Call for Nominations: SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards 2021

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has today issued a call for nominations for the annual 2021 SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards, which seek to honor the best scientific minds and contributions within health research.

Qualified candidates are individual researchers who have, through published work, made groundbreaking contributions to impactful world-class science and health research aimed at advancing the lives of South Africans. The Awards, which are among the most prestigious in the country, are a set of medals including: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and the special President’s Awards.

Platinum medals for a Lifetime Achievement Award are awarded to scientists who have achieved a lifetime of outstanding endeavours in the field of health. Past recipients include the late Professor Bongani Mayosi, Professors Valerie Mizrahi, Salim Abdool Karim, Dan Stein, Gregory Hussey, Robin Wood, Shabir Madhi, Eric Bateman, Maureen Coetzee, Charles Feldman and Keertan Dheda. In the last installment, this award was received by Professors Heather Zar and Linda-Gail Bekker.

Zar is a Professor and Chair within the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Red Cross Children’s Hospital and also Director of the SAMRC’s Unit on Child & Adolescent Lung Health, one of the organisation’s extramural research units which is housed at the University of Cape Town since 2015. Her work, focused on childhood pneumonia, tuberculosis, asthma and HIV-associated disease has had global impact on strategies for diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

Bekker is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and holds the positions of Chief Research Officer at the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation and the Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. Prof Bekker is an Infectious Disease Specialist with a keen interest in HIV, tuberculosis and related diseases with a focus in Adolescent Health, Women’s Health and IV Prevention. Her doctoral work focused on the host response to tuberculosis both with and in the absence of HIV co-infection.

Gold medals are awarded to established senior scientists who have made seminal scientific contributions that have impacted on the health of people, especially those living in developing countries. Last year, the award was conferred to Professors Graeme Meintjes, Janusz T. Paweska, Karen Sliwa and Michele Ramsay.

Silver medals are awarded to scientists who have made important scientific contributions in the country with an emphasis on capacity development. In 2020, this award was conferred to Professors Claire Hoving and Mpiko Ntsekhe, as well as Dr Stephanus Malherbe.

President’s awards are conferred to scientists who have made an exceptional life-long contribution to medical research, these are conferred at the discretion of the presiding SAMRC President.

Recipients of this sought-after award include Professors Zena Stein, Carl Lombard, Linda Richter, Anthony Fauci, Hoosen Jerry Coovadia, Paul Van Helden, Lucille Blumberg, Ephraim Mokgokong and Debbie Bradshaw as well as former SAMRC President Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba.

In 2020 the award was conferred to Professors James “Jimmy” Volmink and Mike Sathekge.

Prof Volmink is the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences and Professor in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University. His areas of expertise are Clinical epidemiology and Evidence-based medicine, with special contributions during a career extending over more than three decades.

Sathekge is Professor and Head of Nuclear Medicine Department at the University of Pretoria and Steve Biko Academic Hospital. He also holds the position of CEO/Head of the Main Nuclear Medicine Research Infrastructure (NuMeRI). He is the former Board Chairperson of the SAMRC for six years (2014-2019) and immediate past President of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.

According to the SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray, the Awards recognize research that reflects innovative methods and employs a novel approach to public health concerns to potentially impact on policy and subsequently for the betterment of the lives of South Africans.

“In public health, the value of scholarly research and innovation cannot be overstated,” said Gray, adding that since the advent of the COVID-19, science has been in the forefront of the country’s response – once again proving the importance of science and public health research in tackling infectious disease threats, both current and emerging.


Eligible candidates for all categories of the SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards will be identified through an open, public nomination process, as well as an SAMRC Awards Nominations Committee. Nominations will open from 15 September and will close on 15 November 2021.

For more information on the nomination process, visit:

Release date: 
Wednesday, September 15, 2021 - 08:53
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