Stellenbosch University's (SU) Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) once again affirmed its spot as one of the top health science institutions on the African content when no less than three of its scientists were recently recognise at the South African Medical Research Council's (SAMRC) Scientific Merit Awards.
These awards, which recognises excellence in health research, were bestowed on Prof Elmi Muller, FMHS Dean, Prof Samantha Sampson, professor in the Division of Molecular Biology and Human Genetics, and Dr Wynand Goosen, a fellow with the FMHS's Animal TB Research Group.
“The awards, which are among the most prestigious in the country, are conferred upon individual researchers who have published work that has made ground-breaking contributions, providing impactful world-class science and health research that is aimed at advancing the lives of South Africans," the SAMRC said in a statement.
Muller received a Gold Medal, which is one of the top honours awarded to senior scientists who have made seminal scientific contributions that have impacted on the health of people, especially those living in the developing world.
Muller, who currently serves as Dean of the FMHS, is a transplant surgeon whose focal research areas are in HIV, transplantation, access to health care and surgery. In 2008 she started the first programme for HIV-positive patients receiving organs from HIV-positive donors in the world. This work impacted on access to health care for many patients who were marginalized before, and she also played a key role in shaping international policy documents on issues around organ trafficking and organ commercialisation.
Sampson received a Silver Medal, which is conferred on emerging scientists committed to capacity development, and who have made important scientific contributions within 10 years of having been awarded their PhD. Sampson is a core member of the SAMRC Centre for Tuberculosis Research and holds the DSI/NRF SARChI chair in Mycobactomics. Her research on TB focuses on host-pathogen interactions with the aim of understanding how the pathogen Mycobacterium TB interacts with its host to cause disease.
In addition to her TB research, she is passionate about capacity development. She has supervised over 40 postgraduate students and is an active mentor on several formal and informal mentoring schemes aimed at advancing the development of early-career researchers.
Goosen was awarded a Bronze Medal, which is awarded to scientists who have recently entered into research, and show potential for leadership, capacity development, grant writing and transformation. Goosen is an International Wellcome Trust Researcher with SU, Aberdeen University (Scotland) and Western University (Canada), he is the Vice Chair of the Wildlife Disease Association for Africa and Middle East, and National Geographic Explorer. Through his research, Goosen aims to understand and improve the surveillance of zoonotic TB in livestock, wildlife, people, and their environments, with a strong global health focus.
The SAMRC Board Chairperson, Prof Johnny Mahlangu expressed pride and admiration for the winners. “On behalf of the Board, we are truly honoured to have such talented and dedicated individuals among us, who have not only demonstrated exceptional knowledge and skills in their field but have also shown unwavering commitment to advancing scientific research and innovation. Their contributions to the scientific community are invaluable. Their accomplishments not only reflect their own brilliance and ingenuity but also serve as a testament to the values and contributions of the SAMRS as a whole," said Mahlangu.
SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray said medical research remains fundamental for reducing the nation's burden of disease and preventing mortality. “One of our values as the SAMRC is the value of excellence. We believe in excellence and encourage everyone who works with us to pursue excellence in whatever they do. Excellence should be acknowledged and celebrated. These awards give us an opportunity to pay respect to some of the exceptional medical researchers that we have in this country. Congratulations to all the winners and may they continue to excel," said Gray.
Caption: Prof Elmi Muller and Dr Wynand Goosen.