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Research abounds at the FMHS
Author: FMHS Marketing & Communications – Wilma Stassen
Published: 06/09/2023

​​Some of the top-tier research that have placed the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS) among the World University Rankings' 150 top health sciences institutions were on display at the Faculty's 67th Annual Academic Day (AAD).

This auspicious event is one of the highlights on the Faculty's annual academic calendar and was for the first time held in the FMHS' new world-class Biomedical Research Institute (BMRI). Over the course of the two-day event held on the afternoons of 30 and 31 August, more than 120 oral presentations – including eight state-of-the-art lectures* – and 213 poster presentations were shared among the FMHS' assiduous scientific community.

During the 67th AAD opening ceremony, four up-and-coming scientists were recognised for their excellence in research:

  • Dr Jane Shaw received the HD Brede Award for Postgraduate Research in Infectious Disease (Clinical Research Category) for a research article published in Scientific Reports: Optimising the yield from bronchoalveolar lavage on human participants in infectious disease immunology research.
  • Dr Brigitta Derendinger received the HD Brede Award for Postgraduate Research in Infectious Disease (Biomedical Research Category) for a research article accepted for publication in The Lancet Microbe: Bedaquiline resistance among patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis in Cape Town, South Africa: a retrospective longitudinal cohort study.
  • Ms Anné Lermer received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence in a Master's Programme (Structured Master's Category) for obtaining her MSc in Pharmacology with distinction.
  • Ms Chantelise Watkins (Slabbert) received the Faculty Award for Academic Excellence in a Master's Programme (Thesis Master's Category) for obtaining her MSc in Sport Science with distinction.

In his opening address, Prof Nico Gey van Pittius, FMHS Vice Dean: Research and Internationalisation relayed some of the Faculty's research successes.  “As a faculty we have put in a huge effort to support our students, and grow our number of doctoral and postdoctoral students, and this is reflected in the increased rate of publications we've seen over the last few years," Gey van Pittius said. Annually the FMHS produces as much as 30% of Stellenbosch University's journal articles, and the Faculty is ranked fifth in the world for the number of publications relating to tuberculosis for the past two years. Over the past two decades the FMHS has also shown marked increases in the number of female, African, Indian, and Asian authors, as well as the number of authors under the age of 50.

“I attribute this to the modern infrastructure and facilities, our cutting-edge technologies, our state-of-the-art equipment, and of course, our people," Gey van Pittius said. “We are doing all of this to make a difference in a country and a continent where there need is great, and we believe that our contributions in terms of medicine and health sciences research, makes a difference in people's lives."

As is customary, the Faculty Dean, Prof Elmi Muller, delivered a Dean's Address during the opening ceremony, where she covered the topic of using technology and artificial intelligence in health care. “We're at the crossroads of an extraordinary time in health care. An era where the deluge of breakthrough science and revolutionary technology presents us with unprecedented opportunities to change lives, challenge norms, and drive research and innovation to new heights," Muller posited.

She laid out how artificial intelligence is already being incorporated in our daily lives, and highlighted some of the opportunities it holds for health care practitioners and patients. But she also offered a stern warning. “While we consider this partnership with AI – it can make us smarter, faster and safer – we have to keep in mind that there are some things that are very specific to humans that cannot be replaced. We must keep our hands on the wheel, and we have to make sure that in this complex world we understand what can happen, what can be different, and how we stay in control," Muller concluded.

The guest speaker, Prof Lynn Morris, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of the Witwatersrand, delivered a lecture entitled 'Universities as drivers of health research and innovation – a personal perspective', in which she unpacked the role universities played in during the Covid-19 and HIV/AIDS pandemics, and relayed some of her personal experiences as an infectious diseases researcher.


*State-of-the-art lectures

Academic trackPresenterPresentation title
Exercise Sport and Lifestyle MedicineProf Eileen AfricaThe active child – Unlocking their potential through physical activity
Health Professions EducationProf Ian CouperE=mc2. Is training health professionals relatively simple?
Perioperative SciencesProf Nando FerreiraCurrent trends in limb salvage and reconstruction surgery
Infectious DiseasesProf Marlo MöllerHost genetic susceptibility to infectious diseases in diverse populations – an emerging story
Non-communicable DiseasesProf Carine SmithDisease modelling and drug discovery – the value of zebrafish
Mental Health and NeuroscienceProf Leigh van den HeuvelA hair divides what is false and true, Omar Khayyam – What our hair can reveal about our mental health
Violence, Injuries, Trauma and RehabilitationProf Lieketseng NedTechnology and violence against women with disabilities: Technology-enabled risk, and resource for resilience in low- and middle-income countries
Maternal and Child HealthProf Regan SolomonsAre we close to challenging the status quo in Childhood Tuberculous Meningitis