The future looks bright for Dr Lungiswa Nkonki, a senior lecturer in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University (SU), who has been selected as a participant in the Future Professors Programme (FPP).
The FPP – a national capacity-building programme of the Department of Higher Education and Training – is aimed at turning senior researchers/lecturers into associate professors and full professors in a shorter space of time than would otherwise have been the case. It offers a structured curriculum that includes intensive seminars and international placement.
“I am very excited. It is great news to start the year, and in some way an acknowledgement of the work I have done so far," Nkonki (38) says.
Nominations were submitted by all 26 universities for the first phase of the programme, which commenced in January this year. Only 29 were selected.
The FPP was initiated by Dr Naledi Pandor, former Minister of Higher Education and Training, and is led by Prof Jonathan Jansen of the Faculty of Education at SU.
“This mentorship is very important," Nkonki says. “I believe on your journey you need to travel alongside people who have been through similar training. Prof Jansen is an accomplished scholar who made a meaningful contribution in South Africa. That is something that I do admire. It really is a privilege and an honour to be mentored by him, and whoever else he would bring on board."
Jansen explained earlier that the programme is highly focused on generating serious research professors. Because it aims to be transformative, women and black academics are targeted. The National Research Foundation (NRF) rating system is used to identify candidates with a proven level of success in publishing in respected journals.
Nkonki was born in Port Elizabeth and lives in Claremont, Cape Town. She completed a degree in Medical Bioscience at the University of the Western Cape, followed by a BSc Honours.
Her interest in public health was ignited during her internship at the Health Systems Trust. After completing a Master's in Public Health at the University of Cape Town, focusing on health economics, she did an MSc in Economics at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. In 2012 she obtained her PhD in health economics at the University of Bergen in Norway.
Nkonki, a senior lecturer in the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, joined SU in 2012. She has a Y rating from the NRF and her scientific contribution includes 21 peer reviewed publications, of which eight are first authored.
In 2014 she was appointed as a panellist for the Competition Commission of South Africa's Private Healthcare Market Inquiry. It was the first evidence-based process in South Africa that carefully gathered evidence and studied the private healthcare market. The final report was published in September last year.
“I am pleased South Africa is embarking on a journey towards universal health coverage," Nkonki says. “My vision is to contribute towards excellent health economics and to do research that will really help South Africa improve in health care provision as well as health outcomes."
Photo credit: Stefan Els