The Centre for Medical Ethics and Law (CMEL) at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences recently received a R16 million fund commitment from the Fogarty International Centre (FIC) in the USA. The FIC is the only arm of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with the sole mission to support global health.
The CMEL has been successful in securing three research grants from the NIH in the past, however, this is the first D43 grant, aimed specifically at capacity development, to be awarded in the Faculty.
CMEL Director, Prof Keymanthri Moodley, explains that these grants are highly coveted and require a challenging and rigorous application process. “For the first time in 2016, a D43 grant was announced to develop a leadership programme in bioethics, which included a doctoral programme. While the FIC has funded many masters level training grants in bioethics on the African continent, this was the first time a D43 was announced to fund PhD students."
SU and John Hopkins University in the USA were the only two institutions to be awarded this grant in the first round of funding. “We were particularly lucky, since President Donald Trump had just announced his plans to close the Fogarty Centre."
Moodley says CMEL applied for the grant as part of its ongoing commitment to develop leaders in bioethics on the African continent. “We have offered a postgraduate Diploma in Health Research Ethics over the past 5 years. After graduating 40 mid-career professionals from 10 African countries between 2011 and 2015, we needed to offer these and other potential postgraduate students an opportunity to extend their studies to a doctoral level."
The grant is a perfect fit. “It's been awarded to develop and present a leadership programme in bioethics in Southern Africa from 2017 to 2021, renewable on an annual basis." The funding, which amounts to R16 million over 5 years, will provide partial scholarships to 3 postgraduate students initially, and hopefully a further 2 in the next 5 years.
“The benefit to the discipline is enormous, given the dire need for bioethics scholarship in Africa."
Moodley says their biggest challenge will be to ensure the funding cycle runs its full course. “We also hope Trump will realise the significant contribution made by the FIC to capacity development in Africa."
According to Moodley the D43 grant has injected enthusiasm and vigour into a critically important discipline in healthcare. “I'm grateful to my collaborator, Prof Stuart Rennie at the University of North Carolina, for the partnership we've built over the past 7 years. We also appreciate the support of the NIH, our administrative staff, the CMEL management committee chaired by Prof Rafique Moosa, and the grants management office."
Caption: Prof Keymanthri Moodley