fourth-year medical students on “being an agent of change”

“Once a TygerMatie, always a TygerMatie” – and one person who can attest to this saying amongst students on the Tygerberg Campus is Prof Wim de Villiers, the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU).  

De Villiers recently took time from his busy schedule to address the students of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) on two occasions.

De Villiers, an FMHS alumnus and internationally acclaimed gastroenterologist, used examples from his own life's journey to share practical solutions to the challenges facing health sciences students during their studies and later careers.

On Monday, 3 August, he delivered the opening address to fourth-year medical students at the start of their module “Doctor as Change Agent in Communities”.  

In this module students are equipped with competencies to facilitate change in their professional and personal contexts. “This includes skills like quality improvement, health advocacy, health promotion, communication, worldviews, collaborative leadership, teamwork, conflict management, self-care and financial planning,” said Dr Stefanus Snyman of the Centre for Health Professions Education, who oversees this module.

De Villiers challenged these future Stellenbosch doctors to be change agents where they are, be that in class, the ward, the laboratory, communities, at home or in their personal lives.

He urged them to continuously do self-examination and self-renewal. “One needs to constantly upskill oneself and remain a student for life,” he said.

Addressing students at the annual Tygerberg Student Parliament on 12 August, De Villiers also touched on SU’s role as a higher education institution in South Africa, having to maintain local relevancy while being globally competitive at the same time.

De Villiers explained that universities should be future focussed to remain relevant and that SU is committed to transformation through education and research.

“We are striving towards creating an inclusive and equal society whilst at the same time remaining relevant in research and academic excellence,” he said.  

“The interest of the student is the only interest and language should not be a barrier, but a tool of empowerment. Stellenbosch University is a multilingual South African university and we are here to equip all students for their future through knowledge sharing,” De Villiers noted.

Valene van Eck, a fourth-year medical student commented that they appreciate that the Rector is willing to talk to them. “He has achieved so much, yet is so humble and down to earth. He is genuine; a real change agent,” she said.

Article and photo: Mandi Barnard

 

Student joins international network on sustainability

Carmen Kennedy plants a tree in the Banksia Woodlands to offset the carbon emissions from her travels.

Ms Carmen Kennedy joined fellow student environmentalists from all corners of the world to share and gain knowledge on sustainability at the eight summit of the World Students Environment Network (WSEN) held in Australia in July.

The WSEN is an organisation which connects and supports students globally to enable them to create the positive change needed for sustainability. Their core mission is to be a reference hub and worldwide supporter of creative student initiatives for the incorporation of sustainability into higher education systems.

“These international opportunities provide incomparable motivation to initiate change and progress within our local environment,” Kennedy said. “The global perspective I gained from this opportunity is incredible.”

She looks forward to implementing further sustainable change on the Tygerberg Campus with her new knowledge and a fresh approach to the student community.

Kennedy arrived at Murdoch University in Perth in mid-July and spent a week amongst 50 international delegates from about 20 countries. “These delegates quickly became my mates,” Kennedy said.

Students attended a number of lectures and workshops. “My favourite and most valuable lecture was 'Sustainable Fremantle' by Brad Pettitt from the City of Fremantle Mayor,” she noted.  Workshops were presented with a student-friendly, ‘simple living’ approach.

To offset their carbon emissions from their travels, delegates planted trees in the restored Banksia Woodland that exists on the Murdoch Campus.

Kennedy, who represented Stellenbosch University (SU), was one of only two South African delegates at the summit, the other being a student at the University of Cape Town.

At the time of the summit, Kennedy was a member of the Tygerberg Student Council (TSC) with the portfolio of Sustainability and Community Interaction and a member of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences’ Green Committee. During the recent elections for the TSC 2015/16 she was elected as the Vice Chair for the Tygerberg student body.

Her trip was co-funded by the FMHS Green Committee and the Stellenbosch University Co-curricular Support Fund USKOF.  “I have never been a more proud representative of Stellenbosch University and am greatly appreciative to USKOF and the Tygerberg Green Committee for making this trip possible,” Kennedy said.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Supplied

 

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Book offers multi-disciplinary perspectives on gender violence


Prof Soraya Seedat, the Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, collaborated with five internationally acclaimed experts on the issue of gender violence to publish a new text book.  Together, these professionals from across the world in the fields of clinical service and research co-authored the book entitled “Violence Against Women – Contemporary Examination of Intimate Partner Violence”.

Third revised edition of manual in Family Practice released


The publication of the new edition of the South African Family Practice Manual has been anticipated with great interest. This edition focuses on practical skills that family physicians should obtain during their training and that are required in primary care as well as at the district or rural hospital. “The manual should also be relevant to all those training or working as medical generalists in our context – medical officers, general practitioners, interns, medical students and associate clinicians,” says Prof Bob Mash, co-editor.

 

New text book offers multi-disciplinary perspectives on gender violence


Prof Soraya Seedat, the Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, collaborated with five internationally acclaimed experts on the issue of gender violence to publish a new text book.  Together, these professionals from across the world in the fields of clinical service and research co-authored the book entitled “Violence Against Women – Contemporary Examination of Intimate Partner Violence”.  

Seedat explained that “we have a moral obligation to break the pervasive cycle of violence against women”. “However, breaking this cycle demands that we (as health care professionals) join forces with educators, law enforcement, policy makers, media, victims, perpetrators, families and communities.”  She said the book offers a diversity of perspectives and is intended as a tool to better understand and tackle this scourge.

The publishers, STM Learning Inc, describe the book as a broad perspective on a wide range of relationships that may be affected by intimate partner violence. It takes a culturally sensitive, international approach to issues underpinning amongst others family violence, dating violence and the injuries children suffer when their caregivers perpetrate violence.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Supplied
 

 

Third revised edition of manual in Family Practice released


The publication of the new edition of the South African Family Practice Manual has been anticipated with great interest. This edition focuses on practical skills that family physicians should obtain during their training and that are required in primary care as well as at the district or rural hospital. “The manual should also be relevant to all those training or working as medical generalists in our context – medical officers, general practitioners, interns, medical students and associate clinicians,” says Prof Bob Mash, co-editor.

The manual covers the full spectrum of family practice from the newborn to the elderly, and includes skills in routine as well as emergency care. It extensively covers aspects of clinical examination and common procedures, as well as key skills in the areas of communication, clinical training and teaching, leadership and governance, management and administration, research, and community orientated primary care. Mash says that in this third edition an entirely new section on anaesthetic skills for the district hospital has been added and there are new chapters on skills such as phototherapy, the assessment of a drunk driver and facilitating meetings to review morbidity and mortality.

This text is a collaborative enterprise involving family physicians and educators. It draws on the wealth of practical experience to be found within the South African Academy of Family Physicians and the eight departments of Family Medicine in South Africa.
***
"It is an excellent manual on procedural and clinical skills for both family medicine trainers and trainees. It empowers the trainees with appropriate procedural and clinical skills during their training and adequately prepares them for the objective structured clinical exam (OSCE). A number of family medicine training programmes in Africa recommend the manual as an important resource material and I hope this extends to the whole continent." - Prof. Gboyega A Ogunbanjo, President: South African Academy of Family Physicians, President: College of Family Physicians of South Africa

"This manual, already well acclaimed and very widely used, is an important ‘keep by your side’ guide to the competencies you need to learn in training and keep up to date in many practice settings. And for tutors and trainers, it is an invaluable roadmap to your supervision and assessment of your learners and students." - Amanda Howe MD MEd FRCGP FAcadMED, President-Elect of WONCA (World Organisation of Family Doctors), Professor of Primary Care, Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photo: Supplied

 

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Kleinsêr 2015: Hippokrates Ladies back with a bang

Hippokrates Ladies' portrayal of president Zuma and his 19 wifes had the crowd on their feet

The judges at Stellenbosch University's Kleinsêr final deliberated for more than an hour before announcing the winners of this year's competition.

In the end, their decision echoed campus opinion. Campus favourites Hippokrates Ladies and Pieke Manssêr (PMS) were named the 2015 Kleinsêr champions and will represent SU at the national competition which will be hosted by Stellenbosch.

The local final was held at the His People Centre at N1 City on Saturday 22 August.​

Click here to read the article on the SU newsblog.

Photo: Edó Photography - www.edophotography.co.za

Ophthalmologists stake their claim as leaders in their field

Prof David Meyer

Staff members of the Division of Ophthalmology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences once again did the Faculty proud with excellent presentations delivered at recent congresses and conferences. 

Prof David Meyer, the Head of the Division, received the winning prize for the overall best presentation for his paper, entitled “Intralesional Bleomycin as a Treatment Modality for Eyelid Basal Cell Carcinomas” which he delivered at the British Oculoplastic Surgery Society Congress in Belfast, Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

Ophthalmologists stake their claim as leaders in their field

Prof David Meyer Dr Julia Janse van Rensburg Dr Sandika Baboolal

Staff members of the Division of Ophthalmology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences once again did the Faculty proud with excellent presentations delivered at recent congresses and conferences. 

Prof David Meyer, the Head of the Division, received the winning prize for the overall best presentation for his paper, entitled “Intralesional Bleomycin as a Treatment Modality for Eyelid Basal Cell Carcinomas” which he delivered at the British Oculoplastic Surgery Society Congress in Belfast, Ireland.

“I am proud that I could present results of our work, which in our opinion represents the first study where intralesional treatment of basal cell carcinomas around the eyes and eyelids was successfully done with a known registered chemotherapeutic drug called bleomycin,” Meyer said. “Our first publication on this topic has also been accepted for publication in a peer reviewed publication.”

Dr Julia Janse van Rensburg, a registrar in the Division, won the registrar presentation award at the SA Glaucoma Society congress held earlier this year in KwaZulu-Natal, with a case report entitled, “Uveitis Glaucoma Hyphaema Syndrome, a complex post-operative complication”.  The prize enables her to attend a registrar glaucoma workshop in Geneva in 2016.

Dr Sandika Baboolal, also a registrar in Ophthalmology, won the second prize at the same congress with her presentation, entitled “A Tale of Two Colours: Unilateral Heterochromia Glaucoma in a Teenage Female”.  Earlier this year, Baboolal won the poster presentation session prize at the Ophthalmology Society of South Africa’s national congress in Durban.

Article: Mandi Barnard
Photos: Provided