SAMRC Mid-Career Scientist recognized by World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of 2020 Young Scientists Programme

Prof Salome Maswime, a beneficiary of  the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC)’s Mid-Career Scientist Grant administered by the Division of Research Capacity Development (RCD) has been selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to be in its Class of 2020 Young Scientists.

This is a three-year journey of growth and impact for a group of 25 exceptional researchers from across the world, recognised for their research at the cutting edge of discovery.

Being one of only two South Africans to be selected for the honour this year, Maswime has a long-standing association with the SAMRC – which she says she attributes part of her successful career journey to. At the early start of her career, she received funding from the SAMRC’s Self-initiated Research (SIR) Grants Programme – a programme designed to support original research initiated by a researcher at a recognised research institution in various areas of health.

Through the SIR, she was able to complete her PhD in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Wits University, which focused on investigating the reduction of maternal morbidity and mortality from caesarian section related hemorrhage. She says it was through the grant that she could cover the running expenses and ongoing research costs, which included publishing her work and travelling to and from international meetings where her research was recognised. In her study, she looked at bleeding during and after caesarean section, which she says is one of the leading causes of maternal death in South Africa.

But it doesn’t end there – in July last year she took up a new position as  the Head of Global Surgery at the University of Cape Town,. It is about this time that she became a beneficiary of the SAMRC Mid-Career Scientist Programme. Managed by the Division of Research Capacity Development (RCD), the Programme is a strategic funding initiative established in 2016 to support mid-career scientists within specific research nodes in South Africa. Furthermore, it aims to help rising stars with immense potential to fast-track and transition into independent researchers with skills to write their own grants and thereby secure their own research support, and to mentor and graduate MSc and PhD students as well as Postdocs. They are in this way facilitated to grow their own research teams within the shortest possible time.

Professor Maswime is further partnering with RCD in co-funding the South African Clinician Scientists Society which she found in 2018, together with seven other specialists.

Speaking about joining the WEF Young Scientists Programmme, Maswime said it is a huge recognition to be acknowledged by a global institution with this stature. “I have a particular passion for finding African scientific solutions for the challenges we face, and I think being part of this community will give me an opportunity to engage with a range of policymakers, stakeholders and important leaders in Africa, and across the world”, said Maswime.

Hailed as a high-achieving Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist – one of few in South Africa, Maswime’s other research area is stillbirths: understanding their placental causes and the foetal inflammatory response related to infections like HIV. Notably, she is also currently co-principal investigator on a national study looking at COVID-19 in pregnancy.

RCD Division Manager Dr Thabi Maitin congratulated her and said it’s an honour to see some of the scientists supported by SAMRC funding, being honoured – especially on a global stage. “This is our part in building the country’s next generation of scientists whose research addresses key questions that will undoubtedly have an impact in lowering the burden of disease in South Africa,” said Maitin.

Maswime’s active involvement in research that has an impact across disciplines has made her no stranger to these prestigious lists – in 2017 she was named one of Mail & Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans. On the same year she received the Young Achiever and trailblazer recognition by the then President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma and the Destiny Magazine’s Power of 40 Award for her commitment and tenacity in the public sector.

And in 2018, she was awarded the Discovery Foundation Mass General Global Health (MGH) Fellowship, which allowed her to spend a year as a research fellow with the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in the United States.

*Another South African joining Maswime is Dr Sarah Fawcett, a senior lecturer in the Department of Oceanography at UCT.