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Discovery Foundation invests R24.5m in training and research of public sector doctors for 2020

Discovery Foundation has invested more than R261m in grants to support 473 medical specialists and institutions

The 2020 Discovery Foundation awarded research and training grants to SA’s most talented future health-care leaders and experts.
The 2020 Discovery Foundation awarded research and training grants to SA’s most talented future health-care leaders and experts.
Image: 123RF/Anna Tolipova

The Discovery Foundation, an independent trust that invests in human resources for SA’s health-care sector, has again awarded research and training grants to SA’s most talented future health-care leaders and experts.

The R24.5m in grants, including R16.6m for 28 recipients towards their fellowships and R11.1m approved to 14 institutions, will be used to boost academic, specialist and rural medicine in areas of critical need, including paediatrics, psychiatry, oncology and many more areas of need.

“The Discovery Foundation believes that our country’s doctors are in a position to solve some of our most perplexing health and clinical challenges. By giving our health-care professionals the opportunity to learn and grow, we can facilitate a home-grown response to some of the world’s most challenging health problems,” says Dr Vincent Maphai, Discovery Foundation chair.

The Discovery Foundation was established in 2006 to invest in medical specialist training and to help retain specialists within the public health sector, with a special focus on developing black specialists. Investing in black medical specialists benefits not only the individual grant recipients, but also the broader SA society.  

The foundation has invested more than R261m in grants to support 473 medical specialists and institutions.

Announcing the 2020 Discovery Foundation Awards recipients — with a focus on the Eastern Cape 

Among the 2020 award recipients are Dr Sumy Thomas, who will spend a year at Massachusetts General Hospital, the largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School based in Boston in the US. She will be placed in the metabolism unit in the division of endocrinology to explore how HIV and antiretroviral medicine affects the endocrine system.  

Dr Dylan Gibson’s research aims to empower women in rural Eastern Cape with better access to effective family planning and knowledge of contraception. Dr Kartik Naidoo is focused on understanding unplanned pregnancies in Mossel Bay by researching the experiences of nurses and clients in family planning at local clinics.

Dr Sarah Boshoff is investigating how doctors and nurses can help to prevent triggers of post-traumatic stress disorder in patients receiving critical care at Dora Nginza Hospital in the Eastern Cape, while Dr Illana Links will research the clinical link between mental health and HIV in the acute mental health unit at that hospital. Prof Mfundo Mabenge, a gynaecological oncologist, is exploring adverse pregnancy outcomes at Dora Nginza to assess potential strategies to reduce women’s risk.

Dr Libinu Thomas is investigating the most effective ways to disinfect doctors’ cellphones in a paediatric ICU in East London, while Dr Kaylem Coetzee’s research will evaluate the orthopaedic training that young doctors receive at health science faculties in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Other areas of research include Dr Emma Gardiner work to improve rheumatological care, while Prof Zukiswa Zingela’s team at Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital will train health-care workers to support the mental health of young men undergoing ritual circumcision in the Eastern Cape.   

The Discovery Foundation granted 14 Rural Individual awards to support the training and development of specialists working in rural and underserved areas, and for senior doctors practising in these areas. The award recipients specialise in non-communicable diseases, family planning, mental health, HIV, mother and child health, orthopaedic surgery, epilepsy, rheumatology, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics and urology.

Creating specialist medical experts in SA 

The five Discovery Foundation Rural Institutional awards aim to bring more medical expertise to hospitals in under-resourced areas in SA. The institutions that received grants this year focus on mother and child health, urology, dental surgery, mental health of young men going through circumcision, better service delivery through technology, and training and retaining specialists in provinces such as Limpopo and the Northern Cape.

Six doctors received Discovery Foundation Academic Fellowship awards this year. These awards will promote research-focused training in academic medicine in SA by developing clinician scientists. The academic fellows specialise in trauma surgery, gynaecological oncology, chronic kidney disease, eye care, skin cancer and public health.

In addition, seven doctors received the Discovery Foundation Sub-Specialist awards. These awards aim to improve medical skills by boosting sub-specialist training and academic medicine in SA. The award recipients will sub-specialise in areas including high-risk pregnancies, nephrology and paediatric nephrology, maternal fetal medicine, reproductive medicine, male infertility and geriatric psychiatry.

The Discovery Foundation Distinguished Visitor awards aim to build the capacity of institutions and support institutional partnerships in rural parts of SA by supporting specialists to mentor and train young doctors in under-resourced hospitals.

Read more about the Discovery Foundation.

This article was paid for by the Discovery Foundation.

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