Research 2002

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Faculty of Health Sciences

Prof TJ Mariba, Dean

Telephone number: 012 354 2386
Fax number: 012 329 1351
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Preface by the Dean

In the year 2002, the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Pretoria yet again produced well over a hundred subsidised research units, thereby proving that it is a relevant and important role-player in the primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare of all South Africans. The excellent 2002 research outputs, amongst the highest within the University of Pretoria, could not have been attained without the dedicated work of every individual involved in the Faculty.

After the year 2001 witnessed the amalgamation of two separate Faculties of Medicine and Dentistry into an all-encompassing Faculty of Health Sciences, the new Faculty, consisting of Schools for Medicine, Dentistry, Health Care Sciences and Health Systems and Public Health, could, in 2002, appoint research committees for each School, each with a representative on a central, coordinating body serving as a link between the various Schools and the University. These research committees were tasked with identifying and promoting strategic research initiatives in their various Schools, with report back to the central committee.

In addition to a research committee, the School of Medicine appointed a research development committee as a strategic move to identify, refine and establish research focal areas within the School. The importance of the multidisciplinary focal areas in particular are being emphasized, as health issues are becoming increasingly multi-dimensional. The establishment of focal areas will ensure that the research that is being undertaken, are more relevant - and all indications are that it will also enhance the possibilities for research funding, since all the major research funding bodies are moving in a direction of preference for multidisciplinary projects. Other activities within the School that are specifically focussed on the stimulation of research, include the appointment of research assistants and the funding of research projects on both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Concerning research undertaken, a number of exciting research initiatives and breakthroughs mark 2002 as particularly productive: pharmaco-economic projects (Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Pharmacology); the molecular epidemiology of Pseudomonas aurignosa (Medical Microbiology); Pretoria Pasteurisation (Obstetrics and Gynaecology); Kangaroo Mother Care (Obstetrics and Gynaecology); the CANSA consortium (Pharmacology); treatment with Bleomycin in vascular malformations (Surgery); Fibrinogen Pretoria (Surgery); development of a ligand to target osteosarcoma (AEC Institute for Life Sciences); endocrine disruptors (Urology); reproductive toxicology (Urology); a Virtual Procedures Clinic (Anatomy) and a multimedia vision program (Physiology).

In the School of Health Systems and Public Health (SHSPH), the graduate research for MSc studies in Epidemiology and Clinical Epidemiology of the past three years are now reaching completion; international links have been established as a result of the research. To position the SHSPH for future health research, capacity building was extended into areas critical to health and new to South Africa, namely increased numeracy skills of health science students, jointly with Wayne State University; increased ethics competence of health researchers through the South African Research Ethics Training Initiative (SARETI) [NIH]; the USAID funded Monitoring and Evaluation Programme opened to self-paying students, and the WHO funded 30 students to develop environmental health research skills. In addition, major funding was obtained to create long-term research programmes that can host graduate studies. The programmes include the mapping of public health education capacity in Africa (Rockefeller Foundation), health policy research, including a health strategy for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), childhood disability policy research (WK Kellogg Foundation); and HIV/AIDS research, which include health systems provision with the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, as well as the development of a tool for monitoring and evaluation of AIDS home based care (UN Population Fund). Lastly, the SHSPH won a competitive bid to host the 2005 International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) conference, a great opportunity for environmental health research to ensure that the School is not just a host but also a substantive participant in this first ISEE conference in the developing world.

The School of Dentistry has identified several research focus areas in order to eliminate duplication and encourage a more structured approach in a particular field. These focus areas are: fluoride and biomaterials in dentistry, oral implantology, oral microbiology, forensic sciences, epidemiology of oral diseases, oral cancer and HIV/AIDS. New focus areas will be added should the need arise, while completed or non-performing programmes will be removed. Individual projects are also encouraged as these could develop into research programmes. The annual congress of the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) was organised by personnel from the School as a joint congress with the East & Southern African Division of the IADR. Staff and students of the School won all the major research prizes at this congress. These include the Middleton-Shaw undergraduate competition, the Colgate postgraduate competition, the community based research competition as well as the best presentation in the field of Dental Materials.

The School of Health Care Sciences embarked on an strategic initiative to identify shortcomings in research activities and to establish focal areas for research in the School. This led to a School Strategy and Action Plan Document for 2003. A number of strong research initiatives in the School existed in 2002. The Department of Nursing has been involved in the NRF focal area Indigenous Knowledge Systems, as well as in a South African/ Swedish study to identify the ageing process and the benefits concerning health, illness and disease in elderly rural South Africans and to show how it influences them in family. In the Department of Physiotherapy, a Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus project has gained much sought-after funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC).


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