Building capacity and sustainability in Health Sciences through Clinical Research

As part of SAMRC’s efforts to build capacity for the long-term sustainability of South African health research, the Division of Research Capacity Development (RCD) offers research grants and scholarships to researchers in the clinical or health sciences. One such programme is the SAMRC Clinicians Researcher Programme scholarship funding, which aims to develop a cadre of highly trained clinician-scientists who excel in careers in medicine as well as occupy leadership positions in academic, clinical and research sectors in the future.

Clinician-scientists are individuals who are trained in both clinical medicine and scientific methods. The programme funds PhD scholars who hold MBChB or BDS qualifications. The caliber of funded Clinician Scientists can enrich research that is relevant to the South African context and the ability to drive key advances in the clinical practice in South African health priorities. Several of the recipients of the SAMRC Clinicians Researcher Programme are mentioned below.
 

  • Dr Carolette Synders (University of Pretoria)
    is a medical doctor based at the Sports, Exercise Medicine, and Lifestyle Institute. With the rise in COVID-19 infections and the lack of clinical data relating to athlete safety guidelines with return to training, this prompted her work on her PhD entitled “Return to sport guidelines in athletes with selected acute respiratory infections (including COVID-19) based on clinical criteria and laboratory investigations.“ Her work thus far has been accepted for a poster and a clinical case in-person presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting of 2022. Furthermore, she was awarded the Dr Lisa Krivickas Clinician travel award to fund her travel to San Diego, California for the ACSM annual meeting to present her work. She has also published in the BJSM journal, a highly rated sports medicine journal and has other publications in the pipeline. A message from Dr Synders to future PhD and MSc students is this, “Find a topic you are passionate about. Be teachable. Take any opportunity to enhance yourself as a scholar, researcher, and clinician.”

 

  • Ms Theodora Amoa, (University of Cape Town)
    is an MBChB-PhD candidate and will be graduating with MBChB this summer. An MBChB-PhD is a dual program specifically designed for students who aspire to careers in academic medicine. Ms Amoa hopes to publish her first article in 2022, whose findings will be presented at this year’s International Society of Orthomolecular Medicine (ISOMs) conference. She has collaborated with various research groups in Norway and will be a co-author to her second article that will also be published this year. To future candidates, Ms Amoa says, “to continue in eagerness in pursuing a career/interest in research. Research is the backbone of medicine, it is interesting, constantly growing and changing current medical therapies and protocols. SAMRC’s RCD scholarship programmes offer young clinicians and developing integrated health professionals the means to complete their research as well as offers a network of like-minded people to engage with.”

 

  • Ms Nonkanyiso Mboweni-Kondlo (University of the Witwatersrand)
    was awarded her Bachelor of health science honors in Physiology with the highest first class pass in her year and was subsequently awarded the Duncan Mitchell Prize by the Witwatersrand’s School of Physiology, which makes a concession for the awardee to pursue PhD studies. Upon commencement of her PhD studies, Ms Mboweni-Kondlo also enrolled in 3rd year MBBCh through the Wits graduate medical entry program. This allows her to obtain intensive training in biomedical research in addition to medical training. Mboweni-Kondlo is working on a study to raise awareness and provide a snapshot of patients suffering from heart failure and atrial fibrillation risk factors. This data will provide valuable insights into the prognostic yield of standard and novel biomarkers, and the pharmacogenomic role of the Beta 1-adrenergic receptor polymorphism which may aid in the management and prognostication of this entity that has not always been available in the sub-Saharan Africa region. This study is the first of its kind in the region. This year, 2022 she will present her work at the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona. She shares pointers that guided her along the way and could offer clarity and direction to future PhD and MSc candidates: “reflect on what your aspirations/purpose in life is before embarking on the journey. Take time to map out the career path and have a clear end goal. This becomes extremely important in maintaining drive/momentum & resilience during the challenging seasons of a PhD (because they do come!). Mentorship is invaluable on this journey; pursue it! A sincere passion and love for what you do will, often, always translate into excellence. Enjoy the journey, have fun and balance!”

Dr Lindokuhle Ndlandla (RCD: Project Manager: Postgraduate / Scholarships Programmes) said “over the years, RCD has given emerging researchers the opportunity to conduct high impact research that would otherwise be difficult or impossible without the funding provided. She added that the Division has also endeavored to forge a transformative path by funding more black and women scientists to address inequalities that have long been seen in the sciences. “Our current cohort of funded scholars under the Clinician Researcher Development Programme reflects the efforts we continue to take to build the beginning of a strong clinician scientist career track in order to change the face of South African health science research and healthcare. We also hope that by funding more MBChB-PhD candidates this will encourage South African Medical Schools to formalize this program,” concluded Dr Ndlandla.

To learn more about scholarships and grants available through RCD | click HERE