SAMRC to honour scientific excellence amidst the Covid-19 pandemic

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) will tonight host its 7th SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards – the ceremony will be a hybrid event which includes a small gathering of attendees at the organisation’s Head Office in Cape Town and an online audience.

This is a celebration and recognition of scientific excellence and contributions by outstanding medical scientists whose work has made an indelible impact in advancing the lives of South Africans. This year, the awards take place at the time when science has been in the forefront to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic – once again proving the importance of science and public health research in tackling infectious disease threats, both current and emerging.

The annual Awards are an established set of medals with categories including: Silver; Gold and Platinum and a special Presidential Award.

For this year, the Presidential Award which is awarded to scientists who have made exceptional lifelong contributions to medical research and public health, will be bestowed upon Professors Mike Sathekge and James (Jimmy) Volmink.

An internationally acclaimed researcher, Prof Sathekge is 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 also former Board Chairperson of the SAMRC for six years (2014-2019) and immediate past President of the Colleges of Medicine of South Africa.  Prof Volmink currently serves as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences and Professor in the Department of Global Health at Stellenbosch University. He boasts more than three decades of expertise in areas of Clinical epidemiology and Evidence-based medicine.



Past recipients of this award include illustrious science leaders who have made global impact such as Professors Zena Stein, Carl Lombard, and former SAMRC President Malegapuru William Makgoba.

The 2021 Platinum Medal will go to the two trailblazers, Professors Heather Zar and Linda-Gail Bekker. Zar is 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 Health, one of the organisation’s extramural research units while Bekker, is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Cape Town and Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre. This category is for scientists who have achieved a lifetime of exemplary and outstanding endeavours in the field of health – past recipients include the late Professor Bongani Mayosi, Professors Valerie Mizrahi, Salim Abdool Karim and Dan Stein to mention a few. 

Gold Medals on the other hand, are awarded to researchers who have made substantial and influential contributions that have impacted on health especially in the developing world – this year has four awardees including: Prof Graeme Meintjes, an adult Infectious Diseases Physician and Deputy Head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Prof Janusz Paweska who is Head of the Centre for Emerging, Zoonotic and Parasitic Diseases, National Institute for Communicable Diseases of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), Prof Karen Sliwa who is Director at the Hatter Institute for Cardiovascular Research in Africa (HICRA) at the University of Cape Town and lastly prof Michele Ramsay who is a Professor of Human Genetics at Wits University’s School of Pathology and occupies the position of Director at the Sydney Brenner Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

As an organisation that is committed to the contribution of the country’s medical research edifice by investing in the next generation of scientists, we also have the Silver Medal which is conferred to emerging and upcoming scientists and those committed to capacity development. This year, the medal recipients are Professors Claire Hoving and Mpiko Ntsekhe and Dr Stephanus Malherbe.

SAMRC President and CEO, Prof Glenda Gray says: “The SAMRC is honoured to celebrate these exceptional South Africans who always go to great lengths to produce world-class science aimed at the betterment of the lives of the country’s citizens”.




More about the SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards
The South African Medical Research Council strongly supports excellence in health research and has established a set of medal awards to recognise world-class science. The SAMRC Scientific Merit Awards are among South Africa’s most prestigious and are dedicated to contributions to health research in South Africa.

Awardees in all categories were identified through an open public nomination process and later adjudicated by the SAMRC Awards Nominations Committee – deadline for submission of completed nominations was 13 October 2020.

  • Awardees from the previous years | View


Release date: 
Thursday, March 4, 2021 - 12:00
Dumile Mlambo
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