Dean’s Corner - March 2017

15 Mar 2017 - 15:00

Welcome to the first edition of Faculty News for 2017.
The mini-semester has been completed and the academic year has commenced. I wish to express my deepest appreciation to the staff and students in our undergraduate programmes for working so hard to enable this smooth transition.

At the end of 2016, there was collective relief when our final year students took their oath at a very moving ceremony in Jameson Hall. The event was well attended by family members and was particularly special in the absence of the December graduation ceremony. We also had many proud staff members attend as parents, as can be seen in the pictures we have posted.

We are particularly delighted with the outstanding achievement of Matthew Amoni, who last year completed his MBChB, BSc (Med) (Hon) and master’s in cardio physiology in only seven years. He is a beneficiary of the intercalated MBChB/Bsc Hons/Msc/PhD programme, which is designed to address the country’s critical shortage of academic clinicians and to revitalise clinical research.  Initially funded through a VC Strategic Award, it is now a nationally funded scheme through the MRC. I want to encourage our medical students in the early undergraduate years to consider enrolling on this programme as a career option.

An example of such clinical research is the news, hot off the press, that one of our former PhD students, Dr Maryam Fish, along with colleagues Dr Gasnat Shaboodien (her supervisor) and Dr Sarah Kraus, identified the hereditary gene responsible for causing sudden death in young people, especially athletes. I am honoured to have led this project with such a talented team of young researchers, and hope that their story will serve as inspiration to our students.

Congratulations to the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation for receiving South Africa’s prestigious Ubuntu Social Responsibility Award from President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, which celebrates South African citizens who ‘through their Integrity, Passion, Patriotism and Humility have raised the South African flag high on an international stage”; to Professor Mignon McCullah who received the prestigious international Roscoe Robinson award for her exceptional contributions to nephrology; and to Professor Brenda Morrow and Dr Mushi Matjila for their appointment by Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi onto the powerful National Health Research Committee which determines and drives the national health research agenda in the country.  We say ‘halala’ to you!

It was an honour to host the celebrated Oxford biologist Sir Peter Ratcliffe who delivered the prestigious Wolfson Memorial lecture, to recognize the generous contributions to UCT of the Wolfson Foundation.

I am very proud of two substantial grants that will see the establishment of the world’s first international research centre dedicated to fighting African fungal infections (AFGrica), and the first multi-disciplinary grant on congenital heart disease in Africa, both of which have great potential to improve the lives of our people.

There is no doubt that the student protests last year have had a lasting impact on our understanding of the challenges faced by mostly black students and staff. The student mural in our Barnard Fuller canteen is now a permanent expression of the need to create spaces for those experiences and voices that are making themselves heard. We are committed to ensuring that all academically able students are not denied higher education because of inability to pay fees. I am appealing for contributions to the Impilo Student Fund to assist students who cannot register because they cannot afford to pay outstanding fees. Any small amount will help.

We plan to offer space in this newsletter for all members of our Faculty community to share their views on matters close to their hearts. With every edition, we will accept an opinion piece that has relevance for the faculty. We also invite articles on your work. In this edition, we publish a welcome letter to first year students that is authored by one of our students.

Please send your comments or suggestions on how this newsletter can serve you better in the future.

Best wishes