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Prestigious Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship awarded to promising SA researchers

Scholarship seeks to advance local academic medicine

Monday, January 25 2016
The prestigious Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship, which was established to contribute to the advancement of South African academic medicine, has for 2015 been awarded to two candidates: Dr Simnikiwe Mayaphi, a clinical virologist from the University of Pretoria, and Dr Llewellyn Padayachy, a neurosurgeon from the University of Cape Town.

Dr Mayaphi will use the scholarship to complete his PhD on HIV research at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria. Dr Padayachy will be conducting research internationally on neurological disease in children, with a view to developing a brain-monitoring tool that is appropriate for use in the South African environment.

Speaking on behalf of Netcare at the awards banquet, Dr Charmaine Pailman, managing director of the Group’s Primary Care division, congratulated the two specialists on being awarded the scholarship, saying that they were both outstanding academics and researchers, and most worthy recipients of the scholarship.

“They follow in the footsteps of the eight remarkable men and women who have received the scholarship in previous years, and who have subsequently significantly contributed to the progress in a variety of medical disciplines,” she added.

Dr Pailman said that the scholarship is a fitting tribute to Hamilton Naki, and is dedicated to the quest for lifelong learning, growth, innovation and the improvement of the quality of life of all South Africans.

“Although he did not have a formal education in medicine, Mr Naki who worked as a laboratory assistant in the surgical laboratory of Professor Christiaan Barnard at Groote Schuur Hospital, nevertheless made a major contribution to medical education in South Africa and internationally, imparting his knowledge and skills to medical practitioners as well as playing an important role in organ transplant research. It is in this spirit of learning that the scholarship was established.”

Dr Mayaphi is a registered doctoral student with the Department of Medical Virology in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria. His research focuses on the detection and characterisation of acute and early HIV‐1 infections, which are part of the window-period phase of HIV when infected individuals are highly infectious but are often not diagnosed by rapid HIV tests.

Dr Mayaphi says that South Africa still has a huge burden of HIV; and his study is in line with local and global health priorities. “There are many aspects of HIV that still need to be explored for us to understand and control the high prevalence of HIV in South Africa,” he adds. “This has placed pressure on South African researchers, other role players and citizens to play an active role in coming up with affordable and practical solutions in order to curb further spread of HIV.”

Dr Mayaphi’s project seeks to establish the feasibility of detecting and managing acute and early HIV infections in a low resource setting. “One of our aims is to provide an HIV transmission intervention service, in which highly infectious HIV-positive individuals are identified early, counselled and referred for appropriate management.”

Dr Padayachy is researching the potential of using transorbital ultrasound measurement of the optic nerve sheath (ONS) as a non-invasive, radiation-free, inexpensive brain-monitoring tool in children with raised inter-cranial pressure.

“An important goal of this work will be to evaluate the use of this non-invasive technique in our local setting. We then need to identify areas where the accuracy and simplicity of the technique can be improved so that it could be used effectively in rural clinics, primary health care facilities and emergency departments,” he adds.

“In a resource-limited setting such as our own, such a technique would make a significant impact on improving the detection of paediatric patients with raised inter-cranial pressure, sparing children excessive exposure to harmful radiation from repeat CT scans, unnecessary anesthesia and invasive diagnostic procedures.”

According to Dr Pailman, the Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship was the brainchild of Professor Bongani Mayosi, head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town, who envisaged the establishment of a scholarship which would assist outstanding South African medical scholars to be able to continue to conduct groundbreaking medical research.

“In 2007, Professor Mayosi’s vision was transformed into reality with the launch of the Hamilton Naki Clinical Scholarship under the umbrella of the Physician Partnerships Trust, which forms part of Netcare’s Health Partners for Life programme,” noted Dr Pailman, who in addition to being managing director of Netcare’s Primary Care division is a trustee on the board of the Physician Partnerships Trust.

The awards banquet was attended by a number of leading academics, deans of the Faculties of Health Sciences who are members of the selection committee, members of the Physician Partnerships Trust, as well as Hamilton Naki’s son, Bernard Naki, and his nephew, Siyamcela Naki. The guest speaker was Professor Eric Buch, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and professor of Health Policy and Management at the University of Pretoria. The first two recipients of the scholarship, Dr Carol Hlela and Dr Bonginkosi Chiliza, were also present to honour the 2015 recipients.

“This worthy initiative, in which Netcare has joined hands with all the medical schools of our South African universities, is continuing to create opportunities for deserving South African medical practitioners to further their studies and research in their respective fields of specialisation,” Dr Pailman concluded.

Ends

Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Devereaux Morkel or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: martina@mnapr.co.za, graeme@mnapr.co.za, devereaux@mnapr.co.za or meggan@mnapr.co.za or meggan@mnapr.co.za
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