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Summit to counter quackery, pseudoscience and fake news in healthcare to counter quackery, pseudoscience and fake news in healthcareFMHS Marketing & Communications / FGGW Bemarking & Kommunikasie<p>​The dangers of pseudoscience and quackery in healthcare will come under scrutiny later this year at a ground-breaking international summit in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Numerous high-profile health and science communication experts will gather at the International Summit on Quackery and Pseudoscience to explore how science communication efforts by the media, scientists, health regulators and governments can counter the impact of pseudoscience and advance the use of evidence-based healthcare practices.</p><p>The summit will be held from 20-21 November at Stellenbosch University (SU). It will be jointly hosted by the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC) of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), and the Centre for Science and Technology Mass Communication (CENSCOM) of the postgraduate Department of Journalism at SU.</p><p>“Snake oil salesmen, charlatans and con-artists have long been known to prey on vulnerable people with health problems. People desperate for a cure for or relief from a dreaded disease, a weight problem or the effects of ageing are easy targets, often willing to fork out large sums of money for any remedy offering some hope. The sad reality is that these treatments frequently turn out to be useless or even harmful," says Prof Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the FMHS.</p><p>“The summit is an effort to push back against these exploitative practices, the pernicious impact of which is being amplified through the internet and social media. It will not only highlight the threat of pseudoscience to the wellbeing of society, but will also offer effective tools to help people assess healthcare claims and make sound choices," he adds.</p><p>According to CEBHC director Prof Taryn Young, this summit “will bring researchers and journalists together to emphasise their joint responsibility for ethical and evidence-informed health reporting to better serve the interests of the public".</p><p>“The media play a crucial role in communicating health research and other messages to the public. They can influence people's perceptions about the safety and efficacy of health practices, and when the media relay pseudoscientific and unreliable messages, it can be harmful to people's health," Young emphasises.</p><p>“Our vulnerability to step in the trap prepared by reckless and unscrupulous marketers of quasi-scientific health products knows no bounds," says CENSCOM director Prof George Claassen. “This is enhanced by celebrities who spread disinformation about fake science, which often has a devastating influence on the wellbeing of the public." He points out that newspapers, the internet, social media and broadcast channels bristle with dubious statements by so-called quacks who make money because their victims are often ignorant or simply too naïve to distinguish truth from lies.</p><p>“We hope that the summit will lead to a much-needed change, enlightening the public and all the role players in the science communication process about the dangers of quackery. To quote the eminent South African born UK developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert: 'Science provides the most reliable method by far to determine whether one's beliefs are valid.' The summit aims to re-emphasise the value of sound science communication and evidence-based healthcare," says Claassen.</p><p>In 1995, he developed and established the first science communication course in Africa at SU's Department of Journalism. Claassen is a former science editor of the Cape Town daily newspaper, <em>Die Burger</em>. He elaborates about the reasons for organising the summit: “Ignorant, uninformed or merely poorly informed people often make decisions that are harmful to their health, their interpersonal relationships, their financial affairs and how they should spend their money, and what the future holds in store for them. Unfortunately, this often takes place through dubious information and pseudo-knowledge, obtained from quacks, tricksters and swindlers who too regularly have a free pass in the media to propound their unscientific claims as if it were the truth. It is as if a 'post-truth' has fully dawned in the field of healthcare, with anyone's claims to truth being accepted. The most recent iniquitous examples are the anti-vaccination campaign, and faith healers telling HIV-positive people to throw away their medicine."</p><p>According to Claassen, the summit hopes to create an awareness among the public how to recognise fake news that is not based on any trace of evidence and is spread by charlatans and scam artists to sell their “health" products. “And who, when confronted and their practices exposed, often turn to the courts to silence scientists and science journalists acting in the interest of the public," he emphasises, referring to various cases, also in South Africa, where evidence-based health practitioners and journalists were and are still being threatened with legal action if they don't keep quiet. The most famous of these cases is probably that of the British Chiropractic Association against the scientist and award-winning author Simon Singh in 2009. Singh won the case after thousands of scientists signed a petition to support him and the case led to an amendment of British defamation laws. Singh will take part in the summit in a Q&A session with the theme “Sense about science: Why evidence matters". </p><p>The CEBHC's mission is to advance evidence-informed healthcare in Africa and globally. “A key pillar of our centre's work is supporting the use of current best evidence in healthcare policy and practice, and the media are key intermediaries in bridging the gap between research and the public. If well-informed journalists work together with researchers, they can elevate good practice in health reporting that is informed by a solid understanding of best evidence and its value in ethical health journalism," says Young.</p><p>The summit will host scientists from the fields of communication, medicine, healthcare and the law, as well as other areas over which quackery and pseudoscience has cast its shadow of ignorance and misleading claims. Besides Singh, award-winning author of <em>Fermat's Last Theorem </em>and <em>Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial </em>(with co-author Edzard Ernst), some of the other speakers will include the project director of the UK's Good Thinking Foundation, Michael Marshall; Jacques Rousseau, co-author of <em>Critical Thinking and Pseudoscience – Why We Can't Trust Our Brains</em>; Tom Zeller, award-winning journalist, formerly of <em>The New York Times</em> and now executive editor of the digital science magazine <em>Undark </em>at the Knight Science Journalism programme of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Nathan Geffen, editor of GroundUp and author of <em>Debunking Illusions</em>; Dr Harris Steinman, publisher and editor of CAMcheck and nemesis of many a quack in South Africa; Prof Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, vertebrate paleontologist and science communication award-winning author from the University of Cape Town; Prof Keymanthri Moodley, Director: Centre for Medical Ethics and Law at SU and editor of <em>Medical Ethics, Law and Human Rights</em>; multiple award-winning science journalists and authors Mia Malan, Elsabé Brits, Daryl Ilbury and Marina Joubert; Janusz Luterek, legal expert on food science and technology; and Prof Roy Jobson, pharmacologist and health regulatory expert.</p><p>The summit's sessions will focus on the following themes:</p><ul style="list-style-type:disc;"><li>The rise and dangers of pseudoscience and science denialism: Communicating uncertainty in science</li><li>Health regulation, science in court and other protection mechanisms: Are consumers left in the cold? </li><li>The media and pseudoscience: Reflecting science through a 'dirty mirror'?</li><li>Sense about science: Why evidence matters</li><li>Is quackery harmless? Exploiting the desperately ill, the vulnerable and the ignorant</li><li>Communicating accurate science: Why scientists should leave the laboratory and engage the public</li></ul><p style="text-align:justify;"> </p><p style="text-align:left;">Information about the summit can be obtained from Claassen at <a href=""><span style="text-decoration:underline;"></span></a> or <a href=""><span style="text-decoration:underline;"></span></a>, +27218513232 or +27835432471.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">● To register for the summit, please click <a href=""><span style="text-decoration:underline;">here</span></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;">● The preliminary programme can be found <a href=""><span style="text-decoration:underline;">here</span></a></p>
#WomenofSU: A champion for evidence-based healthcare A champion for evidence-based healthcareJorisna Bonthuys<p>​Medical students who are trained in evidence-based healthcare (EBHC), are better equipped to provide quality care to patients.</p><p>“Evidence-based healthcare involves integrating clinical expertise acquired through clinical practice and experience with patient values and current best evidence within the broader healthcare context," explains Prof Taryn Young. She is the Head of the Centre for Evidence-based Healthcare at the University of Stellenbosch's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.</p><p>She describes EBHC as “an approach that develops a health practitioner's ability to assess the quality of research evidence before applying it to day-to-day clinical problems". This competency is especially relevant given the resource constraints across the continent.</p><p><strong>The best answers</strong></p><p>Young, who holds a PhD on this subject, believes this approach adds “tremendous value" to the development of health professionals. She explains: “EBHC is about ensuring that whatever kind of treatment or care is offered, will be based on best research evidence. This is the case whether a choice has to be made about which medication to prescribe or whether decisions have to be taken about preventative strategies at a population level.</p><p>“This approach equips students with the relevant tools to be able to find the best answers. Essentially, EBHC involves assessing new research and then integrating it into practice.</p><p>“EBHC starts from a position where health practitioners acknowledge that they don't know everything. The fact that you graduate does not mean that you always know what best practice is, especially not at the rate that science is currently advancing."</p><p>Young has investigated how this approach to teaching and learning can best be integrated in undergraduate medical training in the Faculty, as well as elsewhere in Africa. Her research also focused on how the learning experience of undergraduate medical students can best be supported to enable them to follow an evidence-based approach when they start practicing.</p><p>“EBHC should therefore be at the core of the curriculum of all healthcare professionals to enhance students' knowledge, attitude and skills. It is beneficial to the entire healthcare team, allowing for a more holistic, effective approach to the delivery of healthcare." </p><p>This approach is especially useful given the need for healthcare professionals to keep abreast of new developments in order to offer care that works. They also need to be able to eliminate harmful or ineffective interventions.</p><p><strong>Good versus bad science</strong></p><p>“Health practitioners need to keep abreast of new scientific evidence and be able to sift through what is good science and what is not. Graduates must be able to track down relevant papers and engage with it critically. These are the kind of skills we want to cultivate in our graduates and healthcare practitioners," Young explains.</p><p>Her overview of systematic reviews assessing the effects of teaching EBHC indicated that clinically integrated strategies with assessment were more effective than single interventions or no interventions at all. “A combination of methods, including lectures, computer laboratory sessions, discussions in small groups, journal clubs, the use of real clinical issues, as well as portfolios and assignments, are more likely to improve knowledge, skills and attitudes."</p><p>She also conducted studies to determine the opportunities for, and barriers to, implementing this approach at the Faculty. This included a curriculum document review, interviews with academic convenors as well as a survey of recent graduates' perceptions and experiences.</p><p><strong>Overcoming barriers</strong></p><p>Some of the barriers to implementing EBHC learning at an undergraduate level include the clinical workload and competing priorities of students and lecturers. “The most common challenges by far for teaching EBHC are the perceived lack of space in the curriculum, misconceptions about EBHC, the resistance of staff, the lack of confidence of tutors, time constraints, as well as negative role‑modelling."</p><p>Her results indicate that EBHC can best be learnt when integrated in clinical practice. Young explains: “It helps to base teaching on real clinical decisions and actions and to focus on students' actual learning needs.</p><p>“EBHC should be part of the curriculum and there needs to be a clear scaffolding of learning. The foundation should be laid in the preclinical years and consolidated in the clinical years."</p><p>Young believes it is important for students to recognise the relevance of EBHC and link it with clinical realities. She explains: “We often tell students that they should be able to be good users of research. They should be able to look at research evidence, question it and use it. We want them to know what to do when they are faced with uncertainty when practicing medicine. The relevance of EBHC cuts across all disciplines, regardless of where you work."</p><p>According to Young the Faculty is in many ways at the forefront of implementing this approach at an undergraduate level. “Many institutions involved in medical training worldwide are grappling with ways to successfully implement this approach in their curricula. A lot of interest has been expressed in the work done at the Faculty in this regard, including from tertiary institutions in Namibia, Uganda, Ethiopia and Rwanda."</p><p>Young says implementing such a curriculum requires institutional support, a critical mass of the right teachers and role models in the clinical setting, and especially patience, persistence and pragmatism.</p><p>“Like their stethoscopes, EBHC should become a useful tool for students."</p><p><em>Caption: Prof Taryn Young.</em></p><p><em>Photo: Damien Schumann</em></p>
International journal allocates entire volume to research by African scholars journal allocates entire volume to research by African scholars Lynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">An entire volume of the<strong> </strong>highly regarded internationally - and South African Department of Higher Education and Training-accredited - <em>Taiwan Journal of Democracy</em> has been dedicated to promoting the work of African scholars. Articles in Volume 13 (2017) of the journal were all penned by members of the Stellenbosch University-based Transformation Research Unit (TRU): Democracy Globally. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">TRU, which is based in the Political Science Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, focuses on comparing South Africa with other democracies in the region and globally from a political, economic and social perspective.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This is major achievement, because not only are all the contributors African, they are also all members of TRU and all their contributions are focused on South Africa in the southern African context. It is not very often that a highly regarded, international journal dedicates its entire issue exclusively to this part of the world. There are many interesting analyses and new data-based hypotheses presented in the journal's pages, along with insights on the impact of history on today's South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. A worthwhile read, in short, that might interest many people," said Prof Ursula van Beek, the Head of the TRU.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The journal itself is “devoted to the study of democratic politics, in general, and democratic development in Taiwan and in other Asian democracies, in particular" and is published bi-annually. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The collection of essays appearing in the journal represents the culmination of a two-year research project, which brought together academics from all four of the southern African countries. The articles explore a variety of topics, among them the commonalities shared by three of the examined governments that emerged from the former liberation movements, as opposed to the one in Botswana, which comes from a different historical path. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“The essays also consider the consequences for socio-economic development of poor quality governance; map socio-political changes over time; discuss political culture; touch upon the impact of religion and culture; ponder the problem of xenophobia; and review the dominance by the executive of the public purse.  Jointly, the essays bring to the attention of the local and international reader the specific problems democracy faces on the southern tip of the African continent," explained Van Beek. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">To view all the articles in the journal, visit: <a href=""></a></p><p style="text-align:justify;"><em>PHOTO: A photo of the TRU Southern Africa group was taken in November 2015 when the first drafts of the articles were first discussed. Barring Dr Krige Siebert (SU Economics Department) the photo includes all the other contributors whose essays appeared in the journal. In front from the left are Dr Catherine Musuva (AU, contributor); Ms Terushka Naidoo (SU, former Honours student); Prof Henning Melber (</em><em>The Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, and contributor on Namibia</em>); <em>Ms Lovelyn Nwadeyi (Former SU PhD candidate); </em><em>Prof Ursula van Beek (SU, contributor); Dr Cindy Steenekamp (SU, contributor); Dr Nicola de Jager (SU, contributor). In the back from the left are Mr Barend Lutz (Former SU PhD candidate); Prof Hennie Kotzé (SU, contributor); Mr George Ott (SU, contributor); Prof David Sebudubudu (University of Botswana, contributor); Prof Stan du Plessis (SU); Prof Lloyd Sachikonye (University of Zimbabwe, contributor); Ms Helen Kroes (SU MA student); Dr Marisa von Fintel (SU, contributor).</em><em>        </em></p>
#WomenofSU: ‘Dignity and respect for all students’ ‘Dignity and respect for all students’Ilse Bigalke<p>​Respect and dignity.</p><p>These two words emerge frequently when interviewing the Faculty of Medicine and Health Science's (FHMS) newly appointed Manager: Student Affairs.</p><p>In her new position Ms Khairoonisa Foflonker will have to, among others, engage closely with support staff, the FHMS faculty and leadership, as well as student leadership to facilitate and enhance student support. Her career up to date has definitely equipped her with the necessary tools for this task.</p><p>“The most valuable lesson I have learnt thus far has been to listen so that I can understand. Not to hear people so that I can respond. A lot is lost when ideas are formed and expressed prematurely," she explains. </p><p>“Another important lesson I have learnt is understanding that people need to be treated with dignity and respect. Respect, however, means different things to different people, and is often culturally bound. It's therefore the individual's responsibility to make the time to understand others. This is how collegiality is fostered," says Foflonker, who has a master's degree in Sociology.</p><p>She relates she was intrigued by post-colonial theory and the social justice approach offered by Diversity Studies, a specialisation within Sociology. “I had finally found a discipline that enabled me to articulate and critique asymmetrical power relations. I subsequently specialised in Diversity Studies, and felt more equipped to becoming a critically engaged, self-reflexive, active denizen."</p><p>Foflonker's career started at the former Institute for Intercultural and Diversity Studies (iNCUDISA) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), coordinating two research projects: the Rural Transformation Project, which involved research into the depth of transformation in small and rural South African towns; and the Xenophobia and Super Diversity Project, which involved conducting qualitative interviews with refugees and locals in Cape Town.</p><p>She simultaneously coordinated a diversity awareness seminar programme at iNCUDISA and lectured on the subject of “race" (which included race, xenophobia and the Coloured identity).</p><p>“I began to yearn for an approach that married theory to practice; and found that facilitating workshops on intercultural communication, diversity and inclusivity, as well as training leaders and students to become facilitators, brought my passion as a change agent to life.</p><p>“Next, I coordinated ADAPT, an initiative led by UCT's Transformation Services Office, which involved engaging UCT staff in intercultural communication and leadership workshops. We also developed and implemented a parallel programme to train and mentor a cohort of students, across disciplines, to run the same workshops among UCT students."</p><p>The new Manager: Student Affairs has an adventurous streak and has done one thing that scares her every year for the last few years, including paragliding. “I also dabble in poetry, enjoy yoga and meditation, art films and art exhibitions. And I will find any excuse to go on a road trip!"</p><p>What does she want to achieve at the FMHS? “Cohesion and inclusivity. This is achieved through the alignment of student support services; including Student Affairs across campuses, the office of the Deputy Registrar and other key stakeholders. It is also achieved by welding together support functions, including student leadership, as well as faculty, management and student support staff. </p><p>“This alignment is aimed at enhancing student support services in a manner that offers dignity, empowerment of, and respect for <em>all</em> students." </p>
Gifted Maties receive international scholarships Maties receive international scholarshipsAlumni Relations / Alumni-betrekkinge<p>The future looks bright for two academically gifted Maties who have each been awarded R800 000 to pursue postgraduate studies at an internationally recognised university of their choice. <br></p><p>The two recipients, Aphiwe Jikazana, who received the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship, and Farai Mubaiwa, who received the FirstRand Foundation Scholarship, are both off to the United Kingdom in September to start their studies at Cranfield University and King's College London, respectively. </p><p>The FirstRand Scholarships are awarded annually to students who show excellent leadership abilities, are involved in their communities, are academically gifted and have the potential to be a destiny changer.<br></p><p>Jikazana, a chemical engineer and alumnus of Stellenbosch University identified the application of chemical engineering to water and water waste management as a crucial requirement for ameliorating the country's long-term water supply issues. She is starting her MSc in Water and Wastewater Engineering at Cranfield University on September 26. </p><p>She says her FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship is nothing short of a miracle and evidence that faith truly moves mountains. </p><p>"Cranfield University is the only postgraduate university in the UK. It specialises in producing leaders in technology and management. Its world-renowned Water Department with state-of-the-art facilities has been in existence for over 40 years, so it was a natural fit and an easy decision for me. “</p><p>She adds that professionally, this is only the beginning. “I know that my calling is to empower the most vulnerable people of our society through education and the provision of adequate water and sanitation. Hence, my first priority is to gain as much knowledge and experience in my field as I can. Thereafter, I would like to work in communities (and possibly found an NGO) to bring about change and ensure the provision of one the most basic needs of water and sanitation. I have a passion for education so I would love to be a lecturer one day while tackling my PhD focused on the governance and legislation of water and sanitation in South Africa. </p><p>“Lastly, I see myself using my education and experience to make a difference in the public sector. I would like to work towards implementing the best policies and systems so that all South Africans will have their basic needs of clean water and sanitation met."</p><p>Her advice to young students is to remember that, where the mind goes, the man follows. "If you keep your mind fixed on the amazing plans God has for you - you are guaranteed to succeed. Negativity and complaining have never helped or solved anything. Instead, remain positive - see every challenge as an opportunity for you to grow and become a better person."</p><p>For Farai Mubaiwa this FirstRand Foundation Scholarship is truly a life-changing opportunity. “It provides me with the platform to further my studies which is something I have always dreamed about but never thought it was tangible due to exorbitant fees, and other expenses."</p><p>Mubaiwa completed her BCom (Accounting) at Stellenbosch with stellar grades and then went on to do an Honours in Management Accounting. She is starting a Master's degree in the Political Economy of Emerging Markets at King's College London in September 2017.  </p><p>She says this specific Master's degree appealed to her due to the focus on emerging markets that seek to understand the basis for growth and development, the great transformation of emerging markets and market reform. “Growth is of utmost importance to not only South Africa, but Africa as a whole. South Africa is a place of political, racial, and class unrest and it is evident that young people need to steer the ship to keep the vision of a united South Africa alive. Hence, an understanding of emerging markets will ensure that inclusive economic growth can become a tangible reality," she explains.</p><p>Her advice to young people is to be their biggest fans, to surround themselves with good people and to network. "In most situations, I am my own worst enemy, but life has taught me that I need to be my biggest fan. I know my capabilities, and so when opportunities arise I need to apply. The worst that could happen when you apply is for you to be told 'we regret to inform you.' But you will never know if you do not try. Who you surround yourself with is a reflection of who you are, so I urge young students to surround themselves with people whose goals align with theirs. Align yourself with friends and mentors who will push you to do better and be better. Also you need to network. Attending events where you will meet people in different fields, positions, levels or people with different interests. Networking is powerful, and the contacts you make will always play a role in your development."</p><p>Upon the completion of her Master's, she will return to her current employer, Deloitte. "I aim to practically implement my knowledge of development policies, South Africa's positionality within BRICS, and the role that social and gender policy play in economic growth. I then want to complete my PhD, and begin lecturing. My aim is to become an academic that does not advance the stereotype of academia being this 'ivory tower' but rather one who makes tangible change, that goes beyond developing new models and sitting idle, but rather engaging with the youth and with government to position South Africa favourably with her people and with the rest of Africa."</p><p>Mr Laurie Dippenaar, FirstRand chairperson and panel member, said the panel regard themselves as fortunate to be exposed to such amazing talent. "Members of the panel were unanimous in their view that meeting and interviewing the finalists was an inspirational experience."</p><p>Pat Goss, FirstRand non-executive board member, said serving on the panel was one of the most rewarding roles he has had the privilege of playing. “The candidates have also been amongst the most extraordinarily capable and deserving bunch one could possibly hope to interview. The whole scholarship initiative ranks right up there with the more meaningful impacts FirstRand has had on society," he added. </p><ul><li><em>Applications for the 2018 FirstRand scholarship for postgraduate international study will open mid-December 2017 and close on Thursday 22 February 2018. Details and the application form will be available on the FirstRand website </em><a href=""><em></em></a><em> from end November 2017.</em></li><li><em>Photo: Farai Mubaiwa and Aphiwe Jikazana. </em></li></ul><p><br></p>
#WomenofSU: High risers High risersJackie Pienaar-Brink<p>​Dynamic, purposeful and female.</p><p>The gender profile of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has changed considerably over the years. A substantial percentage of women find themselves in senior research positions or are apparently unstoppably on their way to the top of the ladder.</p><p>Amongst the many achievers are eight women who are regarded as top researchers with a Scopus <em>h</em>-index exceeding 25. In addition four of the five SARChI chairs at the FMHS are occupied by women, six women head research institutions and more than half of all postdoctoral fellows are female.</p><p>And yet, says Prof Marietjie de Villiers, of the Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, women in research face specific challenges. “One of these is to continuously promote your career while you have children. You have to be in the laboratory full-time from the beginning and you have to start publishing. You are ultimately judged as a researcher according to your publication record."</p><p>Prof Nulda Beyers, former director of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre, also holds strong views about this. “Men and women should argue together for the right to bring children to work. This should be seen as a family or child right and not only a woman's right."</p><p>Prof Eileen Hoal of the Division Molecular Biology and Human Genetics adds her support. “The situation for women is definitely better than it used to be during the last century, but we certainly can't rest on our laurels. At this point all the SU faculties are equally guilty of not providing any childcare facilities and only recently established a breast feeding room."</p><p><strong><em>What do some of the young female achievers have to say about their achievements and the glass ceiling issue?</em></strong></p><p><strong>Dr Stefanie Malan-Müller</strong> is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychiatry.</p><p>She obtained her PhD with a psychiatric genetic study in which gene expression and epigenetics were investigated on a multiomics level to determine the way in which the original anti-tubercolosis medication, D-cycloserine, helps with anxiety reduction in an animal model of posttraumatic stress. It has been investigated in humans and applied successfully in the treatment of several anxiety disorders, but its mechanism on a molecular level has not yet been precisely determined. She found that it mostly brough about an anti-inflammatory effect in the brain and also regulated genes involved in learning and memory processes.</p><p>For her postdoctoral research, Malan-Müller is focussing on a sub-project of the Shared Roots flagship project of the Medical Research Council (MRC), in which the gut microbiome of PTSD patients and controls are studied to determine whether there are differences in their gut microbes that could play a role in disease. They have recently published their findings in the journal <em>Psychosomatic Medicine</em>. She and her supervisors, Profs Sian Hemmings and Soraya Seedat, are in the process of setting up a national initiative which will investigate the gut microbiome in neuroscience.</p><p>She has published 13 articles and one book chapter during her time at the FMHS. “One day, I would like to oversee a postgraduate student research group as a senior researcher."</p><p>Regarding the glass ceiling, she is of the opinion that women in her field – even when she looks beyond the FMHS – are in an advantaged position overall, since some bursaries exist for which only they can apply. “There is a concerted effort to provide opportunities for women. I believe one must be pro-active, grasp opportunities and make things happen. However, I feel that funding opportunities for postdoctoral fellows seem to be diminishing, which is a cause for concern, but it also forces us to be creative in our quest to secure research funding."</p><p>Malan-Müller admires her study leaders: the “formidable" Seedat – head of the Psychiatry Department – and the dedicated Hemmings.</p><p><strong>Ms Lieketseng Ned </strong>is a lecturer at the Centre for Rehabilitation Studies and a PhD student in the Department of Global Health.</p><p>"As we commemorate the 1956 march of approximately 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on this Women's Day, and as an emerging researcher, I cannot help but reflect on the status of women in different spaces of society – including the academic space which I am in.</p><p>"I acknowledge the enormous strides that have supported the emancipation of women in various forms, with more funding opportunities prioritising women and more roles in academia being filled by women now. This supportive environment at work has enabled me to access opportunities for both personal and professional development, for funding and the opportunity to get my voice out there to contribute to the development and strengthening of disability and rehabilitation as a field."</p><p>According to Ned her tangible goals and achievements include embarking on a PhD degree at SU, that focuses on the potential relevance of indigenous knowledges within the current education system “to contribute to the health and well-being of my people – the indigenous people in rural areas. This focus means a lot to me as a young rural woman who values indigenous communities and their knowledge."</p><p>Ned says she was fortunate to be afforded an NRF Thuthuka Grant for her PhD. "Through this funding I have been enabled to support two women in the form of bursaries to pursue their postgraduate studies in disability and rehabilitation. Additionally, the different funding opportunities targeting young women within the faculty have helped to cover any additional costs for the PhD. For instance, for the past 2 years I have been a beneficiary of the Early Research Career funding, that has enabled me to collaborate with two young women as research assistants for my PhD – one assisted with data collection and the other with transcribing and translating the interviews. This for me has been meaningful in the cause of ensuring that women support and empower one another in a society that is male dominated. This is particularly important as a black woman, given the multiple forms of struggles we face in a white dominated space."</p><p>She says her interests in the academic space include the creation of opportunities for more women (black, rural, disabled) to enter the spaces of theorising about disability and start linking disability studies to blackness studies. </p><p>“We need more people who are insiders, who live this experience of the link between disability and poverty, to start researching and theorising about disability and rehabilitation – not people who claim expertise in the field without any experience whatsoever. These 'experts' simply consume knowledge from marginalised communities. This would really open up spaces for black women as part of the transformation agenda. </p><p>“These issues should be prioritised to enable a differently framed narrative whereby women's issues are not only a sudden wave in August, but reflect throughout in the type of projects and responsibilities women engage in."</p><p>According to Ned it has been an inspiration and an encouraging journey to witness and be mentored and surrounded by other black women like Associate Professors Gubela Mji and Elelwani Ramugondo (her PhD supervisors). “It demonstrates the change that is happening and gives a voice to me as a younger emerging academic. </p><p>“I am certain that this powerful effect remains true for other students of colour who are able to see diverse representation in their lectures and thus feel encouraged and affirmed in their beingness and becoming."</p><p><strong>Dr Celeste Naude </strong>is a senior researcher at the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care (CEBHC).</p><p>“As an African researcher, I want to ask relevant, priority research questions in the field of public health nutrition and then work towards answering these questions, using high-quality research methods. My hope is that these answers can help empower decision-makers with the knowledge they need to make better decisions that counter inequality and improve people's lives in a sustainable way.</p><p>"I have been fortunate to not have encountered or experienced the 'glass ceiling' for women in my career thus far. On the contrary, I feel that I have been well supported and granted many opportunities to develop myself and my career. I have tried to make as much as possible of the many opportunities that have come my way, with support and leadership from mentors and senior management. I have managed to continue to build from one opportunity to the next."</p><p>She completed her master's degree in nutrition (cum laude) in two years and her PhD (nutritional sciences) in three years, and was then appointed as a senior researcher. Her academic interests and experience include health and nutrition evidence synthesis, knowledge translation and evidence-informed decision-making in policy and practice for nutrition and health sciences.</p><p>In 2012, she received the MRC's Career Development Award. Two years later she presented the prestigious ARP Walker Memorial Lecture at the biennial National Nutrition Congress. She enjoys working closely with many other women in national and provincial government departments, and supporting strategies to promote the use of evidence in decision-making.</p><p>In 2015, she was invited to be one of the associate editors of the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group, based in Oxford, and serves as a member of the Ministerial Committee on Mortality and Morbidity in Children.<em> </em>She is Co-Director of Cochrane Nutrition, established in 2016 and jointly hosted by the CEBHC. She currently serves as a Cochrane Fields Executive Co-chair, and a member of the Cochrane Council.</p><p>In 2016 and 2017 she was involved in the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation's Working Group to develop implementation resources for national food-based dietary guidelines and as a researcher in the Bridge Collaborative.</p><p>The former American First Lady, Mrs Michelle Obama, is one of the women she admires for starting the Lets Move inititiative, which is dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. Other role models include Ms Thuli Madonsela (former Public Protector) and women who promote conservation, like the late Dr Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement.</p><p> </p><p><em>Onderskrif: <span lang="EN" style="color:black;font-family:"calibri",sans-serif;font-size:10.5pt;">Dr Stefanie Malan-Müller, ms Lieketseng Ned and Dr Celeste Naude.</span></em></p><p><em><span lang="EN" style="color:black;font-family:"calibri",sans-serif;font-size:10.5pt;">Photos: Stefen Els</span></em></p>
#Women@FMHS: Transplants are her passion Transplants are her passionJackie Pienaar-Brink<p>​Even though she has been involved in more than 1 000 kidney transplants, Prof Elmin Steyn is still amazed when a transplanted kidney becomes a healthy red when the blood starts flowing through the arteries and the veins.</p><p>This passionate transplant and trauma surgeon, who was Head of Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital's Kidney Transplant Unit for many years, returned to her alma mater, Stellenbosch University, last year. Here she joined the Department of Surgical Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences as Head of its Surgery Division – a first for a woman in this academic environment.</p><p>After years in the private sector, it was a bit of a culture shock to find herself in a public healthcare environment once again, Steyn admits. She emphasises that the difference does not lie in the quality of the care, but in the condition of the patients, with higher concentrations of advanced diseases than when she worked here as a consultant in the nineties.</p><p>“On the one hand it is tremendously stimulating, and it offers much that is valuable to potential research and training. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the fact that the patients present late as a result of their socio-economic conditions.</p><p>“Transport, education and poverty are problems, not to mention the trauma levels caused by interpersonal violence, alcohol, drug abuse and violence in the community, which has such a huge impact on patient numbers. One feels that as a surgeon you deal with the end result of a problem that should actually have been solved in some other way."</p><p>Although the Department of Surgical Sciences has not traditionally been involved in the prevention of violence, she feels that a type of upliftment system should be created that would give doctors more of a say in this. This could possibly be in the form of anti-violence messages to children to try and break the cycle.</p><p>“In the eighties I worked in a hospital where a transplant programme for black patients had just been started. Until then no transplants had been done on black people [in South Africa], since it was incorrectly assumed that, as a medical treatment, it would not be culturally acceptable to them.</p><p>“I witnessed the effect a transplant could have on the life of someone with end stage organ failure, and realised it could work for all cultural groups. The whole complex situation of one person dying, who could then ultimately save several lives, fascinated me. Physically it is also a pleasant operation: It is a vascular procedure which is usually successful despite the many risks. It is tremendously rewarding for both the surgeon and the patient, who immediately starts feeling better."</p><p>The rights of the patient are of deep concern to this humble surgeon, who for a long time managed the emergency units of both Christiaan Barnard and Vincent Pallotti Hospitals.</p><p>Steyn has high praise for the department in which she now finds herself. “Prof Brian Warren (her predecessor) wisely managed to assemble an excellent combination of talented consultants with the necessary skills."</p><p>The challenge lies in providing an excellent service to large numbers of patients, while simultaneously producing research publications and training people in the high-level technological skills that they will need for their future careers. Fortunately, she likes challenges. And despite problems such as the chronic lack of funding in the provincial healthcare system, she enjoys a great deal of goodwill and support from both the department and Tygerberg Hospital.</p><p>One of Steyn's goals is to create a pancreas transplant programme in the Western Cape in order to find a cure for diabetes. She has already gained experience in the United States to perform this challenging procedure, which requires a team of trained surgeons.</p><p>The procedure is currently only performed in Johannesburg, although the first pancreas transplant was done at Tygerberg Hospital by Prof Don du Toit in the late seventies. “It is a legacy that is certainly worth reviving. It would, however, only be possible if the great number of potential donors in the referral area is more efficiently identified, referred and managed."</p><p>Over the years there were many firsts for Steyn, such as being the first female president of the South African Transplant Society as well as of the Trauma Society of South Africa. As a trauma expert, she is in demand for training and presentations worldwide.</p><p>Steyn and her husband live in a house in Plattekloof in Cape Town's Northern Suburbs that reflects her love of collecting art. She is also passionate about nature, cooking, drinking wine, and flying, although she feels that she is not spending nearly enough time in the air as a helicopter pilot these days. “What better way could there possibly be to escape?" asks the woman who is also the art patron of the South African Air Force Museum in Ysterplaat.</p><p><em>Caption: Prof Elmin Steyn</em></p><p><em>Photo<em>: Damien Schumann</em></em></p>
Online assessment could improve maths marks of deaf learners assessment could improve maths marks of deaf learnersCorporate Communication/ Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<div><p>Online mathematics assessment (OMA) could help improve the mathematics performance of deaf and hard-of-hearing learners in South Africa.<br></p><p>This is one of the key findings of a new study at Stellenbosch University (SU).<br></p><p>“OMAs can help deaf and hard-of-hearing learners to understand difficult mathematical concepts and provide them with equal opportunities to do well in formal mathematics assessments," says Dr Nolan Damon who is a mathematics teacher and ‎blended-learning designer and trainer from Worcester. He recently obtained his doctorate in Curriculum Studies at Stellenbosch University.</p><p>Damon investigated the use of OMAs as an alternative form of assessment to current pencil and paper-based mathematics assessments which do not provide deaf and hard-of-hearing learners with a fair chance to showcase what they have learnt.<br></p><p>“Deaf and hard-of-hearing learners perform poorly in mathematics pencil and paper assessments because they struggle to read and understand written texts and to interpret mathematics questions posed in Afrikaans or English since neither Afrikaans nor English is their home language," says Damon. <br></p><p>He adds that since these learners communicate through Sign Language, they struggle partly because of the difference between the structure and grammar of Afrikaans/English and Sign Language, the absence of a mathematics vocabulary in Sign Language, and their limited language skills.<br></p><div class="ms-rtestate-read ms-rte-embedcode ms-rte-embedil ms-rtestate-notify"><iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"></iframe> </div><p><em><strong> (M</strong></em><em><strong>obile users, click <a href=""><span class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">here​</span></a>)</strong></em><br><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Learners' understanding of mathematical functions</strong><br></p><p>As part of his research, Damon designed OMAs for Grade 8 learners at a school for the deaf and hard of hearing in the Western Cape. Apart from Damon and the learners, an interpreter was also involved in this study.</p><p>Damon used a quiz module in Moodle, which is a free and widely used open-source software package, as well as two mathematic software plugins (components that adds a specific feature to an existing computer programme) to test the learners' understanding of mathematical functions which are crucial in our everyday lives. Moodle quizzes can be used for, among others, exams preparation, continuous assessments, and to measure learners' understanding of content knowledge.</p><p>Damon says his experience as a teacher of mathematics to deaf and hard-of-hearing learners has shown that they struggle to understand mathematics concepts, in this case the function concept.<br></p><p>“Testing their understanding of mathematical functions is important because deaf students, for example, don't hear or understand that fruit, meat or vegetables are sold per kilogram. They know the sign for it, but they find it difficult to grasp that if I pay R4, 00 for 2kg apples, the functional relationship can be applied to more bags of apples, etc."  </p><p>The Moodle quiz tested, among others, the ability of learners to determine rules for patterns and functional relationships using flow diagrams, tables, formulae and equations in line with the current National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement for<br>Grade 7-9.</p><p>Damon observed the learners while they were completing the quizzes as part of the OMA to record their interactions with it. Apart from documenting their experience with the OMA, the learners were also interviewed by an interpreter about the possible advantages and disadvantages of the OMA. Damon then used this information to make adjustments to the OMA based on the learners' feedback. <br></p><p>“Not only did the learners find it easier to do online quizzes as opposed to pencil and paper-based assessment, but the inclusion of a Glossary within these quizzes made it possible to have immediate access to difficult words and phrases."<br></p><p>Damon points out that although the learners initially experienced difficulties with the OMA, their scores improved after a few adjustments were made to it. <br></p><p>“All the learners passed the test with marks above 60% and three learners obtained a score of 100%.  Since an improvement in test scores are directly linked to an increase in the learners' understanding, it can be argued that due to modifications to the OMA, their knowledge based on the function concept improved."<br></p><p><strong class="ms-rteThemeForeColor-5-0" style="">Multimedia can enhance the learning process</strong></p><p>Damon says each question within the OMA included an icon which the learners could click on for a video example to experience the mathematics concept that needed to be conveyed and to be guided through questioning. He adds that these 'help' features were extremely useful especially with the limited Sign Language concept vocabulary at hand. </p><p>“The study highlighted the value of incorporating multimedia such as videos, images, simulations, interactive content and other graphics within the OMA because deaf and hard-of-hearing learners are dependent on visual imagery for learning. These multimedia can reduce the cognitive load of interpreting texts and also enhance the learning process for these learners." </p><p>“This is important because signs for concepts in mathematics are non-existent which makes it tough to translate these ideas via Sign Language without losing the essence of the math concepts."</p><p>Damon says the OMA allows learners to use smart phones, tablets and laptops to take the assessment. <br></p><p>“Sign Language can be incorporated within the OMA with ease which means these learners will be provided with assessments in their Home Language."<br></p><p>“This OMA can assist these learners in their understanding of difficult concepts and can make their studies so much better if they have access to subject content in their own language, i.e. Sign Language."<br></p><p>“It also allows the teacher to create online assessments, and the computer captures the learners' answers, scores it and provides immediate feedback to students." <br></p><p>Damon adds that the OMA might also provide mathematics teachers with insights into the cognitive processes of deaf and hard-of-hearing learners while doing mathematics. </p><p>For the OMA to have the desired outcome teachers and deaf learners have to receive training in how to use Moodle, and software plugins such as GeoGebra, WIRIS, says Damon. <br></p><p>He adds that the OMA principles can also be used for Languages, Science and any other subject and universities can also benefit from his research. <br></p><p><strong>FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Dr Nolan Damon</p><p>Nuwe Hoop Centre for the Hearing Impaired</p><p>Tel:0233474372</p><p>E-mail: <a href=""></a> </p><p>                  OR</p><p>Martin Viljoen<br></p><p>Manager: Media</p><p>Corporate Communication</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Tel: 021 808 4921</p><p>E-mail: <a href=""></a> <br></p><br></div>
Music students win top prizes at ATKV-Muziq students win top prizes at ATKV-MuziqLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>Two music students from the Music Department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences have walked away with the top prizes at the national instrumental classical music competition, ATKV-Muziq, which was held on 29 July in Parow, Cape Town. <br></p><p>Twenty-four year old pianist and Masters degree student Sulayman Human (photo) was named the overall winner of the competition and received a prize R65 000 while Cameron Williams (saxophone), a second-year BMus student,  received the overall second prize of R32 000. Both students also received additional prizes of R8 500 each with Human receiving the prize for the <em>Best Interpretation of a</em> <em>Baroque or Classical Work </em>for his rendition of Mozart's  Sonata no. 10 in C major, K330; III. Allegretto and Williams receiving it for the <em>Best Interpretation of a South African Composition during the Second Round </em>for his rendition of A. Stephenson's <em>Introduction and Allegro.</em> The overall third prize of R16 000 was awarded to Jeffrey Armstrong (violin).</p><p>ATKV-Muziq is the biggest and most prestigious annual classical music competition in South Africa, with previous winners including international award-winning pianists Ben Schoeman and Megan-Geoffrey Prins. Through the competition ATKV makes a contribution to classical music in South Africa. The competition is open to young musicians between the ages of 15 and 27 with a total of R180 000 in prize money awarded to the winners. </p><p><em>Photo: Pianist and Masters degree student Sulayman Human was the overall winner of the ATKV-Muziq competition this year. (Supplied)</em><br><br></p>
Thumbs up for breastfeeding up for breastfeedingLiezel Engelbrecht <p>​Breastfeeding is the most beneficial feeding option for infants born to HIV-infected women and should be continued until at least 12 months.</p><p>This 2010 recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO), revised in 2013 and again in 2016 and supported in South Africa in the Tshwane Declaration of 2011, is based on studies indicating a reduction in risk of pneumonia and diarrhoea, the leading causes of child mortality.</p><p>Unfortunately, this recommendation was contradictory to previous recommendations to avoid breastfeeding to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV.</p><p>Whilst investigating the social and contextual factors affecting HIV-infected women's feeding practices for their infants for her PhD thesis, Dr Moleen Zunza, a researcher at the Centre for Evidence-based Health Care and FAM-CRU at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) at Stellenbosch University, found that this contradiction was one of the main reasons for non-compliance.</p><p>She found that few women chose breastfeeding and that those who did, switched to formula feeding early. Her study was conducted when the Western Cape PMTCT was transitioning from supporting replacement feeding to recommending breastfeeding supported by antiretroviral protection.</p><p>“This transition was associated with conflicted feelings in women and healthcare providers about whether or not to breastfeed," explains Zunza.</p><p>She says the study indicates that years of promoting formula feeding for HIV-infected women eroded the confidence in breastfeeding amongst both healthcare workers and women. Although the transition period in the Western Cape formally ended in April 2015, she is not sure if women's perceptions have adequately changed.</p><p>“The first practical recommendation from this study involves disseminating evidence to both healthcare authorities and communities who often don't recognise the benefits of breastfeeding for health and development of children," says Zunza.</p><p>She believes her findings can also be used to motivate research about what convinces HIV-infected women that the risk of breastfeeding is worth taking. She says the research is relevant in highlighting the need for interventions to re-orientate and change the opinions of HIV-infected women and the communities. “Some tested interventions include individual counselling, group education, mobile phone text messaging and motivational interviewing."</p><p>According to Zunza there is a need to individualise breastfeeding support in the short term and to support women to deal with any breastfeeding problems. “For breastfeeding to be successfully promoted and supported, actions are needed at many levels, from policy directives to social."</p><p> </p><p><em>Caption: Dr Moleen Zunza</em></p><p><em>Photo: Damien Schumann</em></p>