Preface by the Dean
The Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria is
a relevant and important role player in the primary, secondary and
tertiary health care of all South Africans.
The year 2001 witnessed the amalgamation of two separate Faculties,
that of Medicine and Dentistry, into an all-encompassing Faculty
of Health Sciences. The new Faculty is based on a strong School
model, consisting of Schools for Medicine, Dentistry, Health Care
Sciences and Health Systems and Public Health, as well as a Division
for Sports Medicine. Prof. Thanyani J. Mariba was appointed as the
Dean of the new Faculty as from 1 July 2001.
Over the last number of years the Faculty has been very successful
in applications for funding from major sources. Furthermore, exchange
and research agreements with various foreign faculties of health
sciences and universities are in operation, and the Faculty has
established public-private partnerships to gain a competitive edge
that will ensure that it remains a leading health care faculty -
both locally and internationally. Partnerships have been concluded
with Medihelp Medical Scheme, the Prime Cure Clinic Group, Netcare,
and Curamed, while co-operation agreements have been established
with the Provincial Governments of Mpumalanga and the North West
The main research focus of the School of Health Systems and Public
Health is epidemiology, biostatistics, health management, environmental
health, and health economics and financing. The School has received
a $240 000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which will be
instrumental in firmly establishing the School at the forefront
of public health education in Africa. Already recognised as a leader
in the field, the School will be able to utilise the grant to extend
its presence across the continent. This will not only emphasise
the importance of public health, but will also strengthen the continuing
role of the University of Pretoria in health research.
During the year under review the School of Dentistry has embarked
on a programme to organise its research activities into identified
research focus areas. These include fluoride and biomaterials in
dentistry, oral implantology, oral microbiology, forensic sciences,
epidemiology of oral diseases, oral cancer and HIV/AIDS. National
and international collaboration in these fields is greatly encouraged
and the School's researchers are regularly invited to present national
and international courses and lectures in their respective study
fields. Individual projects are also encouraged as these could well
develop into research programmes. Active research on problem-based
teaching is being conducted in close collaboration with the School
Undergraduate students in the School of Dentistry have particularly
excelled in research activities during 2001. Three students took
part in the Middleton-Shaw undergraduate competition at the annual
congress of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR).
The competition was won by one of these students, who will now attend
the IADR congress in San Diego, USA, as South Africa's representative
in the Junior Hatton competition. The same student was also the
winner of the SADA/Dentsply student clinicians' table competition
held annually between representatives of all the Dental Schools
in South Africa.
In the School of Medicine, active research programmes in several
departments have resulted in the completion of a number of projects.
The Department of Urology's research on endocrine disruptors represents
the largest body of scientific activity on this subject in South
Africa. The Department has extended its international links during
2001, and this has resulted in its inclusion in the International
Quality Control System, as well as in the application in South Africa
of two new screening methods for determining estrogenic activity.
A member of the Department was also granted a one-year postdoctoral
fellowship at the University of Laval in Quebec City, Canada.
A member of the Department of Anatomy was awarded a Commonwealth
grant for the completion of his PhD thesis at the University of
Cambridge. He also received the Conrad Lewin Prize for the best
presentation at the Conference of the British Association for Clinical
In the Department of Pharmacology the finalisation of the Immunopharmacology
research programme represented a big step forward, as this programme
will constitute the main focus area of the Department's research
and training of BSc Hons and MSc students.
Extensive research by the MRC Unit for Maternal and Infant Healthcare
Strategies of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology showed
that pasteurisation of expressed breast milk was the answer to the
question posed by HIV-positive breastfeeding mothers regarding how
to protect their babies from contracting the disease. The researchers
have found that both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pose certain
risks and therefore are not safe. For a breastfed baby the possibility
of HIV transmission is high. On the other hand, the risk of contamination
that could eventually lead to gastro and related illnesses is equally
high for a bottle-fed baby. Therefore a heating mechanism was developed
to pasteurise breast milk without killing all its good ingredients
or reducing its anti-viral properties. The method, called Pretoria
Pasteurisation, entails passive heat transfer from water heated
to boiling point, which is sufficient to kill the HI-virus.
The Department of Medical Virology - in collaboration with researchers
at the Centre for Paediatric Research, Eastern Virginia Medical
School, Norfolk, Virginia, USA - succeeded with the first genetic
and antigenic characterisation of a human astrovirus type 8 from
Southern Africa. Research conducted in the Department of Medical
Microbiology led to the discovery of the first bacterial group A
ESBL B-lactamase enzyme able to hydrolyse a carbapenem. This constitutes
a milestone in bacterial evolution towards antimicrobial resistance.
The international Swedish collaborative project of the Department
of Nursing in the School of Health Care Sciences went from strength
to strength in 2001. Two of the Department's lecturers participated
in the Linnaeus-Palme Exchange Programme, while two members of the
Blekinge Institute in Sweden visited the Department for five weeks
as part of the exchange programme. The first phase of a research
project conducted in collaboration with the Blekinge Institute was
also completed. It focused on the experience of elderly people in
Hammanskraal with regard to daily activities, health and illness.
Lastly, research in the Faculty of Health Sciences entered a new
phase when medical education was identified as one of its focal
areas. Through a research project conducted by the unique Skills
Laboratory facility at the Faculty - the first of its kind in South
Africa - students' experience with regard to attitude, knowledge
and skills was identified, both as interrelated and as jointly contributing
to an enhanced process of learning.