Liver doctor awarded R2 million grant

By Drum Digital
30 May 2013

Born in the rural Eastern Cape, Neliswa Gogela (36) knew from an early age that she wanted to be a doctor.

“I made my mind up that I would study as hard as I could to make my dream come true,” said Neliswa. “My grandmother often said to me, that we didn’t have enough paraffin for me to stay up so late every night.”

Neliswa’s hard work and dedication has paid off.  She is now working towards her PhD at the University of Cape Town and is the recipient of the inaugural Discovery Foundation MGH Fellowship Award.  Dr Gogela, who specialises in hepatology, will join the MGH’s world-class research and training programme focusing on liver transplantation in July.  She was awarded a R2 million grant at the Discovery Health Media Summit in Johannesburg on May 29, 2013.

Speaking at the event, Dr Jonathan Broomberg, CEO of Discovery Health and a trustee of the Discovery Foundation said, “The Discovery Foundation’s partnership with the Massachusetts General Hospital, which has a rich 200-year legacy, will help to boost our diminishing pool of medical academics and develop global experts in the academic healthcare field.”

According to Broomberg South Africa suffers from a lack of academic leadership in its medical schools. He said that the country’s eight medical schools produce only 1 200 medical graduates, which is not enough for serving the healthcare needs of over 50 million South Africans and reducing our disease burden.

“In terms of available doctors per 10 000 lives, South Africa again has one of the lowest doctor-patient ratios, with 5.5 doctors per 10 000 lives, while Russia has a ratio of 43:10 000, Brazil 17: 10 000 and UK 21: 10 000,” said Broomberg.

Dr Bongani Mayosi, head of medicine at UCT, outlined the severity of the problem.

“There is a shortage of health care professionals,” he said. “We need four million doctors and nurses to deal with the rising surge in non-communicable diseases.  According to Mayosi heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer kill 8 out of 10 people in the world.  In Africa, the problem is compounded by diseases like HIV / Aids, TB and malaria.

Mayosi said that the rate of hospital admissions increased from 2% in 1950 to over 30% of the population in 2010.

“This means that we need an army of medical professionals to deal with the problem of disease in South Africa,” explained Mayosi. “The scale of the solution is going to have to be in the order of millions, if we are to turn the tide.”

Congratulating Discovery Health on the initiative Mayosi quoted Winston Churchill saying: “There is no finer investment than putting milk into the mouths of babies.”

Broomberg said: “The award will boost South Africa as a leading hub internationally for clinical research and science and will help to develop global experts in the academic healthcare field,” Broomberg continued. “The Massachusetts General Hospital has the largest hospital-based research programme in the USA and is among an elite group of USA hospitals which has a full academic programme that is highly respected across the world.”

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