The 20th Annual South African Heart Association Congress

15 Jan 2020
The 2019 joint PASCAR / SA Heart Congress gets underway
15 Jan 2020

The South African Heart Association’s (SA Heart) 20th Annual Congress was held at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg from 31 October to 2 November 2019. As in years past, this conference was held in collaboration with the Pan African Society of Cardiology (PASCAR) and the AfricaPCR Congress. The Congress theme was “Cardiovascular Care: Meeting the Needs for Africa”, attracting over 1,000 delegates from 48 different countries across the globe.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) community played prominent roles in the proceedings and events at this conference kicking off with an RHD Consortium Pre-session officiated by Prof Ganesan Karthikeyan, founding board member of Reach.

The first session of the Consortium was moderated by Prof Mark Engel, PI of the AFROStrep study. Dr Dylan Barth, Ms Tayla Hart, Mr Taariq Salie, Dr John Musuku, and Ms Kimona Rampersadh presented different aspects of AFROStrep currently in progress. In the next session, Prof Engel, representing PASCAR, reported on the status of committee work done over the past three years to promote the seven key actions to eradicate RHD in Africa espoused by the 2016 Addis Ababa communiqué. The third presentation saw, World Heart Federation (WHF) President Prof Karen Sliwa report on the launch of their RHD educational colouring book and aired a video of the Mozambique event. Ms Florence Berteletti, WHF Advocacy Director, and Jean-Luc Eiselé, WHF CEO, were also in attendance. The last session was provided by Reach Executive Director, Mr Jeremiah Mwangi, who presented an overview of RHD Resolution country implementation activities followed by a review of the RHD Action Small Grants Programme presented by Ms Susan Perkins, Community Engagement Manager for Reach.

Reach Executive Director, Mr Jeremiah Mwangi, presenting during the RHD Consortium Pre-Session

On that evening, an informal dinner to celebrate the Small Grants Programme was held in order to provide a venue for recipients, funders, and reviewers to meet each other in person. Among those who attended were Small Grants winners; Dr Amy Sims Siyahambi (Malawi 2017), Dr Dilys Kemunto Nyariki (Kenya 2017), Prof Ana-Olga Mocumbi and Dr Edna Susana Lopes Lichucha (Mozambique 2017) as well as Dr Nathan Yanwou (Cameroon 2018). Additionally, Dr Isaac Ssinabulya (Reviewer Uganda), Mr Jeremiah Mwangi (Reviewer Reach), Dr Jean Luc Eiselé and Ms Florence Berteletti from WHF in Geneva and Ms Belinda Ngongo, from Medtronic Philanthropy were also in attendance providing a unique opportunity for all constituents to literally sit at the same table.

Friday afternoon was highlighted by the first “Women as One” luncheon celebration where all attendees were asked to wear red to show their support for women in cardiology. The hour-long event included short motivational talks by women in cardiology who have made their way to top positions in their field.

  • Prof Liesl Zühlke (pp SA Heart and Reach) - Insights from New York, Paris and South Africa
  • Prof Karen Sliwa (WHF) - Increasing Women on the Global Stage of Cardiology
  • Prof Barbara Casadei – Women in the European Society of Cardiology (ESC): Challenges and Opportunities

The session ended with a panel presentation entitled, “Accelerating capacity and talent in cardiovascular sciences and practice in particular in Africa”. Prof Ana Olga Mocumbi (Mozambique), Dr Blanch Cupido (South Africa), and Prof Amam Mbakwem (Nigeria) commented on their career experiences and provided messages of advice and encouragement for their fellow women. Based on the warm reception and enthusiasm generated by the talks, we expect this will become an annual Congress event.

Women as One event attendees all dressed in red to show their support for women in cardiology

The 2019 Congress Plenary Session was named for the late Prof Bongani Mayosi. Memorial lectures were chaired by Profs Karen Sliwa, Liesl Zühlke and Kathryn Taubert. Prof Bernard Keavney from the University of Manchester provided opening remarks detailing his friendship with Prof Mayosi starting from their days in Oxford. Following the theme of Prof Mayosi’s passion for RHD in Africa, Mr Jeremiah Mwangi presented the RHD Action Small Grants Programme, highlighting the impact across Africa and the world. The plenary ended with Dr Chris Hugo-Hamman’s thought-provoking argument that denying cardiac surgery to children with RHD in the developing world is a human rights violation.

The 2019 Congress Plenary Session was held in the late Professor Bongani Mayosi's name

Our own Children's Heart Disease Research Unit (CHDRU) clinicians presenting during this Congress included Prof Rik De Decker, "Peripheral PA stenting: Indications and practical technique” and a case study; “Penetrating cardiac injury with a thorn”. Additionally, Prof John Lawrenson presented on “Aortic coarctation” while Dr Lenise Swanson presented her study; “Single centre experience of Congenitally Corrected Transposition of the Great Arteries over 17 years”. “The promise of the PROTEA study: Rationale and design” was presented by Prof Zühlke and “Infective Endocarditis in infants and children in the Western Cape, South Africa” was presented by Dr Mark Willoughby. Notably, Ms Jessica Abrams presented her master’s research which was a systematic review assessing the integration of past RHD prevention and control programmes into local health systems.

Ms Jessica Abrams of Reach and the CHDRU presenting her master’s research

The Congress schedule took a break to screen the Rugby World Cup final game in which South Africa played, and beat, England with a score of 32-12. The African Market Gala Dinner took place in the evening, with some attendees proudly sporting their Springbok merchandise.

Congress delegates sporting their green and gold at the African Market Gala Dinner