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Africa Health awards research grants to PhD students

Article-Africa Health awards research grants to PhD students

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Medical researchers received a total of US$10,000 to continue studies on underrepresented healthcare segments in Africa.

Three inspirational minds — Dr. Ankia Coetzee, Kebatshabile Ngoni and Yasmin Casmod — were awarded medical research grants of US$5,000, US$3,000 and US$2,000, respectively, at a special ceremony hosted at the 10th edition of Africa Health in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The event is an initiative to give PhD students in Africa a springboard to pursue their passion while sparking conversations around some of the most pressing healthcare concerns plaguing the continent. The research categories were Women’s Health; Laboratory Medicine; Public Health; and Quality Management and Infection Control.

The top three candidates won against a pool of over 20 submissions from universities in Africa. Besides the grant, they also received an exclusive opportunity to present their work on stage at the first-of-its-kind Transformation Zone, where the audience consisted of key stakeholders, decision-makers and practitioners.

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Dr. Ankia Coetzee, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

“Globally, most research excludes the people of Sub-Saharan Africa, or if they do include them, it is limited to people to West Africa. It is essential to note that there are some differences between different ethnicities in terms of the physiological contributing factors to hyperglycaemia in women.

“With this grant, I hope to expand on that foundation and work alongside others to bring solutions related to this. I think it will take a very long time to reach that pinnacle but as long as we can make an indent into that big black hole of Type 2 Diabetes and its management in female patients,” said Dr. Ankia Coetzee from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, ranked first with her subject, “Hyperglycaemia in pregnancy in South Africa: Closing the gaps — Maternal health, Non-Communicable Disease”.

Diversity and inclusion are leading topics of conversation in research in the region, as Kebatshabile Ngoni from the University of Gaborone, Botswana, highlighted how studies around routine haematologic markers for cervical cancer tend to omit HIV patients.

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Kebatshabile Ngoni, University of Gaborone, Botswana

“I started my research to look at the impact of HIV on immune cells and see how that relates to the overall survival of HIV-positive cervical cancer patients. This is an important topic that needs more attention,” she said.

Ngoni showcased her topic, “Impact of HIV infection on pre-treatment haematologic markers and innate effector cells among cervical cancer patients in Botswana: implications on overall survival — Laboratory Medicine” at the event.

“I am excited to be a runner-up and receive this grant. It will help me continue my studies and finish my project,” she said. Ngoni’s preliminary findings show the differential between the neutrophils and lymphocytes, which is missed as a prognostic marker in HIV patients.

“We need some systemic-based therapies to try and boost the immune system of these patients in order for them to be able to fight the disease,” she added.

Yasmin Casmod from the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, was the second runner-up with her research paper titled, “A programme to support the development of ultrasound skills for midwives practising in primary healthcare facilities in Gauteng - Women’s Health”.

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Yasmin Casmod, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

Describing herself as a stenographer with a special interest in obstetric ultrasound, Casmod said that her experience at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital in Johannesburg led her to this journey.

“We would often see patients that never had an ultrasound nor had the facilities for a scan, and when they would refer to us, it was sometimes too late. I am passionate about creating equal healthcare for all patients, especially for pregnant patients.

“In the African context, midwives are the ones that see patients all the time, so what if we could bring in at least one basic ultrasound device in their area, empower them, and enhance the care that they provide such that they are able to identify high-risk patients on time?” she added.

Casmod is currently at the final stage of her research where a group of midwives are undergoing training at a community healthcare clinic in Gauteng. “This is part of a pilot project, and we hope to complete it by the end of November this year.”

Africa Health, organised by the Informa Markets’ Global Healthcare Group, took place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg between October 26 and 28, and featured 12 CPD-accredited conferences featuring the latest insights into cutting-edge procedures, techniques, and skills.

To learn more about Africa Health and keep track of its future editions, visit:

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