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Celebrating Women’s Excellence in the SAMRC Research Capacity Development Programmes


The South African Medical Research Council's (SAMRC) Division of Research Capacity Development (RCD)  is excited to showcase the recent remarkable achievements of four exceptional women: Dr Jacomina du Plessis (Bongani Mayosi National Health Scholars Programme), Associate Professor Monate Nqobile Mkolo and Professor Afsatou Traore (Research Capacity Development initiative at selected Historically Disadvantaged Institutions), and Professor Salome Maswime (Mid-Career scientist Programme).

RCD runs streamlined funding programmes (from emerging to mid-career scientists) directly contributing to national targets for research capacity development as well as transformation according to the National Development Plan 2030.  Forming part of the many successful beneficiaries, these accomplished women demonstrate the impact of SAMRC’s on-going research capacity development funding models and its commitment to the advancement of women scientists.

Dr Jacomina du Plessis has recently graduated with a PhD in Dietetics from North-West University, and she is one of the few dieticians funded by RCD. The scholarship has enabled her to explore numerous academic opportunities, including being able to participate in the Wellcome Genome Campus and Sanger Institute Advanced Course in Genetic Analysis of Population-based Association Studies in the United Kingdom, as one of only 30 participants across the globe. She also had the privilege of presenting her findings at various national and international congresses. Studies conducted by Dr du Plessis have yielded two publications in international scientific journals, and she is currently writing two additional research articles.

Prof. Mkolo’s journey has been marked by significant strides in her research area, along with her oversight of post-doctoral researchers, MSc students, and PhD students at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University (SMU). Her journey has been greatly influenced by RCD grant funding through the Research Capacity Development Initiative (RCDI) Programme. She has not only accelerated her research journey but also propelled herself to the position of Associate Professor at SMU. "I have been tremendously privileged to receive SAMRC funding, which has been instrumental in advancing my research training and accelerating my journey towards becoming an established researcher," Prof. Mkolo shares.

Tuberculosis (TB) research and unwavering commitment to medical science have led Prof. Traore to accomplish remarkable achievements at the University of Venda. Her journey with the SAMRC began in October 2020 when she became a beneficiary of RCDI grant. This has propelled her research career and led to her recent promotion to full professorship. Her C3 rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF) highlights her significant contributions to her field and positions her as an influential member of the academic community.

Prof. Maswime, a grant beneficiary under the Mid-Career Scientist Programme, is the head of the Global Surgery Division at the University of Cape Town. Her passion and innovative thinking have led to the development of a comprehensive Global Surgery curriculum at the university. Under her guidance, the division has produced graduates, published influential research, and established impactful partnerships across African countries. Furthermore, as a result of the Mid-Career Scientist grant funding, she has contributed to more than 37 peer-reviewed publications in the last five years. Prof. Maswime's outstanding contributions to the field earned her a recent promotion to full professor in 2022, and the prestigious National Science and Technology Forum (NSTF) SAMRC Clinician Scientist Award for 2023.

On SAMRC’s support over the years, Prof. Maswime, added, "Through the SAMRC's support, I've been able to lead my research independently and develop my chosen area of interest." Dr Abeda Dawood, RCD Divisional Manager comments on these exceptional achievements saying, “As these exceptional women share their journeys, they highlight the pivotal role of RCD programmes in shaping their careers, fostering collaboration, and accelerating their impact on the research landscape. Their accomplishments are a testament to the transformative power of SAMRC research capacity development, innovation, and a shared commitment to advancing knowledge and improving lives.”

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